Special Delivery: Add Pizzazz to Your Mailbox
You visit your mailbox almost every day, so it can be easy to take it for granted. Instead of treating a mailbox as simply a place to collect mail, think of it as an accessory and an extension of your home and personal style. Whether you want to celebrate the change of seasons, to mirror your interior home decor, or to show your patriotism with a red, white and blue motif, there are many ways to spruce up your mailbox.
You may not realize that mailboxes come in so many shapes and sizes. You’ll find that even specialty mailboxes are easy to find, with “big box” stores and online vendors carrying many options. To explore the range of possibilities, type “decorative mailboxes” into your favorite Internet search engine and prepare to be astounded. Keep in mind, however, that customized mailboxes must be approved by your postmaster. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has standards for curbside mailboxes which include:
- The bottom of the box should be between 41 to 45 inches from the road surface, and 6 to 8 inches from the road edge or front of curb.
- You name and house number should be at least one inch high, and advertising is prohibited.
- Posts and supports should be kept neat and ideally should bend or fall away if struck by a vehicle.
For additional information, check out the USPS website at
An easy way to give new life to a plain mailbox is by using a magnetic wrap. Such an adornment can be changed quickly to match the season, or to celebrate special occasions, holidays, special interests and more. If you fancy yourself particularly crafty, however, try your hand at your own painted design. A custom paint job not only shows off your personality, but gives you an enjoyable, easy do-it-yourself project to accomplish one summer day.
Begin by sanding your old mailbox with a sand block, or start with a new, unpainted mailbox. Next, apply a metal primer followed by your base color, and be sure to choose a water-resistant metal paint. Once the paint has dried, draw or stencil your design with a dry-erase marker. Again, use an acrylic water-resistant paint for metal, then paint your design. After it dries, wipe off any remaining dry-erase marks, and use a clear sealant to protect against water and weather. Consider a solid, bold color to match your front door, or animal prints, flowers and vines, dragonflies and butterflies, a stenciled monogram…these are just a few ideas to inspire you. Just be sure to leave room for your name and/or house number to adhere to USPS guidelines.
If you’re installing a new mailbox, follow the directions; the process can be a bit complicated if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Before you begin, you’ll need to get a few tools together: a shovel or post-hole digger; sand; concrete; gravel or small rocks; a level; and a tape measure so you can be sure you are installing to USPS standards.
Dig down about two feet, using a post-hole digger or shovel, then dig a few extra inches to fill with gravel or small rocks. This allows for water drainage to help prevent damage to the post.
Mix the concrete according to the package directions and add a bit of sand. Stand the post and use the level to make sure the post and the mail box are straight. Fill the hole to about six inches from the surface. It’s best to fill in the concrete in small amounts. After it’s filled in, poke some holes in the concrete to relieve air pockets, and allow it to settle. Give it about 24 hours, then fill in the rest of the hole. Your installation will go much more smoothly if you have someone to help.
Now that you’ve made a mess by digging a hole, it’s the perfect time to landscape. Even if you’re sprucing up an existing mailbox, consider installing a small mailbox garden. Details like this—a tidy, decorative mailbox with a pretty flowerbed—can make the difference between ordinary and spectacular curb appeal. A mailbox garden welcomes all who pass or enter your home with a splash of color, and, practically speaking, eliminates the need to mow or edge around the post.
For your garden, choose materials to complement your current landscaping. Mulch or rocks help to define the garden area. Use a mixture of evergreens and flowers to account for all four seasons. Juniper, a low-growing evergreen, will gradually creep around the space, so plant it behind the post. Also, consider using a mix of perennials (like daylilies) and annuals (like pansies and marigolds) to ensure colorful blooms at various times during the spring, summer and autumn months.
Clematis, a climbing, flowering vine, may also be a good choice. This rapidly sprawling vine will soon take over and leave you with gorgeous blooms. The vine is best in well-drained soil and partial-to- full sunlight.
Another option for your mailbox garden is a floral ground cover. One great choice may be the “Freelander Prunella,” a beautiful violet/blue bloom that grows between 7 to 10 inches and spreads quickly to cover areas of 18 to 24 inches. It blooms late spring through mid-autumn, is winter-hardy, and will come back in the spring without having to replant.
Don’t be surprised if your new decor sparks some conversation among neighbors or the postal carrier. You might even start a new trend in your neighborhood!