This right here is the project that spurred the curb appeal month idea. Last summer I was strolling through Home Depot and came across a gorgeous mailbox. But it cost $80. And I didn’t need a new mailbox. The damage was done, however, and ideas started forming. From that point forward, I could no longer stand to look at my mailbox which had been just fine for the last 8 years. Isn’t that how it goes, though? You don’t know you “need” to redo something until you see something prettier. Here’s the sad looking mailbox and post we’re starting with.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year looking at mailboxes, mailbox posts, and other unique ideas to go along with them.
I ultimately decided not to go with the $80 mailbox. Although I loved it, I just could not bring myself to buy it. I knew I wanted to find something that was metal, oversized, and had a little bit of attractive appeal. There are so many mailboxes out there, you guys. And I’m fairly certain I looked at them all. I eventually went with this one from Lowe’s.
It’s oversized without being ridiculously large, it’s metal so it will last longer, and it had just enough flare to fit with my house style and in my neighborhood without being too flashy. And the color was perfect. I’m a huge fan of oil rubbed bronze. Several other outdoor fixtures on my house are in oil rubbed bronze so it was like this was meant to be. Oh yeah! The best part is it was only $35. I can handle that. Now that the mailbox was decided on, it was time to figure out what kind of post I wanted.
For the post, I knew I wanted something a little chunkier than some of the plain wood posts you can buy at the store. I also knew that I wanted it to be more decorative. The final aspect was I really wanted it to be secured in the ground by a metal post. The selection of available posts I could purchase was pretty lacking for what I had envisioned, both in design and color. Many of them were way overpriced. I also wasn’t very excited about the plastic-ness of them all. I’ll save you all of the struggles I went through during the design process and just show you what I ended up with.
First things first, I had to pick my materials. I wanted it to withstand the elements so my first thoughts were treated lumber or cedar. Well, I knew I wanted to paint it and unless I planned way ahead to let the treated lumber dry (I did not plan ahead), the paint was not going to adhere well. On to the second choice. Cedar is expensive, y’all. Finding a cedar post as large as I wanted at a decent price in my area was virtually impossible. Here’s where the creative side comes in. I decided to wrap a regular Douglas Fir 4×4 post in cedar fence pickets. This allows me to have something a little chunkier, it’s inexpensive, it will last longer through the weather, and I can finagle it to allow a metal post on the bottom. All winning points if you ask me.
The US Postal Service has guidelines for installing a mailbox and post. Your mailbox opening should be 6 to 8 inches from the curb or edge of the roadway and the bottom should be 41 to 45 inches from the ground.
For the biggest part of the post, I wanted it to be five feet tall. My plan is to cut a piece of 4×4 at three feet that will be wrapped with five feet of cedar boards. This will leave an opening in the bottom that I can slide over a metal pole. I did cut the 4×4 half an inch longer (36 ½ inches) and I’ll explain why later.
Now I needed to figure out how long to cut the arm and arm support. The size of the mailbox you choose will dictate this part of the construction process. My mailbox was 23 inches long. The arm needs to be a bit shorter than the total length of the mailbox to allow for the door to open. I made my arm 20 inches long and cut it from the remaining 4×4.
As far as where to place the arm support, there are no hard and fast rules. Just do whatever looks best to you. I chose to have it far out on the arm (15 inches) and at a 45 degree angle. This makes cutting it super easy. To do it at a 45 degree angle, you will have the same measurement out as you will down to the points where the arm support is placed. So, since I placed it 15 inches out, I needed to go 15 inches down. From there, you can figure out the length. I already knew the approximate length of the arm support from my drawing program but to ensure I made my cut in the correct spot, I lined up a large carpenter’s square on the back of the arm with the arm support in place and then drew a line on the arm support where the square met it.
I cut the arm support, also from the 4×4, at 21 ¼ inches then cut the ends off at 45 degree angles.
I wanted the bottom of the arm support to line up with the bottom of the 4×4 for the post so I would have something to screw it into. Granted, part of this will be wrapped with cedar but you get the idea of what it will look like here.
