I have a little spot in my yard that’d be perfect for a planter. But the problem is, planters are expensive! So instead of buying a big fancy one, we’re going to thrift a filing cabinet and repurpose it to be a planter! Plus I’m going to tile it to make it even fancier. I have a whole tutorial for you on this DIY file cabinet planter that is such a high impact with a low price.
Before. Where the planter will go
how to make a file cabinet planter
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. It’d mean so much if you’d watch the video! I’m trying to get better at my video skills so I can grow my YouTube channel. If you have a few minutes to watch this and/or subscribe, I’d so appreciate it.
- 90 Square 4×4 Tiles
- 4- Corner Tile
- 12- Bullnose Tile
- 4 Drawer File Cabinet
- Porcelain Paint Kit (I also used the color Tender Pink)
- Fine Tip Porcelain Marker in Black
- Paint Thinner for the Porcelain Paint
- Artist Paint Brushes
- 3 Bottle Construction Adhesive
- White Grout
overview- how to make a file cabinet planter
- Begin by taking out all the drawers and glides
- Clean out the inside of the file cabinet if needed
- Lay it on it’s side so that the drawer openings are facing up
- Paint or tile the metal portions of the file cabinet
- If the cabinet was tiled, grout the tile. If painted, let the paint dry
- Put it where you’d like in your garden
- Fill with gardening soil. If you’d like, put the bottom with cardboard and twigs to use less soil and help with drainage
- Plant the planter
To begin this project, buy the supplies that are needed.
Where to find a file cabinet to make into a planter? Look at the thrift shop, Facebook Marketplace or Habitat for Humanity to find a used file cabinet. This will be the most affordable way to go and then you can up-cycle an item which is great for the environment. Keep your eye out on the side of the road for a free one too! Mine cost $10.
Once you have your file cabinet, remove the drawers and the tracks.
What to do with them? Well, we took them to by recycled- we have a place locally where we can recycle metal. Another option is to make small planters from the drawers.
Put the file cabinet in place as a planter with the drawer openings pointed up. Measure the side and front. I am using a 4 drawer filing cabinet and it measures 26″ tall by 52″ wide on the front. That works to 6 tiles tall and 12 tiles wide (which is 72 tiles). That doesn’t include the corner tile or the top bullnose tile.
For the side, it measures 26″ tall and 15″ wide. That comes to 6 tiles tall and 3 tiles wide (which is 18 tiles). That doesn’t include the corner tile or the top bullnose tile.
Between both sides, that comes to 90 tiles. Which is perfect because the box of tiles comes with 100 pieces.
Drill holes in the bottom of the planter so that excess water can drain out of it.
step 1- hand paint tile
Start by figuring out a design for how the tile will be painted. I drew out different flowers and bugs in my sketch book with a pen and then painted the ideas with watercolor. Each flower I’m using is one I have in my garden. I love that this project tells the story of my house. The practice helps so I can confidently draw on the tile (which can be scary).
Next, use rubbing alcohol and a cotton rag to clean the tiles before painting. This will remove any dirt that could make the paint not stick.
Once I was happy with my sketches, I then laid out the tiles for one side of the planter. This means I can draw the large picture across many tiles at once.
Then, I slowly began drawing the pattern on the tile. It’s best to use the Fine Tip Porcelain Marker for the outline. If a mistake is made with it, it was easy to use the rag and rubbing alcohol to remove the blemish. Another option is to use a crayon to draw on the tile- the crayon will actually stick (unlike pencil).
If the tile is going to have a geometric pattern, painter’s tape can be used to create a clean paint line.
For my project I decided to draw big pictures of my tile. What worked best for me was to draw the outline of one flower and then fill it in. While that paint is drying, move onto the next flower outline and filling it in. Then I like to go to the last flower and add highlights and depth with colors mixed a slightly different color. Keep going until the tiles are painted.
Once I was done painting, I let the tiles dry for 24 hours.
step 2- bake tile
Once dry, bake the tiles in the oven on 300 degrees for 35 minutes. This sets the tiles so the paint won’t scratch off. I put my tiles on a baking sheet so I didn’t break them during the process of taking them in and out of the oven.
Note, after baking my tiles, some of them had little brown flecks on them. I put my tiles outside while getting ready to tile. They got rained on and then I cleaned them and all the brown flecks were gone. So if you get some, try cleaning them- they’ll probably come off.
Note, since I’ve hand painted tiles before I’m confident that they’ll stand up if done correctly. Since I’m experienced doing this, I know that once the paint is set it won’t come off when grouted, caulked, or after lots of use.
step 3- tile the planter
And now, it’s time to tile! To begin, use a sander on the metal of the planter to rough it up a bit. This makes it so the tile will adhere better to the planter.
Once done sanding, use a wet rag to clean off the dust.
One thing I did a lot of research on for this project is what to use for tile adhesive? This is a tricky question because it needs to work outside with metal and tile. After looking at many products, I choose Gorilla Glue Construction adhesive because its rated to work on those items. I bought 3 bottles. Spoiler alert, that was the perfect amount and the glue works great!
Then begin to tile. We choose to start in the top corner of the filing cabinet. Since the top of the bullnose tile goes at the top of the filing cabinet and the bottom tiles need to be cut, this is the best spot.
Apply the construction adhesive to the back of each tile. Then put it in place and place it firmly on the filing cabinet.
The construction adhesive is so good that it’ll hold the tile firmly in the right place while working over and down.
For the bottom and a few of the bullnose tiles, those need to be cut. Use a tile saw for that. Let the tile dry before adhering it onto the file cabinet.
Once the planter is all tiled, let it sit for 24 hours so the adhesive can set.
OMG- isn’t the planter looking so good?!
step 4- grout the planter
Finally, the tile on the file cabinet planter needs to be grouted. I’m using white grout for this to achieve a nice clean look. I like to put my grout in a grout bag and pipe it into the spacing between the tiles. Then the grout needs to be pushed into the seams with a float.
Once the grout has been applied for 15-20 minutes, use a wet sponge to wipe off the excess grout. While doing that, make sure there’s no spaces where the grout has been missed. If it has, use excess grout to fill in the spaces.
After grouting, I decided to also paint the metal on the top of the filing cabinet. A small bit shows on the sides too. It probably would’ve been better to spray paint these areas before tiling.
When the paint is dry, finish by planting the planter!
Here is the finished planter. I love how whimsical and sweet it is!
I feel like it pulls the style from the inside outside. It feels really chic!
Do filing cabinets make good planters? Yes! They are the perfect size to fit lots of plants for a low price tag. It’s a very easy project- especially if you just paint it. It doesn’t take much time, the supplies are affordable- mine came out to $71, and it makes a huge impact for your garden and yard! Plus you’re probably saving something from a landfill
So how much did this project cost? The filing cabinet came to $10 at the thrift shop. For tiling supplies, I bought a box of the square tile for $16. The bullnose and corner tile cost $15. I already had all of the paint on hand from the last time I hand painted tiles. Construction adhesive is $10 a bottle and we used 3.
To make the file cabinet planter box it cost a total of $71
Also, I used 3 bags of garden soil to fill the box for $26.91. Note, I also used cardboard and twigs to fill the bottom of the box for drainage and to save money on soil. Then I bought some herbs for $22 to plant.
All in, my total came to $119. Which I think is a great price for the big impact that the planter gives!
I’m very happy with how this project turned out! I love the painting and the vibe of the tile. I’d definitely recommend this project if you need a big garden planter. Let me know if you have any questions about this project in the comments!
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