Imagine you saw this weather-beaten, decaying mailbox post, leaning over in one last honorable attempt to collect your mail?
If you’re like most people, you’d run to Home Depot, buy yourself one of those handy mailbox kits, and self-install it in one afternoon.
That’s what normal people do.
I decided to DIY my own mailbox.
I have to preface this post with this caveat– I DID SO MANY WRONG THINGS IN THIS PROJECT! I probably should have titled this post: “What NOT To Do When Building a Custom DIY Mailbox”….. But you have to give me credit for trying. AND, give me credit for the improvement, even with mistakes.
Lucky for you, I’m going to point out all my mistakes so may you don’t make the same ones. (Don’t you love blogger transparency??) 🙂
Materials Needed to Build a DIY Mailbox and Post
- Your old mailbox
- 4″ x 4″ pressure treated wooden post (about 6 feet long)
- Circular Saw
- Post digger
- Bag of concrete mix
- Post Level (to make sure your mailbox post isn’t crooked)
- 1″ thick piece of wood (this is what the mailbox will be mounted to)
- Ruler or measuring tape
How to Build, Paint, and Install a DIY Mailbox
I really didn’t have to make this project as hard as I did. But when you’ve never picked up a circular saw and somehow you’re going to have to use that to cut 4″ thick pieces of pressure-treated wood…..well…..”tough” is out the window and “just do it” comes into play.
STEP 1 – Save the Old Mailbox
Your mailbox may be dead, but you’re going to bring it back to life with paint. I call it CPR: crappy post revival. 🙂 Remove these screws that’s holding the old mailbox to the wooden platform it sits on.
STEP 2: Paint Life Back Into Your Old Mailbox
Everything is fair game when it comes to getting a coat of paint. Everything. That includes the mailbox. I used Annie Sloan Country Grey and Napoleonic Blue chalk paint. This paint can actually be used outdoors, too, which is amazing! (You just want to be sure not to wax any piece you’re leaving outside or the sun could bake that wax right now).
One thing I forgot to take a pic of was the pretty little blue flowers I painted on the outside! I got the idea for the flowers because that’s how I painted this patio table I found next to the dumpster, and people loved the free-handed flowers. So why not replicate it??
Be sure to use two coats for even coverage.
ALTERNATE IDEA: You can also spray paint your old mailbox and use a clear spray sealer on it.
STEP 3: Mind the Guidelines
Mailboxes have to meet certain specifications for the United States Postal Service. How else would these awesome mail delivery people get mail to us if we had 7 feet tall mailboxes, or we installed them 5 feet from the curb? So when building your mailbox, be sure you meet these guidelines.
STEP 4: Construct Your Post BEFORE You Install It
Seriously, any idiot knows this. BUT…..this idiot (me) made the mistake of not planning properly. I didn’t know how to build a mailbox post, and I followed the wrong instructions on a YouTube video. I mistakenly installed a 4″x4″ pressure treated post like this instead of building out the whole post first. If I was installing one of those kits from Home Depot, this would have been correct. But I didn’t realize this at the time….
(SO, make sure you construct your post first).
So because I had mistakenly put the post in the ground first, I had to improvise on building the mailbox since this version wasn’t possible since I had already modified the pressure treated wood.
This is what I should have build:
Instead, my silly self built THIS. At least I get an “A” for effort, right????
But let’s take a step back before we get into putting the post in the ground….Remember, construct your whole mailbox post FIRST.
STEP 4 CONTINUED…. Cut Your Notch
In order to join the arm (upon which the mailbox will sit, you have to cut notches, about 4″ total width, which is enough to slide the other post into to create the arm. Run your circular saw back and forth, being careful to make sure your blade isn’t too deep to cut it all the way through.
Once you use your circular saw to add all the cuts, it will look like this:
STEP 5: Tap Out Your Notch
It’s amazing how weak the slices of wood are when you cut them in thin strips like this. Just use a hammer and break them. They fall right now, like fragile teeth! My favorite part. You’re left with something that looks like this:
STEP 6: Clean It Up
This is where you’ll need a chisel to clean up the notch you just cut. I didn’t have a chisel so I just used my Dremel Multimax tool.
Cleaned up, this is what it looks like, although a chisel will get it more smooth.
STEP 7: Connect Your Pieces
Now here’s where I improvised. I placed the notched piece on top of my post (again, keeping in mind the USPS guidelines for height from the ground to the bottom edge of the mailbox).
If you were building this type of post below, you’d slide the arm on the side of the post, and not on top, so it would look like this below. Plus, you would have made the angled cuts with a miter saw (which I didn’t own at the time).
Anyhow, I used Gorilla Glue and screwed the top arm down with long wood screws, making sure it was level.
One part that is missing from my post is that 45 degree angle support. I didn’t have a miter saw at the time to cut one, so I skipped that part. But go ahead and cut that 45 degree angle part. Nail it into that right angle there.
STEP 8: Cut a Platform For the Mailbox
Next , cut a piece of wood on top. This is what the mailbox is anchored to. I used my RYOBI AirStrike brad nailer / nail gun to secure it to the top. Love this tool! So easy to use. Now sit your mailbox on top of this platform and screw it back into place along the sides.
STEP 9: Call 811 Before You Dig
Okay, something else I learned in my research of building a mailbox post: be sure you call 811 before you dig. It’s this toll-free hotline that you call before you dig anywhere on your property, to make sure you’re not digging into underground lines, pipes, and cables. They’ll reroute your call to your local center, and someone will come and mark your property so you don’t dig into something that could be unsafe or damaging. Pretty neat, huh?
STEP 10: Get Diggin’!
So nooooow that you’ve checked your location before you dig, it’s time to dig your hole. Remember the USPS guidelines in distance of how far your mailbox will stick out to the street. At this point, if you’ve done it properly, your post is constructed. I guess you can decide to paint it, too, before you install it. Whichever is easiest.
Use a post digger like this, and dig a hole 2 feet deep. You should have at least 4 feet or more remaining of your post above ground.
Be sure to set some stones in the bottom for drainage, or some bricks to keep the post in position, then use one of these post levels to make sure that your post is straight.
Add in dry concrete mix, and then just add water. No need to pre-mix.
STEP 11: Make It Pretty!
Keep the area trimmed and neat. Add some decorative bricks. For safety reasons, I’m not showing my house number, but get some of those awesome metal numbers and nail on the post.
I like to use my RYOBI trimmer to tackle the mess of weeds that grow around it.
Before You Go
Here are some other outdoor projects outside my home in which you may be interested:
My Final Thoughts
Although this isn’t the perfect mailbox post, these instructions will have you on your way to building your own DIY mailbox post without spending a lot of money to do it. Have fun with this! And be proud that you totally rocked it out :). Feel free to email me any questions you have about the project!
Have you ever built a custom mailbox for your home? Any tips or advice for any of us that are still novices at this type of thing? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!