Preparing the Cabinet

A file cabinet is a piece of furniture that is often used in offices and homes to store important papers and documents. While most file cabinets are made of wood, many are also made of metal. Painting a metal file cabinet is a simple way to change its appearance and make it match your other office furniture or home decor.

What You Need

-A can of good quality metal primer

-A can of good quality enamel paint


-Fine sandpaper

-Lint-free cloth

Preparing the Cabinet

Now that you’ve decided to paint that old metal file cabinet, there are a few steps you need to follow in order to prepare the cabinet for painting. With a little preparation, your cabinet will be looking new in no time!

1. Start by removing all the hardware from the cabinet. This includes any screws, handles, or pulls. If possible, label each piece of hardware so you know where it goes when it’s time to reassemble the cabinet.

2. Next, use a coarse-grit sandpaper to sand down the entire surface of the cabinet. This will help the paint to adhere better and will also give you a chance to smooth out any bumps or irregularities in the metal.

3. Once the sanding is complete, wipe down the cabinet with a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris.

4. Now it’s time to begin painting! Choose a high-quality metal paint for best results. Apply a thin layer of paint evenly over the surface of the cabinet, being careful not to miss any spots. Allow the first coat of paint to dry completely before applying a second coat if necessary.

5. Once the final coat of paint is dry, reattach all of the hardware to finish up. Your newly painted file cabinet is now ready for use!

How to paint a metal file cabinet

Assuming the cabinet is clean and dry, the first step is to remove any handles or other hardware. If the paint is in good condition, you may be able to leave it on and just sand it lightly; otherwise, remove it completely.

Next, use a fine grit sandpaper to lightly sand the entire surface of the cabinet. This will help the paint to adhere better. Wipe away any dust with a damp cloth.

If you’re painting over a dark color, you may want to apply a primer before painting. For light colors, this usually isn’t necessary.

Once the primer (if using) is dry, start painting! Apply even coats of paint and let each one dry thoroughly before adding another. When you’re finished, reattach any hardware and enjoy your newly painted file cabinet!


You’ve now seen how to paint a metal file cabinet using rust-resistant primer and paint. This project is fairly simple and doesn’t require many supplies. Be sure to follow the directions on the can of primer and paint you select to ensure the best results. With a little time and effort, you can have a functional and attractive piece of furniture for your home or office.

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