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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Metal File Cabinet?

Metal file cabinets offer durability and security, protecting documents from fire and theft. However, they can be heavy and prone to dents, and their industrial look may not blend with all decor. They're also susceptible to rust in humid environments. Considering a metal file cabinet for your office? Weigh these factors to see if it's the right fit for your space.
Eugene P.
Eugene P.

A metal file cabinet is a ubiquitous piece of furniture found in nearly every office and some homes. They are designed to be functional and durable, but can lack the variation in appearance to make them blend in with the decor of a room. The cabinets can be difficult to maintain as they age, quickly showing signs of wear and tear if they are not made of thick, durable material. Manufacturing is an issue, because a metal file cabinet can be easily mass produced, causing some designs to have a disposable feel. At the same time, a metal file cabinet also can be made in a way that provides a flexible functionality that a wooden or plastic cabinet may not provide.

One of the benefits of a metal file cabinet that also can be a detriment is the material from which it is made. Metal can be very versatile during the design and manufacturing stage of the cabinet. This allows certain styles of cabinets, such as full-pull lateral files, to be constructed. The metal also is lighter and more durable than other materials, allowing higher and wider cabinets to be produced without becoming prohibitively heavy from a shipping standpoint.

Metal filing cabinets may be difficult to maintain as they age.
Metal filing cabinets may be difficult to maintain as they age.

A metal file cabinet also has some drawbacks because of the material from which it is made. Most obviously, the metal can only be painted and textured in certain ways, meaning there is little variety in the appearance of cabinets that are not custom-made. The metal can easily be dented, causing imperfections in the finish that cannot be readily repaired, if at all. The design of most filing cabinets means metal also can be incredibly noisy when the drawers are opened and closed, because the sound will reverberate through the entire unit.

The fact that a metal file cabinet can be constructed of thin sheets of metal means there will be more storage space on the interior in relation to the outer footprint of the furniture. With a wooden filing cabinet, the wood must be of a certain thickness to support the structure and, therefore, will have a smaller storage area on the inside relative to the space it takes up in a room. A wooden filing cabinet also can be much heavier than a metal file cabinet of the same size, making it difficult to move.

Another advantage of a metal file cabinet comes from its resistance to some elements. Special fireproof metal cabinets can be designed and lined with concrete or other compounds that can protect the contents of the cabinet from water and fire. These cannot be constructed from wood or plastic, which are both flammable.

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    • Metal filing cabinets may be difficult to maintain as they age.
      By: Sashkin
      Metal filing cabinets may be difficult to maintain as they age.