Next is to work on the cedar. Like I mentioned above, I simply used cedar fence boards. They are fairly inexpensive (typically $3 or less). They are a quarter inch thinner than I prefer but I made do. Most cedar fence boards you’ll find at a home improvement store are only going to be six feet tall and they will be dog eared. For this project, I needed five of them. Four to wrap around the 4×4 and one to use as trim. Cedar fence boards are usually rough textured so I ran them through my planer on one side. I took off as little as possible to get a smooth surface. It doesn’t matter what the other side looks like since it won’t be seen.
The fence boards I bought were 5 ½ inches wide and I needed to them ripped down to fit around the 4×4. Since the 4×4 is actually 3 ½ inches on each side and the fence boards are ½ inch wide, I ripped the fence boards down to 4 inches wide on the table saw. If you don’t have a table saw, you can use a circular saw or even a jigsaw to rip them down. I then cut them all down to five feet long.
Here’s where that extra half inch on the 4×4 comes into play. I wanted to add a solar light on top of the post. I picked up this light at Lowe’s for only $10. Most of the post lights are designed to fit on a 4×4.
Finding anything bigger is difficult. I placed the light on top of the 4×4 and marked how far down it sat. This light was only a half inch. I made sure to leave that much exposed when I started wrapping the 4×4.
I took one of the cedar boards and lined it up on one side of the 4×4. One edge of the 4×4 should be flush with one edge of the cedar board with the top of the cedar board lined up at your mark from the light.
I used clamps to help hold it in place then used glue and finish nails to secure the cedar to the 4×4. By making one side of the cedar board flush with the 4×4, it leaves a half inch exposed.
I’ll simply butt the next cedar board to the exposed part and continue this around the whole 4×4. When you start nailing the cedar boards together at the bottom, I recommend sliding a scrap piece of the 4×4 into the post to help keep all of your boards lined up square.
Not all of my boards were perfectly flush so I used an orbital sander (and then a belt sander, lol) to make them flush.
I didn’t want a plain post so I used some of the remaining cedar to make some decorative trim. I wanted to stick with a pretty classic and simple trim design. Using the pieces that were already ripped to four inches, I cut them to five inches long and wrapped them around the top and bottom of the post in the same manner I did during the first wrapping. Also, when I attached the top pieces, I made them level with the top of the 4×4 so that the light had a place to nestle into and help hold it in place. It will be attached with glue but every little bit helps.
Be aware if you are building this in a garage that garage floors are generally slopped so you’ll want to take it somewhere where the floor is flat when you are attaching the bottom trim pieces and use a level to ensure that your post does not lean.
After the cedar pieces were attached, I wanted to add one more piece of trim to step it up a little. I had a piece of the cove trim leftover from the storage bench that was enough to use on this post. I cut the pieces to fit around the top and bottom of the post then attached them.
As with cutting the trim for the storage bench, take your time and be sure of your cuts to avoid wasting too much. The corners for the post are considered outside corners and require you to cut the trim in a different manner than for the inside corners of the storage bench. Clear as mud, I know. If you attempt this and have questions, just send me a message. We’ll suffer through it together.
Before I added the arm and support arm, I filled any knots, cracks, and holes with wood filler. It was much easier to apply and sand it this way. I also sanded the arm and arm support before attaching them.
Once it was all sanded, I was ready to move on. I made a mark on the post 41 inches from the bottom to be where I would line up the top of the arm. In accordance with USPS standards, this is where the bottom of my mailbox will be.
With the arm in place, I drilled pilot holes from the back of the arm into the post at an angle. You may find that you have to start the pilot holes by drilling straight down then changing the angle of the drill as soon as the bit is secured in the wood. I used two four inch deck screws to hold the arm into the post.
Attaching the arm support is even easier. I held it in place and drilled two pilot holes on each end perpendicular to the post and the arm then secured it with the four inch deck screws.
We’re almost done! …With the assembly. We still have to paint and install this thing.
