Introduction: IKEA Expedit Filing Cabinet Hack

Picture of IKEA Expedit Filing Cabinet Hack

Like many nomadic friends, we own one of the Expedit units from IKEA. I has 5 cubbies down and across and since we live with limited storage space, this has been a useful addition to our apartment. Despite their widespread usage and clear dominance of the SF Bay Craigslist market, IKEA hasn’t developed a filling cubby for this popular system - actually, no one has. So I made my own.

My mom always color coded her filling system and that woman can always find exactly what she’s looking for, even in a pinch. I knew I wanted a filling cubby to fit in my Expedit unit and to fill it with multicolored folders, I just didn’t know exactly how to do this.

First Attempt I initially was going to build this little guy from scratch. The dimensions for a standard hanging file folder a such that there’s not much wiggle room on the sides, meaning I would need bottom mount drawer slides (or so I thought). These are less common than their side mounted counterparts and finding a set that’s also sufficiently short was problematic. I also started to tally up the expenses for this little side project and drawer slides + wood + drawer slide mounting guide = ~$50, which seemed excessive. Also, it seems very easy to make the two slides slightly nonparallel, which means your drawer doesn’t slide. I turned, instead, to Craigslist and luckily found someone selling a retired IKEA item, the single drawer insert. This turned the project into a $5 hack which I completed in about an hour.

Follow along for the play-by-play! I made this nifty filing cubby insert at Techshop!

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Picture of Gather Supplies

If you end up making the same version I did, here's what you'll need:

- IKEA Expedit Cubby system (any size - you need one vacant cubby for the final product to fit into)
- IKEA Expedit single drawer insert (check Craigslist or eBay, I believe these are discontinued and that Expedit is now renamed)
- Two straight, metal guide rods
- Two L-shaped angle brackets (like these, although I picked mine up at a local hardware store)
- Colorful hanging file folders
- Glue

- Table saw
- Rulers, tape measure, etc.
- Hand drill

Step 2: Deconstruct the IKEA Insert

Picture of Deconstruct the IKEA Insert

After looking at the single drawer insert in the unit, I could see what I wanted to do and how I’d need to stabilize the insert after making my cuts. The insert has an outer shell that fits exactly into the unit and the drawer which slides on side mount drawer slides that are mounted into the outer shell. Luckily, the filling folders are short enough that they can sit just above the sliding mechanism and easily clear the top of the drawer.

Step 3: Cut Outer Shell

Picture of Cut Outer Shell

I cut down the outer shell to allow for the necessary width of the folders, stopping just above the metal drawer mount, which you can see on the far side of the angled shot and both sides of the view straight on. This is important because my hanging folders didn't have enough clearance right-to-left with this outer shell included.

Note: This photo shows both outer and inner shells cut. I didn't have a good image to share of just the black, outer shell cut stage. Too caught up in the making!

Step 4: Cut and Prep the Insert

Picture of Cut and Prep the Insert

Next, I cut down the drawer insert itself. All of the pieces were disassembled so I was only ever cutting single, flat pieces. I drilled starter holes for the steel rod that is used to hang the folders. I cut off a thin scrap and reattached it to the back in order to line up the steel rod.

Pro tip: Remember your eye, ear, and breathing protection when using the woodshop :-)

Step 5: Reassemble and Assess

Picture of Reassemble and Assess

Then I reassembled the whole piece with the front panel of the drawer reinstalled. It was clear once I put it together again that the front of the drawer was pretty flimsy, so I reinforced the front by epoxying two L-brackets to the bottom and front faces on the inside.

Step 6: Fill With Folders

Picture of Fill With Folders

Last drop in your hanging file folders! I like to use different colors to organize the various sections, but go with whatever floats your boat!

I’d like to make a second one of these guys but the single drawer inserts are hard to come by. This one filling cubby serves us really well for now.


The Arbiter (author)2017-01-01

This is very cool. Instead of making your own rods and so forth though, why not just pick up a Pendaflex frame for a couple of dollars and sit it in the drawer? This one is from Wal-Mart and retails for $9.70, but you can find others cheaper and more expensive.

TiffanyS93 (author)The Arbiter2017-02-11

That probably wouldn't fit. I was thinking about doing that but couldn't find the frame dimensions, to know for certain. Now that I've made this I think it would be too high, unless it's the very height of a letter sized hanging file.

TiffanyS93 made it! (author)2017-02-11

We just finished making this, and it took longer than I expected. Some issues: the epoxy crapped out so we had to screw the L brackets in, and the bracket holes were too wide, but thankfully we found something else in the garage to use for that. Also, the extra pieces of wood you need to anchor the guide rod into were a pain. They had to be 1 1/4" wide, and we didn't realize that at first. We had scrap wood and the first set we made were too narrow for the width of the folder. Thankfully we had a big pile of scrap wood from another project which we cut to the right size. Then when we put this in the expedit cubby, the wood pieces were too high as we made them flush (duh). We used a hunting saw to cut it down. LOL! I think it's actually very small for a filing drawer, especially when files get thick, so I no longer plan to make another drawer or two. It would have been easier for me to get a separate pedestal type filing cabinet (fits under a desk) off kijiji. I definitely won't be able to convince my hubby to do this project a second time. It would have been easier if this instructable had specific dimensions listed.

