I need closed steel shelving cabinets, and am having difficulty narrowing things down.
I have been completely reworking my storage setup, and it’s been quite the frustrating process. One big improvement, I think, will be to move from 12″ deep wire shelving to 18″ or 24″ deep closed shelving.
Shown above are cabinets from a company called Steel Cabinets USA, which I found at an industrial supplier. Their 30″ and 36″ wide x 18″ deep x 72″ tall cabinets retail for between $500 and $650 with suppliers discounts and freight fees. This particular brand is light on details, but I do know the shelves are adjustable and that the cabinets ship assembled and with plastic glides.
I found 10 more companies that all also offer closed steel cabinets.
Industrial storage brands offer closed shelving units that users must assemble on-site, and they’re more affordable than I thought – less than the cabinets mentioned above.
My one hesitation there is that modular shelving cabinets are designed to be bolted down, which I won’t do. For other brands, it’s a hassle to source leveling foot brackets, attachment screws, and other such accessories to add to an order.
There are of course consumer solutions, but I’m hoping for something a little sturdier.
Garage-style cabinets tend to be too tall, wide, and deep. Others might be a fitting size, but in-store samples feel a bit flimsy.
With shipping fees, garage cabinets similar in size to what I’m looking for cost about the same. At $400 or a little more per cabinet, I’d rather have industrial and commercial-grade cabinets than consumer-grade models from the home center.
I’m also looking for cabinets I can put in the basement, which limits the size and weight. 30″ to 36″ wide, 18″ or 24″ deep, and at most 72″ tall seems to be the sweet spot.
Tennsco offers both assembled (welded) and unassembled cabinets in several grades, such as deluxe and standard.
Their cabinet with see-through doors might be nice, but they cost quite a bit more than many of the other brands’ cabinets I found.
I also came across Hallowell, which also offers cabinets in “knock-down” style or assembled. They too have windowed and solid door options.
I have never heard of many of these brands before. Brands such as Edsal are available via consumer channels, and so reviewers are easier to come by. Industrial brands, such as “Steel Cabinets USA”, have bare-bones websites and little to no user reviews or feedback online.
In theory, I could order different cabinets from several brands to determine this myself, but that sounds like a nightmare. Products like this can be easily damaged and destroyed during shipping, especially as brands’ packaging practices can vary wildly. I’d rather go with a good brand and reliable product line at the start.
I don’t mind having to assemble cabinets. Strength, stability, shelf adjustability, and the ability to level a cabinet are high priorities for me, as well as better packaging that can minimize freight and handling damage.
Budget is important too. I’m looking for maybe 2 cabinets to start, and more as I work to reorganize everything.
150 lb shelf strength seems like enough, 200 lbs or more would be a bonus. I can always keep one or two wire shelving racks for heavier pieces of equipment.
Mobility would be nice, with casters also serving to raise cabinets off the floor in case of moisture, but I can always build a platform to line the basement walls where I hope a couple of cabinets will eventually go.
Here’s where I’m hoping ToolGuyd readers can help. What steel storage cabinets – or similar closed shelved products – have you guys used and can recommend?
Yes, making my own cabinets out of plywood is another option, but I prefer powder-coated steel for this. At least right now, I would rather buy than build. I have plans to build one or two other cabinets for specific purposes, these would be for general purpose storage.
Cabinets with the transparent doors are essentially shelves, right? I’ve always wondered about the attraction of cabinet storage. “Out of sight out of mind ” is never a good workshop solution…or basement solution, for that matter. And if you don’t need doors, why doors?
Wish I could offer more than that, but I’m clearly not the right man.
Doors help protect against dust and pests, and keeps things tidier.
I am also open to 18″ or 24″ deep shelves with closed sides and back panels, but the same issue remains – which brands are better?
They also protect from children’s grubby hands.
Sometimes solid doors help hide the mess 🙂
They put a tent on your circus.
…but I can always ***built*** a platform to line the …
Buy they used from Craigslist or used office furniture places.
I often see them for free.
Yep. Used office versions are pretty easy to find as long as you’re not looking to grab something ASAP, and are almost always higher quality than low or middle end new. Particularly if you’re only looking for 1 or 2 cabinets.
Searching for used cabinets creates all kinds of other headaches, not to mention delays.
For something like this, I’m shopping as a small business, not personal use.
Does your city have a used office furniture store? You don’t have to go the auction/surplus route.
