Introduction: IKEA Expedit Filing Cabinet Hack

About: Designer. Thinker. Doer. Hiker. Lover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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