Your mail carrier sees it every day. You check it daily yourself, hoping (against the odds) that it contains something of interest. Occasionally you put up the little red flag on the side; perhaps just to see if your mail carrier is awake. But do you really notice your mailbox? You may have never had to install one before since it was probably already there when you moved in–unless, of course, you have a neighbor who insists on running over it periodically with his Jeep. In this how-to, thinking forward to that inevitable day when it becomes necessary, we look at installing mailboxes and mail slots.
Roadside Mailbox Placement
When you replace an existing mailbox, or install one for the first time, take a moment to ensure that it will be easily accessible for your mail carrier. Keep these things in mind:
- The regulation height is 42″ from the bottom of the mailbox to the ground.
- Your house number should be clearly marked on the mailbox with painted numbers or stickers no less than 1″ high.
- The box should be on the right-hand side of the road as traveled by the mail carrier.
- It should be located approximately 2′ from the side of the road to ensure the carrier can get off the road enough to clear traffic.
Mailboxes are available in a variety of sizes, materials and shapes. You can find them in standard solid colors like black, silver or white–or in a variety of novelty styles and designs. Interesting mailbox covers and sleeves are also available to spruce it up to your style. Decorative cedar covers are popular for mailboxes due to their natural weather resistance and rustic appearance.
Plastic mailboxes are durable and resist dents. (Mailboxes are often irresistible targets for children who throw rocks. Major league baseball teams should pay a subsidy to mailbox manufacturers for their active involvement in the training of ball players.) Classic steel mailboxes, on the other hand, can easily be painted to match your house—or with a pattern or design to reflect your style. It’s up to you to decide whether your mailbox will be purely functional or another opportunity to express your individuality.
Installing A Roadside Mailbox
Putting up a new or replacement mailbox and post is an easy afternoon task requiring only a few basic tools and materials. Remember to keep federal regulations in mind when installing.
Tools and Materials:
- Post Hole Digger
- Quick setting concrete mix
- Mailbox post (use a preformed post or make your own from a pressure treated 4′ x 4′) Mailbox with included hardware
- Paint or stick-on mailbox numbers and letters
Let’s Get To It
Step 1: Locate your post hole 2′ from the edge of the road.
Step 2: After your post hole has been dug, you will fill the bottom of the hole with 6″ of gravel to promote drainage under the post. So, using a post hole digger, dig the hole deep enough so that when the post is in place on the gravel, the post surface to which the bottom of the mailbox will be attached is 42″ from the ground.
Step 3: Pour about 6 inches of gravel into the hole.
Step 4: Prepare your concrete mix. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 5: Set the post and fill the hole with the prepared concrete mix. Prod the mix with a stick while filling to reduce any air pockets.
Step 6: Slope the concrete around the base of the post for water runoff. If you want to conceal the concrete, pour it to within a few inches of the top of the hole and cover with soil after the concrete has set.
Step 7: Attach the mailbox to the post. Attachment brackets designed to fit a standard 4′ x 4′ post are available (check to see if they come with your mailbox before purchasing them separately. You may also want to check to see if you have a set from your old mailbox installation.) As an alternative installation, you can cut a board to fit within the overhanging lips at the bottom of the mailbox. The board is then bolted to the post, and the mailbox is screwed to the board through the lips at the base of the box. (See graphic at right.)
Step 8: Label the front and side of the box with your house numbers (and name if you wish) using stick-on letters or paint. The lettering should be at least 1″ high.
Installing A Mail Slot
If you have mail delivered directly to your door—perhaps you live in a condominium, apartment or within a community of closely spaced houses, for example—you can install a mail slot in your entry door. This eliminates the need for the little wallhanging mailboxes that are often used and allows your mail to be placed securely behind a locked door.
Tools and Materials:
- 1/8″ bit
- 1/2″ bit (spade or Forstner)
- Phillips screwdriver
- Jig or sabre saw
- Awl or pencil for marking
- Straight edge
- Mail slot
- slot sleeve (optional)
Cut To The Chase
Installation of a mail slot is not difficult. The only sticky point is in accurately cutting the slot against which the hardware will be installed. It is likely that the mail slot you purchase will come with a template on the package. If no template is provided, a set of measurements will be given in the instructions. Use these measurements to create your own cardboard template.
Step 1: Position your template on the flat surface in the center of the door about 36″ from the floor.
Step 2: Using the template as your guide, mark the four corners of the slot opening to be cut in the door. With the help of a straight edge, connect these marks to define the perimeter of the slot.
Step 3: Using a 1/2″ spade (paddle) or Forstner bit, drill a hole (A) inside each of the comers so the edges of the hole just contact the lines.
Step 4: Cut the opening using a jig or sabre saw by simply cutting from hole to hole along the lines you’ve just drawn.
Step 5: Hold the outside front face of the mail slot level and in place over the slot. Using an awl or pencil, mark the location of the attachment screws. Repeat this process for the inside face plate. If your mail slot comes with a template, the screw hole placements (B) may already be marked on the template as in our illustration above.
Step 6: Drill 1/2″ deep pilot holes for all eight fastening screws with a 1/8″ drill bit.
Step 7: Mail slot sleeves are available to fit in the opening between the front and rear face plates. These sleeves are optional, but add a smooth and attractive finish to your mail slot installation. If you are using a sleeve, put it in place now to assure that it will fit. Trim the slot if necessary.
Step 8: Attach the front and rear plates to the door with the provided fastening screws.