Though a business I worked at bought a scanning electron microscope off ebay, so I might have a slanted view on things.
I think we may have bought a cabinet or two via Grainger for janitorial supplies – and probably paid a premium – but otherwise don’t recall any plusses or minuses. We also had some Justrite cabinets in the cabinet shop spray area. They came with the place – and probably also cost a premium.
Have you looked at U-Line – they seem to offer a few choices.
I’ve purchased a few cabinets from a local auction house that gets returns from Grainger. Cabinets are a common auction item due to frequent shipping damage (similar to your tool box stories they are often not packaged well).
I have a few Hallowell cabinets and one Sandusky one. All are 4 shelf 78″ tall models that were un-assembled. I think I paid a max of $20 ea for these brand new scratched and dented. I’m not very impressed with the quality. The sheetmetal is thin and assembly can be frustrating but for what I paid they serve my needs well enough. I would have been upset paying anywhere near the retail prices for them. I mounted mine on wood skids so I can move them with a pallet jack if needed.
That’s part of what worries me.
If these cause the same kinds of headaches as with consumer products, what options are left without doubling one’s budget?
I’ve had the same experience. These cabinets almost always arrive scratched or dented in some way. I’ve bought a few for the fire station over the years from grainger or zoro (money was no obstacle!) and gotten them in one piece.
I got one with the ‘windows’ and was rather unimpressed. Very light weight and the windows are thin acrylic. Feels very cheap.
In this space you really only have two options: spenda little and be really unhappy with the product or spend a lot and be only kind of unhappy with the product.
FWIW, I have bought some from home off of CL and been very happy with the price and the quality. 95% off MSRP goes a long way toward improving my feelings of the product.
Stuart, have you looked at ULINE? They seem to carry cabinets that nicely fit your criteria. The biggest “jumbo HD” option runs 48x24x78 and rates at 400 pounds per shelf. For $680, that gets you almost exactly double the volume of one 36x18x72 cabinet.
I don’t own any of these particular cabinets but all of my experiences with ULINE have been great.
Those look like they could be Tennsco. I have had good experiences with Uline too, but never needed a freight order. I’d be likely to order from Zoro unless I found much lower pricing elsewhere.
Our local school sold old lockers a while back, they pop up on CL every once in a while yet. I think they were built in gangs of 4, and usually bring about $100.
As some mentioned above, I would consider these only if they are free or near free (from large offices going paperless). I have got a few of the blow mold cabinets. Suncast Commercial is one of the best one. They are sturdier than the thin sheet metal, in some ways. Also no rust/scratches/dents.
I have had good and bad experiences with resin shelves and cabinets. With heavier loads, they inevitably sag and deform.
Years ago I bought two welded-steel 36″ x 24″ Sandusky cabinets from Office Depot. I thought the doors were always in the way, the paint scraped off too easily from the shelves, and they were very cumbersome to move. But they were sturdy, everything was organized, and the clutter was hidden. I sold them when I moved and don’t miss them. My employer has a bunch of cabinets from Uline, with dollies. They are very sturdy and have held up well under commercial use. I still think the doors are always in the way. I think 24″ deep is needed for tools. 18″ is just not enough. I would definitely buy or build dollies. Husky (Home Depot) has some stylish cabinets that require assembly and go on sale regularly. I don’t know if they are any good. I doubt ready-to-assemble is as sturdy as welded-steel, but it would be much easier to move.
At work, we have a bunch of cabinets that look just like the picture, except they’re 24″ deep. They don’t look pristine, but they’re >20 years old, so they’ve held up pretty well. All of them have been moved at least twice (by commercial movers). I’ll look and see if I can find the brands.
We also have some cabinets designed to take bins that are pretty cool, currently used to store nuts and bolts, but undoubtedly expensive new (we basically inherited them).
I’d definitely look at the used options others have mentioned. For new, at least check if there’s a local supplier. When I needed some new parts for a couple of my industrial shelves, I went to the closest industrial supplier, and was very happy with them – quality was good, cost was competitive (less, I think than Uline/Amazon/etc), and the staff was knowledgeable. Delivery would’ve been expensive, but I was able to borrow a pickup truck.
Have you considered enclosing your existing shelving in simple ply cabinets with tambour doors? Solves the dust and pest problem and is both cost and user friendly.