TiffanyS93 (author)2017-02-10

Thanks! I just found a 1 drawer Expedit insert off Kijiji and hope to make this on the weekend. I hope to find another, possibly a few. I am in Canada, but when googling this Expedit or Kallax file drawer, I saw on Ikea in Australia that they are selling a new 1 drawer insert. I hope it comes here too!

jaimelicious (author)2016-03-27

I love this idea!

I've just had a look on IKEA UK's website, and the two-drawer Expedit insert looks like it could be used for this with minimal adaptation - check out the assembly guide PDF under 'product description' at the bottom of the page.

I may well end up doing this - I'll try and post if I manage it with the two-drawer insert!

AnnG36 (author)jaimelicious2016-04-15

So... the fact that I can't figure out how you'd tweak a 2-drawer Kallax to do this may in fact be a red flag that I shouldn't even ASK... But, having never erred on the side of caution - or staying within my capabilities when taking on a project I'm excited about - I'll ask anyways: HOW would you make that work jaimelicious? I have a 2-drawer unit in use in my craft room/office right now, and just can't make my brain understand how you'd modify that. ?? Would love to see how it works out for you if you do this - or hear your plans for the mod. Thanks! I really LOVE this idea, too!

jaimelicious (author)AnnG362016-04-16

hey :) I haven't actually done this (yet!) but I was looking at the specs in the instructions on the website, and this is what I was thinking, very roughly.

As you don't really need the sides of the drawer(s) as such because all that bit is doing really, is bracing the front and back panels apart. So, get rid of the sides.

Use two flat metal joining pieces to turn the two half-height drawer fronts into one full height one.

Abandon one set of drawer runners (for next hack :D).

And as far as I can see you'll have a similar set of bits as this ible started with.

i was basically looking at it and saying well, don't need the bottom of the upper drawer, don't need the upper set of runners, don't really need the drawer sides, upper or lower because they're not used in the original hack, *do* need a full-height panel for the front, but we've got two half-size ones, just join 'em together...

i hope that makes my thinking a bit clearer. I'm horribly unwell at the moment and being forced to work one Saturday in two instead of one Saturday in three in exchange for a measly three hours off on a random weekday, so while I very much want to get this done it may be a while! However, I've got my notes and sketches going and am including a note to post the link here if I manage to get an instructable up - it'd be my very first one ever.

If you do anything with the idea in the meantime (and please, someone take it and run with it!) I'd love to see.


watchingunow (author)2016-01-17

Oh wow,I love the idea,very ingenious.

acoens (author)watchingunow2016-01-23

Thanks for the kind words, watchingunow!

AdrianaG (author)2016-01-07

Excellent hack!

Are you saying the drawers are discontinued? Or just hard to find on the cheap?

Where do you get the rods?

Now if you or IKEA will come up with an Expedit shoe storage solution you would help millions!

acoens (author)AdrianaG2016-01-07

Thanks, AdrianaG!

The Expedit system has been rebranded/updated so you won't find anything with the Expedit name brand new, although maybe still some things floating around on Craigslist and places. Another commenter tells me the new system is called Kallax and that the cubbies are the same dimensions.

I got the rods at a local hardware store. In San Francisco, my favorite is Cole Hardware.

You should come up with a shoe solution! Instructable All The Things!

neil_is_chuck (author)acoens2016-01-13

I have also been told the drawers are the same size but the height of the Kalax is slightly different - or to put it another way, the materials are slightly thinner than the Expedit, they don't match up side by side, according to the IKEA site anyway. I was looking for a second Expedit, looks like I'll have to buy two Kalax instead.

acoens (author)neil_is_chuck2016-01-16

This is good to know! Thanks for playing detective. I moved and sold the 5x5 unit but kept the insert I made here. I'll be curious to find a replacement for the unit when the time comes.

neil_is_chuck (author)acoens2016-01-16

No problem. I will be buying a set of Kalax soon, so I'll ask them / find out about the old inserts (I plan to do your instructable). I am using them as desk stands (instead of those space-eating trestle stands).

dan3008 (author)2016-01-07

Expedit anything is hard to find now. they rebranded as Kalax with a few changes, but they are compatible (same box size)

acoens (author)dan30082016-01-07

Kalax! That's the name. Thank you - yes!

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2016-01-05

Awesome furniture hack. You've got my vote.

Thanks! I'm really happy with how this turned out.

About This Instructable




Bio: Designer. Thinker. Doer. Hiker. Lover.
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