Curb Appeal! How to modernize your mailbox.

When homeowners seek to improve their curb appeal, many ideas come to mind.  Update the landscaping, paint the trim, whitewash the brick.  But often overlooked is the mailbox.  Bet that one didn’t even hit your radar, did it?  But why not?  The mailbox is an important piece of the puzzle that can help define your personal style.  There’s a million ways to spruce up your mailbox, but here’s one that we recently tried using 1×4 cedar boards.  Tools used were a miter saw, screw driver, and nail gun.  Take a look and let us know what you think!

step one

As it happens, our mailbox needed improvements… the post became rotted and snapped in half.  So we cleared away everything but the bottom half of the post, and saved the actual mailbox since that was in good shape.  

We began by attaching two 2x4s made of treated lumber to the post.  Now before attaching, I needed to figure out the length.  So I did a mock-up on my driveway.  I laid the 2x4s down and placed pieces of 1×4 next to them so I could map out how many boards, with space between, would get stacked under the box. 

I also laid the box down to see how many boards would stack behind it.  This is how I got the length needed for the 2x4s.  I actually cut them a bit long, thinking I could always bring a sawzall out to cut them shorter if needed after they were installed.

step Two

Since I really didn’t have much left of the original post, I placed pieces of 2×4 as spacers to keep the “new post” square.  

One thing we ran into was the original post was not plumb.  It was rising up out of the ground at quite a forward angle.  So there was a bit of shimming done to get this new post to be perfectly plumb.

We used very long screws. I think we used 3-1/2″ screws to ensure these 2x4s were solidly attached to the post.  The last thing I wanted was for this whole thing to come crashing down again!

step Three

Next, I made this assembly that would create the framework for the cool, modern shape of the surround.  It was important to mock this up also to see how long the horizontal pieces needed to be.  In order for the mailbox to properly open, the top horizontal piece had to be shorter than the length depth of the mailbox.  Otherwise the hinge would be obstructed and the door would not open all the way. 

So I laid these out on the ground with the mailbox turned on it’s side and placed in position. Getting the length of the bottom horizontal pieces was tricky, too.  I had to run out to the curb and measure the distance from the new post to the street curb.  I didn’t want the bottom to overhang past the curb.  Measure. Mock up. Measure again. Cut. Mock up.  It was a process!  This is not for hasty, impatient people!

step Four

Finally, measure and cut the 1×4 cedar boards.  The angle does add a little difficulty.  I cut all the boards meant for the sides a bit longer than needed.  Then I did yet another mock up on the ground.  I laid a long straight edge over top of the mock up at the precise angle of the framing and drew the cut line.

After cutting a few boards I would run down to the mailbox and do a test fit to make sure I was getting my lengths right.  So then using a nail gun, we attached all the side slats to the 2×4 framing.  

Then we added 1×4 boards to the front, top, and back to cover the exposed framing.  I could have made my side slats longer, so these front and back trim pieces sit within the slats, or flush to the edge of them.  But I think having the slats stop short and exposing the edge of the front and back boards better is a better look.

Fin

With cedar, you could simply slather on the teak oil to protect the wood.  You could paint this, but I personally just love the look of natural wood.  If you do go the oil route, it will just need to be reapplied once or twice a year to keep the cedar protected.

House numbers could be mounted to the mailbox or the wood slats.  You could also consider adding LED lights to the underside of the mailbox to highlight numbers mounted below.  I think that would look really cool at night.

A word of caution

Hopefully this post inspired you to take a fresh look at something you probably look at every day – the mailbox!  But, before you begin to give your letter bin a makeover, please review any postal guidelines for your area.  The US  Postal Service has written guidelines on mailbox placement.  Their recommendations cover the mounting height and distance from the curb.  They also have a handy dandy infographic to illustrate their guidelines.  So please check that out before you begin!  

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