A guide to filing cabinets

A guide to filing cabinets

When choosing a filing cabinet the most important thing is making sure you get the right size cabinet for your files, especially if you are replacing an existing cabinet or using old files.

Foolscap vs. A4

Suspension files rest on parallel runners and the distance between them will determine which size of file can be used with your cabinet.

Choose between A4 and foolscap:


Foolscap is the bigger of the two sizes. It used to be widely used in the UK and many offices still use foolscap suspension files. Foolscap suspension or lever arch files are often used to hold A4 paper; the slightly larger size of the file offers greater protection to the edges of the pages it contains.

  • File with suspension bar: H 240 x W 407 mm
  • File without suspension bar (card part only): H 230 x W 360 mm
  • Sit on runners that are approximately 400 mm apart


A4 is slightly smaller than foolscap, as such, cabinets designed for A4 only are usually narrower so may be a better option if you’re short of space.

  • File with suspension bar: H 240 x W 350 mm
  • File without suspension bar (card part only): H 230 x W 300 mm
  • Sit on runners that are approximately 345 mm apart

Some cabinets are adapted to accept both types of file, although this is not the norm. All of our filing cabinets specify in the description which file size they will accept. If you’re still not clear whether the cabinet will be suitable, please give our customer service team a call and they’ll be happy to help you out!

Find the filing cabinet that suits you

A standard wooden or metal filing cabinet may not be for you; we also have a range of cabinets that offer a different filing solution or offer improved performance in some areas.

Other types of file cabinet:


Narrow cabinets that store papers horizontally without the need for suspension files.

Lateral filing cabinets

Lateral file cabinets have much wider drawers than a standard cabinet but are not as deep. Each drawer is fitted with two sets of suspension runners for storing two runs of files side-by-side.

Fireproof cabinets

Fireproof filing cabinets are rated and certified to provide between 60-120 minutes of protection against fire for paper documents (exact rating varies – see product descriptions). Each drawer will act as a fire-insulated unit meaning that even if one drawer is open the others remain fireproof. These cabinets will keep important documents safe in the event of a fire and usually come equipped with a more heavy duty lock than a standard filing cabinet.

Office cabinets with file cribs

File cribs or lateral filing rails can be fitted to some standard metal office cabinets to allow you to store files within a “normal” cabinet. A lateral filing rail will fit within the cabinet and you will need to allow space above to access the files without removing them from the cabinet while a file crib will pull-out to allow access. It is generally recommended that no more than two or three pull-out file cribs are fitted (depending on the cabinet) and that they are fitted to the lower half of the cabinet to prevent the cabinet from becoming top heavy.

Understand your office file cabinet and make sure it works for you

Some other features to think about:


Most (but not all) of our filing cabinets are lockable. This will act as a deterrent to most people but probably not a determined thief! Some of our fireproof filing cabinets come with a much more heavy duty lock, including electronic lock options, so it may be worth the extra investment for highly sensitive files (with the added bonus that they will be protected in the event of a fire).


Drawers normally open to either 80% or 100%, with 100% extension meaning that the back of the drawer is flush with the cabinet frame when fully open. Drawers that open to 80% do so to prevent the cabinet from tipping over; you can still access the final 20% you just have to reach in to do so! Cabinets with 100% extension allow easier access to all files and usually have an anti-tilt mechanism.


A mechanism to prevent the cabinets from becoming top-heavy and tipping over by allowing you to open only one drawer at a time.

Happy filing!

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