Tutorial: How to cover a file cabinet with contact paper

A file cabinet is a great organization tool and a necessity for most people, but let's face it. It's a big eyesore! Some people buy their file cabinets from secondhand stores, so they are typically pretty beaten up. Mine was actually brand new when I got it, but it came in this ugly putty color. I recently decided that I needed to do something about it. So, I covered it in woodgrain looking contact paper to make it fit in better with the bedroom decor. Here is how I did it:

But first, here is a before picture (except that I had already covered one drawer):

Materials - Contact paper ($5.68) (I used woodgrain, but I also think a crisp white would have looked nice.);    scissors ($2); plastic card, like a store rewards card, to smooth out bubbles (free); screwdriver ($1); X-Acto knife ($5); tape measure ($2)

Time - Approximately 6 hours (but I was a contact paper newbie)

Step 1 - Measure the width and length of the drawers, add about 3/4 of an inch to each side, and then cut four pieces of contact paper that size. (FYI: I didn't need to take the drawers out to apply the contact paper.)

Step 2 - Remove the hardware from the front of the drawers.

Step 3 - Apply the contact paper, but do so slowly. Peel away part of the backing and start at the top of the drawer. Simultaneously, push the plastic card downward inch by inch starting from the center to smooth out the bubbles before you unroll more paper. Note: The point of this photo is to show how to hold the plastic card. 

(FYI: In my experience, it is impossible to get rid of all bubbles. Don't worry, though, because people will only be able to see them if they're closely inspecting your work.)

Step 4 - I wasn't able to remove the little silver latch thing that is used to open and close the drawer, so I had to use the X-Acto knife to cut a hole around the latch on the front of the drawer. Do this when you have smoothed the paper about halfway down the drawer. Cutting a hole will allow air to escape and prevent more bubbles from forming. 

(FYI: If you cut too far around it, no need to panic because adding a few slivers of contact paper around it will blend right in.)

Step 5 - Repeat steps 3 through 4 on the other drawers. Then, replace the hardware.

Step 6 - You can relax; the hard part is over. Now, repeat the process of applying the contact paper to the rest of the sides of the file cabinet. Remember to keep the woodgrain pattern going in the same direction.

Yep, that's all there is to it. Happy filing! Here is an after picture:


  1. This is so cool. I have and old ugly file cabinet that I really need to do this to.

  2. Aside from sorting files, this is also a good way to know where to look for files and where to store them.


Thanks for your kind comments!