Lateral Files: What You Need to Know to Get What You Need

Nov 22, 2016

Buying a lateral filing system is simple enough. Buying the right one to fit your specific filing needs is a little more complicated. There are a few things you need to consider and some questions you need to ask to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your lateral file buck. Here at Rework, our office furniture experts will provide you with a complete guide to lateral filing cabinets. Continue reading this blog to make sure you know everything there is to know about lateral filing systems.

Do you file front to back or side to side filing cabinets? That is, when you’re facing the lateral file, are the folders parallel to you (front-to-back filing), or are they perpendicular to you (side-to-side filing)? Secondly, do you file mostly legal-sized papers or letter-sized ones? The answers to those two questions will determine what lateral file is best for your needs. They’re manufactured in three widths, 30”, 36”, and 42”. If you’re filing letters front to back, you’ll fill a 30” lateral with two rows of folders and waste no space whatsoever. In a 42” wide unit, you’ll do the same with three rows of letter-sized documents. But…. file letter-sized front to back in a 36” lateral filing system, and you’ll find a gap of a few inches in the middle of the two rows of folders. Legal documents are just the opposite. File two rows of legal-sized papers front to back in a 36” wide lateral file, and you’ll have no wasted space. Do the same for the one row you’ll get in a 30” cabinet or the two you’ll fit in a 42” wide file, and you’ll see lots of unfilled filing inches.

It’s yet another story when you consider side to side filing. When filing that way, you’ll always file more when storing legal-sized folders. They reach all the way to the back of the lateral filing drawer while letter-sized folders only go back about 12”. That leaves a gap in the back of several inches. There’s also the issue of cost related to each method. Filing front to back filing requires more hardware per drawer which adds to the overall price of the file.

When purchasing a lateral filing cabinet, you also need to consider the space where the files will be placed. You may think you can get three 42” lateral files in the area back by the water cooler, but did you account for the baseboard molding that eats up two inches of that space? Will they actually be used for filing, or will they just end up storing old phones and Christmas decorations? Cardboard boxes in the store room can do that for a whole lot less.

Purchasing lateral filing systems probably seemed a lot simpler at the beginning of this article, but asking the right questions about filing, placement, and actual need will streamline the process in the end. Buying the right new or used filing cabinets may mean you’ll need fewer of them in the long run.

Call Terry Cray, Office Furniture Guy, with questions or comments you may have.

M 773.908.0462