That would require a lot of resources, time, and materials, after which the shelves will still be a bit too shallow. If I’m going to throw plywood at the problem, I’d build cabinets from scratch. But then what happens the next time I want another steel cabinet or two?
There’s also no easy way to encapsulate wire shelving racks with plywood.
Closed shelves or cabinets with drawers are the best solution for my needs right now. Or, maybe a mix of deeper shelving racks and enclosed shelving.
I love the couple strong hold cabinets at work but they weigh a ton and cost a fortune.
That’s what I’m looking to avoid too. If I am okay going the “cost a fortunate” route, my original plan was to build wall-to-wall shelving, cabinets, and workbench space with 80/20 t-slot framing with plywood for wall and shelf panels.
You can’t beat Intermetro aka Metro shelving. I started buying pieces 30 years ago, moved it to three houses. Easy to assemble, knock down, reassemble.
Sam’s Seville cabinet’s have served me well for over 10 years.
+1 on the Seville stuff, got the mega cabinet on wheels makes it easy to clean or rearrange . Plus the workbenches are nearly as good as the $1k plus industrial ones at work
I have 2 of the large Seville’s, 2 small rollers, 2 wall cabinets and a work bench. Been very happy with them. Best part was I was able to pick them up locally. Their customer service is good too, one of the wall cabinets had 2 right side panels. They shipped me the missing piece right away.
Rousseau brand cabinets and shelving have held up pretty well in my experience. There’s a lot of different options either at their website or at places like Industrial Shelving.
We use a second-hand black office cabinet in our garage to hold misc kitchen things like water, bulk paper towels, cat food, etc. It’s a great option for hiding those unsightly but necessary things.
I’m currently re-evaluating everything about how I’m setting up my basement, and need more storage/organization in the garage.
Currently I have a Gladiator cabinet that I got during a huge sale on Amazon for <$100. Wish I had bought at least a second.
As you mentioned elsewhere, the cabinets are nice for dust control, although the doors certainly can get in the way as others have said. Windows do sound nice, I could see factoring that in if I get more cabinets (or make my own).
Uline carries Sandusky but I assume shipping might be the hassle.
I found a welded Sandusky cabinet on CL years ago. I keep solvents, paint etc. in it.
6ft tall, 36″ wide and 18″ deep. It has held up well, no complaints.
Most of the flat box, assemble it yourself, cabinets at work (school) are pretty flimsy. Easily dented, difficult to adjust shelves and poor latches. Old style, bolt together from all individual parts, heavy gauge steel, are the best but hard to find.
I’ve run into a supply of Steel Case, some vertical steel cabinets, a few drawer units with fully extending slides. Setup 8 in the crypt. Bolted together where they’re in a line, with a screw in back to prevent tipping. Leveling was a pain, but, my basement has an internal foundation wall drainage system, with a poorly leveled floor. They have solved multiple storage problems.
I’ve used HON and KI cabinets. The Hons were in a machine shop and my grandfathers garage and were at best okay, but not great.
I love all the KI stuff I’ve used and own, but it doesn’t look like they do a traditional full-height shelved cabinet. The 700-series storage tower might still be worth a look though, it’s lateral file drawers combined with an upper cabinet with doors.
I’d definitely lean towards finding an office or government surplus option though. Unless you’re fitting out an entire corporate office there’s just no reason to pay new for these things.
To meet heavy duty + low cost, DIY plywood will come on top. Keep the design/dimensions simple (4×8×2) and the cut/build will be simple/repeatable. Build more as you need.
Several years ago I purchased an eighteen inch steel cabinet with casters from Costco. It has held up quite well. Powder coat finish with stainless steel doors. Ships in a flat pack and requires assembly but that just made it easy to transport home. As I recall it wasn’t that expensive either.
Got a pair of Craftsman cabinets. Regretting the red in the two-tone color scheme. All black or grey would have been better. Picked up flat at Lowe’s and assembled easily.
Placed them on Bora mobile platforms to move them around. But the ‘up’ position of the levers to lock them scratches the doors. Might have to bolt them to 4x4s to get them away from the locking levers on the mobile base.
