Posted by Eileen
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Having recently moved, we were in love with our new yard. It was large, beautiful, and neatly groomed with lots of seasonal foliage.
However, there was just one thing that needed a fix - our slanted mailbox.
When I opened the box to collect our letters, the mail would literally fall right out.
To make matters worse, the wood seemed to be rotting.
And, there was the day that the mail was covered with ants.
Here we had this amazing yard with an eyesore of a mailbox.
Here's a picture of our mailbox before the makeover. You can't tell just how badly it was leaning, but you can see how badly it needed to be beautified.
I was hoping Ash would take this project on soon, but he was preoccupied building the shed.
So, I did want I do best, and I got the project rolling.
Planning Mailbox 2.0
To kick off the project, I did what I usually do for exterior projects: I went on a few walks around the neighborhood looking at other mailboxes, deciding what I wanted for version 2.0.
I decided on the classic look of a white post with a black box, as it really made the red flag pop.
To keep the mailbox momentum going, Ash made the material list, and I offered to pick up the materials.
I love using Home Depot's store pick-up, especially for heavy items, because the materials are already pulled aside and placed in a cart.
Then, all I have to do is get them from the cart to the car, which usually is not a problem.
This time, I struggled a little with the 6 ft posts - they were a lot heavier than they looked! Yet, I managed, as I was determined to not catch our falling mail anymore.
With the materials now laying around the garage, Ash started working on the new post. Victory!
Constructing the New Post
The post design was fairly simple. It consisted of 2 perpendicular pieces of 4 x 4 pressure-treated wood joined together with a lap joint.
The vertical 4 x 4 would have about 2 feet submerged into the ground for support, with the remaining 4 feet above ground. The horizontal 4 x 4 served as a mounting piece for the mailbox.
Finally, a shorter piece of 4 x 4 ran diagonally below this horizontal 4 x 4 to provide additional support, stability, and aesthetic appeal.
The first step of the project was cutting the 4 x 4s. After that was done, Ash created the lap joint.
This joint was very simple to make and was very strong. It involved cutting out half the thickness of 2 pieces of wood, and combining them together, as in the diagram below:
To cut the grooves for the joint, Ash used his 7 1/4" circular saw, with the depth of the blade set to half the thickness of the 4x4 (so 1¾”).
Then, he repeatedly ran many perpendicular cuts into the wood, staying within the confines of the outlined groove. This left him with slivers of wood that he easily removed with a hammer and chisel.
Finally, he used a small Mouse sander to smooth out the carved groove, since the chisel left it a little rough. If you happen to have a set of dado blades for your table saw, you can also use those to cut the lap joint groove. (I’ll have to remember that when I need a gift for Ash.)
After repeating the process for the second piece of 4x4, he applied some construction adhesive to the grooves and merged the 2 cuts. He further strengthened the joint with 2 lag bolts.
Using 2 more lag bolts, he attached the diagonal support piece to reinforce the mailbox arm. The basic design of the post was done at this point.
Painting the Post and Mailbox
I then applied 2 coats of white exterior paint to the post and let it dry overnight.
The next day happened to be Sunday, which was perfect for replacing the existing mailbox (no mail delivery). We didn't want our mailman puzzling over where to deliver our mail.
The old box came out quickly. I unscrewed the box itself and put it aside for some refurbishing.
I removed the red flag post and sprayed the metal container with some black exterior spray paint
Securing the New Post
As the paint was drying, Then Ash used a sledge hammer and pounded the old rotting post out of the ground.
We started to think about how to securely install the new post, so we wouldn't have to deal with another slanted mailbox down the road.
The old post was just stuck in the ground with a long metal spike, and over time, it started leaning forward. So, doing a good job meant using concrete.
So, Ash prepped the new post by partially screwing in some lag bolts at the bottom.
These bolts would be engulfed in concrete and provide some extra grip to prevent the post from lifting up out of the concrete.
They would also give the post a lot of stability and help prevent any wiggling inside the concrete over time.
He then dug a 2 feet deep hole where the post was to be installed and made the hole about 1 foot wide for the concrete.
Of course, Ash sent me to Home Depot again for a 50-pound bag of concrete mix. (Good thing I have practice from those 40-pound dog food bags!)
Before mixing the concrete, he needed to get the post in place and leveled properly. He dropped it in the hole and used a level to get it standing straight up.
Then using some scrap wood, he nailed on some temporary wooden supports to keep the post in place.
For the concrete, he emptied the mix into the wheelbarrow, and using the original packaging box as a measurement cup, added in the correct proportions of water, per the directions.
He then gave the mixture a really good mixing with a shovel until all the chunks were gone and was left with a nice flowing slurry of concrete. He tilted the wheelbarrow and carefully poured the mixture into the hole.
He let the concrete dry for most of the day in the hot sun. By evening time, he was out working again. He removed the temporary supports from the post and gave it a gentle push.
It stood very firm and straight in the concrete.
We were very happy with the results, so we covered the rest of the hole with extra dirt and packed it down tightly with an 8 lb tamper.
For decorative purposes, I had purchased a pointed plastic fence post cap to install at the top of this mailbox post.
It was sized to fit a 4 x 4 post, so went on very easily. I secured it in place with some small screws.
Then, we attached the freshly painted mailbox to the new post, and adhered some exterior numbering stickers for the address.
Here’s a picture of the final product:
Our slanted eyesore of a mailbox became a stately structure overnight...well in two overnights.
We now had a beautiful mailbox which suited the rest of the yard. A project that had a huge impact for minimal cost and effort.
The total cost was under $20 and was completed over the course of a weekend. A prefabricated box of this quality would cost at least $80.
The best part? Our mailbox stood perfectly tall at 90 degrees - which meant no more falling mail. You're welcome, mailman :)
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Hi! We're Ash and Eileen, and we are sharing our home project stories with you. From crafty projects to home maintenance to more ambitious DIY endeavors, we hope our stories inspire you to check a few things off your project list! :)