I so love the look of natural cedar but this was not the look I was going for on this piece. As with the storage bench, I wanted the post to match the trim color of my house. I used the same paint and applied two to three coats and let it dry overnight.
I also cut a piece of plywood down to fit inside the underneath of the mailbox to attach it to the post. You can buy already cut pieces but they may not fit the size of your mailbox well. You can also purchase adjustable brackets instead of using a piece of wood. I painted all the edges and one side of the board the same color as the post. The unpainted side will not be seen once it is all installed.
My old mailbox post was a plastic case slid over a pipe in the ground. It would have been super great to just pull the old one off and put the new one on. I didn’t like how far the old mailbox stuck out over the curb and with the new post, I had to move it back. I decided to put the pipe two feet back from the back side of the curb. This would allow it to be close enough to reach it from the curb but far enough back that a vehicle mirror wasn’t going to hit it.
Using a post hole digger, I dug a hole about two feet deep. You should call a utility locator service to come out prior to doing any digging to ensure that you aren’t going to hit anything. To help make cleanup at the end easier, I recommend using a tarp, piece of plywood, etc to pile your dirt on as you are taking it out of the hole.
I then removed the old mailbox cover and started the process to remove the pipe. It had been held in place by concrete. Instead of trying to dig all of it up, I used a sledge hammer to hit the pipe near the base and break it away from the concrete. It takes some time and effort but it will eventually come loose. You may also need a shovel to move the concrete around in the ground. Once the pipe was out, I covered the remaining concrete with dirt.
The pipe from the old mailbox was reused for the new one. If you are replacing an old post and don’t already have a pipe, a pipe used in making fences works great. You only need a reciprocating saw with a metal blade to cut it to size.
I just stuck the pipe in the new hole and started filling it with concrete. You shouldn’t need more than a 50 pound bag of concrete. You can premix the concrete in a bucket or you can just mix it in the hole. I just mixed it in the hole. You start by pouring some of the concrete in the hole then pouring just enough water in to mix it. Ensure that your pipe stays level as you are filling the hole. Keep going back and forth layering the concrete until it’s about four to six inches from ground level.
When you reach this point, use some of your dirt to fill the rest of the hole. This way when the grass grows in, you won’t see any concrete which can sometimes look unattractive.
With the pole now secured in place, just slide the new post over it.
You’ll want the pipe to be positioned in a corner so you can secure the post to the pipe. I drilled four holes (two in the back and two in one side) through the bottom of the post and into the pipe. I then used 2 ½” deck screws to secure them together.
The next part was my favorite. It’s where I got to add all of the fun stuff. The board I cut to fit under the mailbox was positioned (painted side down) and screwed into place with two inch screws.
I sat the mailbox on top of it and added some screws through the side into the piece of plywood.
Having numbers on a mailbox is important to me. I explained in my post about house numbers why. And what’s on your mailbox should be large enough to be read from the roadway and on the side of the mailbox. It’s not easy to read something on the front as you are driving by. Reflective stickers, while effective, are not attractive and I couldn’t fathom sticking anything to or drilling holes in my new mailbox. I chose metal house numbers to add to the side of the post. They match numbers I already had on my house and can be picked up at any hardware store. I held them on the post with masking tape to make sure my spacing was correct. I didn’t measure anything, just made it look visually appealing.
Once I was satisfied with there they were, I drilled pilot holes and screwed them in place on both sides of the post.
The final piece – the solar light – is ready to be installed. Per the directions for this light, all you have to do is glue it in place. Using Dap Rapid Fuse (any super glue would work), I globbed it on any part that was going to touch wood.
I then dropped the light in place and let the glue dry.
I love it!
It’s a huge improvement and the whole project cost me just over $100. That’s including the mailbox, the light, and eight address numbers. It’s hard to find a decorative post alone for that much. It really steps up my curb appeal game but it still fits with the look of the house and the neighborhood I live in. It’s another one of those projects that I just want to stare at it forever. I even went inside and peeked out my window at it immediately after putting it up. I’m that much of a dork.
I can’t add a light to this thing and not show it to you all lit up! Here it is!
How would you design your own mailbox post?