Ah…the neglected mailbox. We each have one prominently displayed in front of our home and open it faithfully each day. It serves a useful, functional purpose. But other than checking for mail, who gives the mailbox much attention?
Do you realize that the mailbox is often the first thing a guest sees as he or she drives up to your house? The condition of your mailbox can add to or detract from the curb appeal of your home. With the heavy rains we have endured over the past few months, many mailboxes are suffering from wear and tear, including mildew stains, faded paint, and rotting posts. A few simple updates can take a mailbox from a boring and utilitarian storage box to an attractive focal point. Here are some tips on how to give your mailbox a DYI mailbox makeover:
Spiff up your existing mailbox: You don’t need to spend a fortune to update your mailbox. A few coats of paint may be all the attention it needs. An old mailbox and flag will benefit from a good sanding with a medium grit sanding sponge to wipe away dirt, mildew and rust. As you sand, wipe away debris with a wet, soapy cloth or sponge and continue to sand until the metal is clean with a dull surface.
After the mailbox and flag (which you have removed from the box) are clean, apply a spray can of self-etching aluminum primer to the metal to ensure your paint will adhere to the mailbox. Shake the can well and apply 2-3 coats, allowing each coat to dry for a few minutes before adding the next coat. Once the primer is dry, you can then apply a spray can of gloss enamel (like Rust-Oleum) to the mailbox. Most people prefer glossy black, but don’t be afraid to “think outside the mailbox” and choose a color that complements your home. Spray on three coats, allowing the paint to dry in between. Then spray a red enamel gloss paint on your flag. Wait at least 24 hours before reattaching your flag to the mailbox.
If the post attached to your mailbox is rotted, stained or leaning precariously, you will want to address these issues as well. Sand the post, caulk any holes and seams, apply a high quality primer, and then paint the post with exterior house paint in the color of your choice. For added interest, place a painted wooden finial on top of the post.
One of the most frustrating problems for guests (or the mail carrier) trying to find your home is the lack of clear, readable street numbers. Secure large metal street numbers to your post in a contrasting color. Stencil on street numbers to the front of your newly-painted mailbox as well.
Customize your mailbox and post to add personality and curb appeal: The standard black mailbox attached to a white post is a common but uninspiring look. You can find unusual and custom mailboxes online to fit any interest and budget. The artisans at Morgan Home Accents handcraft novelty, U.S. Post Office-approved mailboxes in the shape of animals, fish, birdhouses, vehicles and buildings! Comfort House, Frontgate, Midatlantic Mailboxes, and Amazon offer an array of traditional mailboxes and posts in various metal finishes that can be personalized. For added appeal, consider enclosing a new mailbox in stucco, stone masonry or brick.
Design a garden bed around the mailbox: Add style and personality to your mailbox by creating a colorful garden bed around it. An easy project that avoids digging into our hard Georgia clay is to build a raised bed around the mailbox post and then fill it with a good top soil and soil amendment mix. Since your garden bed is by the street, add tough “street” plants that landscapers use in store parking lots. These plants will need to stand up to the heat coming off the pavement and probably won’t get much attention.
If your garden bed will be in sun-to-partial sun, choose a dwarf evergreen shrub like Carissa holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Carissa’), juniper, euonymous, littleleaf boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Compacta’) or Hinoki false cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Filicoides’). Small shrubs with colorful leaves, like nandina (Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’) add interest throughout the year, as do ornamental grasses. If your garden will be in shade, plum yew (Cephalotaxus Harringtonia) is a good choice for a low-growing evergreen.
For additional color and charm, plant a vine to wind around your mailbox post. Clematis and Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) are great choices. Secure the vine to your post with gardener’s tape or twist ties. If you want your vine to cling to a rough brick or stucco finish, consider Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Veitchii’) or creeping fig (Ficus pumila). Note that creeping fig may be damaged by frigid temperatures. Keep vines neatly pruned so the garden doesn’t become untidy. Seasonal annuals can also be added to the bed for more color and curb appeal.
If you don’t want to fuss with a garden bed, place two large containers on either side of your mailbox post and fill containers with seasonal annuals. You will need to keep the flowers well-watered and occasionally add a water-soluble fertilizer to the pots for the annuals to thrive and look their best. For mailbox garden bed ideas and to download free design plans, go to bhg.com/gardening/plans/special-spots/mailbox-garden-plan.