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File Cabinet Planter

Transform an old metal filing cabinet into a striking focal-point planter.

 File cabinet turned into an outdoor planter

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

Few hours

Estimated Cost


Tools and Materials


  • Old filing cabinet
  • Cleaning materials
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Screwdriver


  • Spray primer, #105936
  • Valspar spray paint, Gold Abundance
  • 42-in deck baluster, #103566
  • 2 - 14-inch plastic planters, #126826
  • 100- and 150-grit sandpaper
  • 5/8-in panhead screws
Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

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Step 1

  Metal two-drawer file cabinet before painting
Remove the drawers and clean the cabinet inside and out. If there is rust or scratches on the exterior, sand with 100-grit sandpaper, and then follow with 150-grit sandpaper.

Step 2

Spray with a metal primer and apply three coats or more in the paint color of your choice (Gold Abundance shown). Several light coats will work better than a few heavy ones.

Step 3

Set the cabinet on its back so the drawer openings are on top.

Step 4

Cut three pieces of 2 x 2 pressure-treated deck baluster about 4 inches shorter than the width of the file cabinet. Pre-drill holes for the screws into the metal in evenly spaced intervals in the back (now the bottom) of the planter cabinet. Using the pre-drilled holes, screw 5/8-in panhead screws into the deck baluster. The balusters act as risers for drainage and air circulation.
Good to Know
We used three risers to prop up the planter cabinet. For a cabinet with additional drawers, add risers for each strip between the drawers plus ones at the top and bottom.

Step 5

 Add risers and drain holes
Drill multiple drainage holes in the bottom of the planter. File or sand any sharp metal around the holes.

Step 6

 Install the plastic planters.
Slip pots into the openings on top -- we used two 14-inch plastic planters, which fit snugly after cutting two rim corners of one of them so it could rest atop the rim of the other pot.
Good to Know
To make a pretty display, pair a low- to medium-height flowering plant such as a begonia with a trailing plant with contrasting foliage, such as sweet potato vine.