Since we moved in our mailbox has been quite the eyesore. According to neighbors, it was hit multiple times prior to us owning the home. And then it has been hit at least 4 additional times that we know of, thus making it something worthy of only the Clampett family. The poor thing was faded, wobbly, dented, and the door was hanging off, it was a beautiful feature to house for sure and provided excellent curb appeal (please read my sarcasm). It was so bad, we don’t even have a picture of it.
Our dilemma was that we knew we needed and wanted to replace it, but we weren’t sure what the best decision would be for the neighborhood and the house. Most of our neighbors have what could be considered standard traditional mailboxes and for the most part they work with the style of the more traditional and transitional homes, but we just didn’t feel that the traditional style would work for the total modern vision we have in mind. So we went on an internet search to determine what other atomic ranches and Mid Century Modern homes did for the basic need of receiving mail while keeping modern aesthetics. You can see some of the search results on our Midcentury Landscapes Pinterest Board.
After weeks of deliberation and planning, the mailbox was hit again so hard that the box part detached from the post and it was really and truly at the end of its life. Sometimes the universe has a way of telling you what to do next, we took this as our sign that we needed to make a decision and we settled on attempting a “weekender” modern mailbox project posted by Lowe’s with a modifications of using weatherproofed cedar board rather than painted pressure treated lumber and making the top cedar rather than plywood.
While we were planning, we found out why our old mailbox kept on getting hit when we reviewed the US Postal Service’s Mailbox Guide. Somewhere along the line of it getting hit, the box became even with the curb. Our new box has been installed following the guidelines that are so clearly illustrated below.
The Project Plan
We were so happy to come to a decision. We made our list and planned a visit to our local Menards, where the lumber price was significantly less expensive compared to the other lumber yards and big box retailers. We purchased the following for a total of approximately $350 (nobody said style was cheap!):
- 1 Mailboss Mail Manager Locking Mailbox
- 1×4 Cedar Boards to complete the project with 10% overage
- 4x4x6′ Pressure Treated Fence Post
- 1 box of 18 gauge 1.5″ Galvanized Nails for the Nail gun (would have loved to buy electro-galvanized but we just couldn’t find them)
- 1 bag of fast-set concrete
- 1 bag of river rock
- 2 sets of Hillman Distinction house numbers
- 1 Gallon Thompson’s Waterproofer Plus Clear Wood Protector
- 1 post level
Before we started, we realized we needed to have the utilities marked since a natural gas pipeline runs through our front yard, so we called 811 to make sure we weren’t going to hit anything we shouldn’t during the install. When we called they said it would be 48 business hours before all the lines were marked. Surprisingly, they were all marked within 24 hours!
After the call and we had some lunch, then we got to work. We set up an assembly line where I (Laura) was measuring and David was cutting. We work as an efficient team and we made quick work. We made spacers to ensure the slats were all spaced evenly and got started nailing that afternoon with the goal that the surround would be fully assembled by dinner.
We following the directions diligently, but we were rusty in our woodworking projects and forgot to make sure of the squareness of the assembly. This was quite an epic fail. We were working later than we had hoped but put the final surround up to admire our work and noticed it was cattywompus. This is where things got interesting, as we then started the discussion only 2 spouses can have when a project goes sideways. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say we took a break and determined the best thing to do was to stop talking about what happened and sleep on it.
The next morning we had some brainstorming over breakfast and we came up with a plan to hopefully fix our mistake. We determined through measurements that 1 full side and half of another were the culprits to the unevenness, so we disassembled these areas and started reassembling while checking each slat and side with a carpenters square. (Note: we did not take pictures on this morning.) More words were had, but we slogged through and ended with a wonderfully square surround. (Note: we’re still happily married and will have more projects together.)
The lines weren’t yet marked so we couldn’t start digging, but we could mark the desired location by removing the sod. Since the bottom had the stakes sicking out (to bury the surround in the ground), we accomplished this with our preschool supervisor by turning the whole thing upside down and using a spade to mark the perimeter.
Now four days later into our “weekend” project, we dug the hole for the post and set the mailbox. We dug 24 inches down and added gravel at the bottom of the hole, used the post level and a standard level to make sure the mailbox and the post were at the very least level to themselves and poured the concrete.
A day or two later after the concrete had cured, we added the front and top slats and then applied the wood protector to seal the cedar. Two days after that (the next weekend) into the “one” weekend project, we added our house numbers to each side of the mailbox and then reattached the red flag from the mailbox to the right side of the decorative surround.
Some final touches of a river rock bed (approximately 6 bags) surrounding the mailbox with some succulents, we were finally finished!
If you decide to try this project or something similar based on the Lowe’s instructions, we found some of the instructions to be in error or could be better clarified:
1) The instructions say to rip down the 1×4 to 3″ for the support but in the video they are using 1×2 boards. If you rip to the 1×4, you will need to use a jig saw to adjust the opening for the mail box.
2) There is noting in the instructions to indicate how to make sure your assembly is square- you will want this to be somewhat square so your mailbox appears to be straight. So use a carpenters square when assembling to ensure you have success.
3) The use of plywood for the top is ill advised for outdoor use. (this is not noted in the materials list). We ended up cutting additional 16 3/8″ 1×4’s and ripping them to be spaced at 1/2″ on the top so they appear to be even.
4) It is unclear how they suggest to set the mailbox post to make this design work. You’ll have to figure this out.
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