Small Projects: Filing Cabinet Refresh | DIY

Seven years ago I picked up a filing cabinet from Craigslist. It was the perfect size at two drawers that both smoothly operated and, unlike most of them it didn’t have rust creeping up the sides or golf-ball sized pocks. The only problem was that it was the drab gray powder coat of business.

This is where we started.

Not having the time to remedy the situation we did the only thing we could think of: Cover it in stuff and hope no one noticed that the stylish stuffscape was actually hiding under all the distraction.

This is how we hid the utilitarian metal cabinet for 6 years. It survived two moves like this.

Finally the time came after years of pretending not to see it even though the color made me itchy ignoring it, and I seized the opportunity when I moved into the Farmhouse and had a few spare hours of time off to spend romping around the backyard with spray paint.

First collect supplies! Rust-oleum Deep Turquoise Paint and Primer (3 cans total), their Self Etching Primer (1 can) and then the project MVP: FrogTape

In all honesty I hadn’t ever really used spray paint to do a whole lot more then refinish a bookcase (poorly) almost a decade ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect here. So, like everything else around here I did a lot of homework. Homework said a few things:

  1. Sand if you have to
  2. Clean your surface before painting
  3. When painting metal give it a good coat of self etching primer before hitting it with color
  4. Use Rust-Oleam
  5. And last? FrogTape is the bomb. (Seriously and more below on this too)

So sanding. I’m notoriously bad at this, but especially since finishing up this project I’m pledging to get better. Why? Well, after years of staring at this thing I didn’t sand it before painting it.

Flat feeling tops still spray poorly

Lesson here: Don’t be like the Jessle. Even when the surface feels relatively smooth, if it looks like it might not paint smoothly it won’t. Your final project will suffer and you’ll be sad.

Thankfully it didn’t impact the final look too much. But like I said… I’m still annoyed with myself. Moving on.

Next step is to give it a good cleaning – anything works here. I’ll usually pull out the white vinegar and a rag. Nothing special and as a bonus vinegar is way cheaper then anything except straight water.

Both the handles and label windows were both missing an obvious way to remove them I figured I’d take a shot at taping it. Taping things this small requires a tape that’s easy to tear and sticks with a good seal. This is why FrogTape is the best thing ever. Seriously. Ever since picking it up on a whim for this project I’ll never go back to the blue stuff again. Yes, a roll will set you back a few more bucks, but it’s worth it. Tape PSA over.

All taped up and ready to go!

The years hadn’t been kind to the finish and no matter how much I cleaned, the finish had started to spot and discolor. That’s what you’re seeing on the drawer fronts above. I was going to be so happy once these things got a refreshed coat of paint! Even just getting the primer on was a pretty decent improvement. Even the weirdness happening on the top was minimized.

Almost full coverage but still enough shows through the finished job to irritate. Learn from my mistakes: Lazy does not pay.
More post-primer glamour shots

And now the “what else could go wrong” interlude!

Second lesson? Always buy more spray paint then you think you need. With as many surfaces as I’ve repainted you’d think I’d have learned this one a long time ago. And the sad fact of the matter is I thought I had bought more then I needed with two cans of color. Unfortunately for me that wasn’t enough and I needed to run out and grab another can. Thankfully the store is exactly 6 minutes from my driveway so I was back up and running in no time.


It was worth it though. The thing I’m the most impressed with is how well the tape kept the hardware clean. The second? The fabulous teal that the cabinet is now is seriously eye catching. No more shroud to disguise it as a side table. Now it’s loud and proudly a file cabinet.

Sometime’s it’s the little things.

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