Instant Curb Appeal: Make a New Mailbox
My dog bit the mailman. One of the many ramifications of this is I had to remove the mailbox from my front door area and put it by the curb. Not a particularly nice mailbox to begin with, tackling it to a tree in my front yard was an easy solution, but it did nothing for the curb appeal of my house.
Considering that the mailman is never coming back to my front door, it’s finally time to replace my temporary fix with a new and attractive curbside mailbox. And if you know anything about me, you know I’m making it out of reclaimed, repurposed and scrap materials. In fact, the only things I purchased for this project were the mail slot, the stick on numbers and the hinges.
You can make one too. Scrounge similar materials, or buy all new lumber for a crisp new look if that’s more your style.
Step 1 – Measure and Cut
The mounting holes on the mail slot are 12 inches apart, and this determined the dimensions of the whole box.
I wanted to make a 12-inch cube, but the inner workings of the spring hinge pushed the uprights to 14 inches apart, so I cut 4 14-inch 2x2s for the uprights and 7 11-inch 2x2s to connect them top and bottom. You only need 7 because the mail slot replaces one on the front.
Those hinge workings kept one side from sitting flush, so I carved out a little pocket in the 2x2 to admit the hardware.
Cut 4 10-inch 2x2s with 45 degree miters to create the roof gables.
Step 2 – Assemble the “Cube”
I know it’s not a cube anymore. Tack the 2x2s together with the brad nailer and screw the mail slot in place. No nailer? Use screws, but drill pilot holes first so you don’t split the lumber.
Attach the gables pieces first to each other at the peak and then to the cube.
Step 3 – Line With Sheet Metal
You need this thing to be waterproof, so just skinning the cube with wood slats isn’t enough. Measure and cut pieces to fit the base, sides and back. For the base, I knew I didn’t have a large enough sheet to make a whole floor and still make a roof, so I made it in three pieces and secured the seams with aluminum tape. Where the floor needed to fit around the uprights, I cut the corners away.
If you’re using new materials you’ll get more coverage from your wood siding, so this lining doesn’t have to be picturesque and you could use tarpaper for the sides, but not the back. The back needs to be strong because it’s going to support the weight of the box.
Step 4 – Cut and Attach the Siding
The sides of the box are 14 inches long and 12 inches high, so you need enough pallet slats to fill that in. Since this is all reclaimed lumber, that’s a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Cut the siding to fit and tack it in place.
Step 5 – Make the Roof
Now that the siding’s in place, measure from the peak of the gables to the outside edge of the siding. Then measure from roof peek to roof peak and add an inch or two for overhang in the front. Cut a piece of sheet metal to these dimensions. Find the center line of the sheet and crease it along this line to create the roof. Curl the points of the corners under so no one gets stabbed.
Step 6 – Attach the Door
I cut a rectangle of Plexiglas about an inch larger all around than the opening below the mail slot. On the inside surface, I used Gorilla Glue to secure a magnet in each of the upper corners and 2 brass hinges along the bottom edge.
I wasn’t happy with the strength of the bond on the hinges (it’s possible I didn’t let it setup long enough), so I also shot screws through the plexi side of the hinges. I screwed the hinges to the bottom edge of the mailbox opening, and drove a screw into each side of the frame, opposite to the magnets.
Finally, I put the address on the door with number stickers.
Step 7 – Install the Light
Whenever I see them on sale I buy those cheap, solar outdoor lights with the spike on the bottom.
They’re easy to disassemble and use for other purposes.
In this case I pulled the top off the light and used it as a guide to mark the sheet metal roof. Cut a hole in the roof to match the inside profile of the light.
Seal the hole with caulk and screw the light in place from the inside out.
Step 8 – Tack the Roof in Place
Save this for last so you can easily reach inside as you complete the other steps. Lay a bead of caulk on the upper surfaces of the frame where they’ll meet the roof. Line the back edge of the roof up with the back of the box and so the front overhangs the slot and door like an awning. Tack the roof in place all along the framing.
Your mailbox is done.
Step 9 – Hang It
The mounting holes on my old mailbox are 10 inches apart and I already had a bracket in place with screws at that measure. I found the center line of the back of the box and marked 5 inches out from the line in each direction. Drill a hole in the sheet metal at the marks and hang the box from the bracket.
If there’s no bracket in place it’s easy to set one up. Use a piece of 1x4 or plywood the same width of the box as a ledger and secure it to your post or fence or tree. Drill 2 screws into the board 10 inches apart so they protrude from the board and you can hang the box on them. The post office has guidelines for this, so follow the ones that apply to your situation.
Now the mailman doesn’t have to fear my dog, the neighborhood doesn’t have to endure my makeshift mounting of a misplaced door box and my address automatically lights up at night so the pizza-man can find my house in the dark.