I have had Strong Hold, Steel Case, Lyon, and U-line over the years. The strong hold and Lyon are what I would consider a true industrial cabinet. They probably weighed 400 pounds and had sturdy legs leaving a space/pocket on the bottom for forklift forks so you could move the cabinet when it was full. Originally these held thousands of pounds of machine tools and fixtureing. I agree that 36 to 48” wide x 24” deep by 72” high is a sweet spot for cabinets . I bought them second hand from a machine tool shop retirement sale. I understand them to be several thousand dollars brand new. These are in line with Lista and Vidmar for guys that are familiar with those brands. We got an offer we couldn’t refuse for the cabinets when we sold the lathe and the mill so they got sold.
I ended up replacing them with a lighter duty option similar to this U-line. The version I have is a spot welded construction. Not sure if the screw together ones are ridged enough? I would say these weigh around 75-100lbs empty. Still plenty strong for tool storage but it is not rated for frequent moves loaded up like the Lyons’s were. I have several. One is packed with old heavy corded power tools. I can’t bring myself to get rid of my old mag 77 Skil saw, all metal Milwaukee holesaw, sawzall etc. One has a shelf packed with 5 quart bottles of various viscosity’s of engine oil, anti freeze jugs, brake fluid, trany fluid etc. with no noticeable sag. Needless to say the shelves are extremely robust. Adjustable clips in all 4 corners and one in the center in the back.
My only complaint is the cabinet can get a bit dark inside. I did end up running some cheapo Amazon stick on LED strips in the cabinet shelves. Works extremely well as long as the glue on the strips hold.
The doors definitely keep the dust out, hide the clutter and keep valuable items from growing legs in the shop. Also excellent for storing chemicals away from children and idiots.
For a small business I would probably buy the U-line version. For home or garage use I would search craigslist first. It took a while as 24 inch deep x 3’ or 4’ wide is not super common but they do show up and the price is right.
The 72” height allows storage on top in a room with normal 84” residential ceiling height for frequently accessed items.
I would highly recommend this type of storage to anyone. Especially in the 2’ deep 3 or 4’ wide and 6’ tall size.
Government surplus auctions are always a good place to find this stuff as long as your flexible with time, size, color, condition etc. I’ve gotten similar stuff for $20 a cabinet.
Flexibility is key.
If I need something in certain dimensions and preferred timing, used listings or auctions aren’t a good option.
I have some Craftsman big metal cabinets. American made. Not too expensive. From Glassboro Craftsman Hardware before it somewhat recently closed.
Probably could have found other cheaper alternatives but time is money. And looks in my car matter a whiff, it not as much now.
American made is crucial, as is more ability and less materialism.
Shop Rural King if you are in their market for Steel Cabinet USA options. 36x18x72’s currently retail for $299 through them.
I tried Craigslist for a while but I grew weary of the search. Eventually, I bought one from ULine. Most of their stuff is kind of high so I suspect I paid a premium (~$400). But it was exactly what I wanted and delivered in 24 hours. I’ve had it for 5 years now and it’s perfect for my garage storage. Here’s a link to it:
I should add, when I bought my ULine cabinet, I also bought a dolly for it. It’s made for the cabinet so it’s perfect (link below). Good luck in your search.
Will I AM
I bought the big gladiator cabinet (on sale)… looks decent and fairly deep with 36″ o width. I could not find a reasonable cabinet for the garage at that size and pricepoint. So I went with the glad.
If you live near a large university, you could check if there is a surplus sales department. Penn State has Lion Surplus. Sales in the past have included old computers, dorm furniture, office furniture, laboratory equipment, and even fleet vehicles. There were often filing cabinets and sometimes metal storage cabinets. Lion Surplus liquidated items from 20+ campuses. YMMV at other universities.
University of Minnesota has a similar surplus store. University of Minnesota ReUse program is open to individuals as well as university departments.
I recently purchased two *welded* Husky HD welded cabinets of similar dimensions to what you mention above for about $500/each (probably still on sale) for use in my basement. Would have gone with the Husky “Pro” option except that they are only available in taller sizes that wouldn’t work well with my basement. (Husky ‘Pro’ is also welded, and uses thicker gauge steel).
I can’t compare against the brands you mention, but they are a *very* large improvement over the relatively recent consumer-grade, thinner gauge, Craftsman steel cabinet in my garage–definitely pay attention to steel gauge.
Biggest drawback for your specific purposes is probably that the Husky models do not have that many options for where to place shelves (easily fixable via DIY methods, of course).
I can’t recommend Tennsco enough.
Don’t be afraid of the price – just find some local distribution company and get those for 1/2-ish of list price.
They’re made in the USA.