To get exactly the style of mailbox I wanted, I decided I would have to design and build my own.
As a designer, I often can envision the finished product, but I'm not always sure how to make it. So I designed a tall rectangular shape to be divided into three sections.
The first section would be a concrete finished base. The second section would be a light-transmitting layer to display the house numbers. The third section, the mailbox, was to be constructed of steel. That section posed a problem because I don't weld and I didn't know where to get the steel, let alone how to fabricate it. Lucky for me, I know someone who does.
My friend Steve Severance, who lives in Wisconsin, said he could build the mailbox for me. I sketched the design and dimensions. Steve sent me photos of the box that was to be constructed out of scrap steel. A few months later, my wife, Stacy, and I went to Wisconsin to pick it up. I was super pleased with the way it looked and the extra details that Steve put into it. I think the box nicely mimics the structure and use of materials in our home.
If you've ever thought about constructing your own mailbox, remember that once you put it up, it's the property of the U.S. Postal Service and has to meet certain size and access standards.
As a rule, mailboxes sold at hardware and home improvement stores have been constructed to meet these standards. In my case, I had to arrange for an inspection of the box by the postmaster at my local branch. My mailbox complied with the standards for size and access, and it was safe for operation.
I put the mailbox up over the long holiday weekend. The ground wasn't frozen, so I was able to get my posts set in place for the base. Instead of pouring a concrete base, I used concrete backerboard and attached it to a base that I prebuilt.
For the second section, I used leftover pieces of polycarbonate instead of plexiglass or glass. On a Menards run, I found some great-looking pin-mounted modern-styled house numbers and a solar panel and floor light. I mounted the floor light on the inside of the frame so the polycarbonate would be illuminated from the inside and the house numbers could easily be seen from the outside.
By noon Saturday, our new mailbox was up and the mail carrier had deposited the first parcel. That night, the solar floor light lit up the front of the mailbox.