Curb Appeal: Replacing or Installing a New Mailbox

Image via EmpressiveDesigns

Relatively speaking, putting up a new mailbox or replacing an old one is a simple and straightforward task – and it is an affordable way to update your home’s curb appeal.  Before you begin replacing or installing a new mailbox, there are a number of exterior maintenance factors to take into consideration…

Watch out for sprinklers!

The depth required for placing the post of a mailbox in the ground is generally two to three feet, not deep enough that you need to worry about cutting into any buried electrical or utility lines.  However, sprinkler lines are placed at a much shallower level.  If you—or your home’s previous owner—have installed a sprinkler system or outdoor lighting cables, check to make certain you won’t be damaging any of these when you place a new post or foundation for your mailbox.

Is cement involved?

Most posts are secured into the ground around a cement foundation.  These can be extremely difficult to remove; in many instances, you will be better served by either utilizing the same post or cutting it off at ground level and placing the new post a short distance away in fresh ground.

What are your area’s postal regulations?

Remember as well that before you undertake this exterior maintenance, it’s important to review postal regulations to make sure that you are complying with the rules regarding mail delivery.  Your post must be approved by the local post office.  It must be accessible from your carrier’s vehicle so that the letter carrier does not have to leave his/her car in order to place the mail in the box.

Many homeowners like to create their own mailbox, designing something that complements their home and property.  Again, the post office must approve your design. Something that looks charming but is difficult to open or creates some other challenge or hazard will turn your mailbox into nothing more than a piece of decoration that serves no practical purpose… other than perhaps becoming a bird house!

Which type of material is best suited for your new mailbox?

Both the post and your mailbox need to be constructed of extremely durable material that will withstand changing weather conditions, traffic mishaps, and—let’s face it—the possibility of being vandalized.

Wood, of course, is the traditional choice for mailbox posts.  Cedar and redwood are attractive choices and insect-resistant, but more expensive than other selections.  Pressure-treated wood is perhaps the best choice since it is both resistant to rot and to insects, though the section of post that sticks above ground should be treated with sealant to prevent cracking or splitting.  Stone, brick and concrete bases are extremely weather-resistant, but must conform to local and state building codes, as well as postal regulations.

Securing your mailbox…

Putting a few inches of gravel in the bottom of the hole before installing the post will improve drainage, preventing standing water collecting around the base.  And be mindful as you set the post into the ground to keep it upright—having a level on hand is crucial to ensure that you won’t wind up with a mailbox forever positioned at a tilt.

Never nail your mailbox to the post.  Always use galvanized or stainless steel screws if fixing the box directly to the stand.  You may prefer to mount a board on the post and affix the box to this.  It’s important that the board be mounted tightly to the post and the box tightly to the board.

Whose mailbox is it anyways?

Finally, while you do not have to have your name on the mailbox, you must put the street address number on it on the side facing the approaching mail carrier.

The entire process of installing a new mailbox or replacing an old one is pretty straightforward. Not ready to do this curb appeal update DIY? Handyman Matters stands ready to assist you in this and in any other home repair, exterior maintenance, and restoration projects.

Call 1-800-FIX-MY-HOME or learn more at handymanmatters.com.