5 Tips: Choosing the Right Mailbox for Your Remodel or New Home
Last year, I went shopping for a new wall mount mailbox for my modern minimalist style home. Severely disappointed with what I found, I designed my own, then started a company to make them. I’ve since learned a lot about what makes a good mailbox, and why some can cost many times more than others. In this post, I share tips on what to look for in a good mailbox.
Tip 1: Look for a mailbox that holds oversized magazines and envelopes
My household regularly receives a professional journal that measures 10” by 12.5”. A USPS Priority Mail envelope measures 9.5” by 12.5”. For some reason, many mailboxes aren’t sized to hold these common items. Look for a mailbox with an inner compartment to accommodate these larger pieces of mail. A shorter and narrower mailbox can still accommodate oversized envelopes if it is sufficiently deep.
Tip 2: Check that the mailbox opens and closes smoothly
You interact with your mailbox more than most things in your house - why tolerate a squeaky or grinding lid? Look for a lid with a good hinge that opens and closes smoothly without the needing clasps to secure it. What is a good hinge? Larger hinges that aren’t stamped out of the mailbox body will operate smoothly for longer. Materials matter too - hinges made from stainless steel will perform longer than those made from other materials. Also, it doesn’t hurt to lubricate the hinges every once in a while.
Tip 3: Check the "feel"
In car magazines, reviewers always note when car doors closed with a satisfying “thunk”. The “thunk” is shorthand for a well-made, high-quality car. You can look for the “thunk” in your mailbox too. For metal mailboxes, look at the thickness of the metal, known as the gauge (confusingly, lower gauge equals thicker metal). The thickness can vary from thin, like the hood on a new car (22 gauge), to thick enough that it’s hard to bend (14 gauge). Thicker metal provides better durability and contributes to a solid-feeling product. Mailbox makers don’t often publish what gauge metal they use, but you can get an estimate for thickness by looking at the overall weight of a mailbox.
Tip 4: Complement your home’s style
Mailboxes contribute to the visual impact and curb appeal of your home. But quite often, homebuilders and developers will spec the most generic mailbox regardless of whether the house is rustic or mediterranean-inspired, ranch or modern. It’s a lost opportunity at best, and at worst, a badly matched mailbox will lower the home’s appeal. So consider the design of your house when shopping for mailboxes, and don’t settle for the basic box.
Tip 5: Choose the right material and finish
Heat, cold, UV, moisture and salt create a harsh environment for mailboxes. Because some materials are better suited for different weather conditions, choosing the right material for your environment will help you maximize your mailbox’s service life.
If you are lucky enough to live by the ocean, your biggest worry is salt-related corrosion. Find a mailbox made from marine grade metal. For steel, that's known as 316. For aluminum, that's 5052. For our marine-grade aluminum mailboxes, see here.
If you love the look of wood, you won’t find many options commercially available (we make a few). That’s because UV and moisture can quickly destroy most untreated woods, and wood finishes require maintenance to maintain their appearance and protective qualities. Regardless of wood finish, homeowners should expect wood’s appearance to change over time.
The main advantage of an aluminum mailbox is that it won't rust. Commercial mailboxes commonly use aluminum for its resistance to corrosion. So why do more homeowners choose steel over aluminum? For one, aluminum is more expensive than most steel. It is also lighter in weight and more susceptible to dents compared to steel of similar thickness. So when shopping for an aluminum mailbox, look for a mailbox made from thicker aluminum (14 gauge or thicker).
While steel is a common mailbox material, not all steel is the same. Galvanized steel has been coated to increase its corrosion resistance and it is usually finished with a powder coating, which is basically a layer of plastic that’s applied over the surface. The advantage of powder coated galvanized steel is durability. The downside is that its color fades with UV exposure, and it is difficult to refresh or repair a damaged powder coat finish. Painted steel offers the best color selection and color longevity, and can be easily refreshed with a fresh coat of paint. However a painted finish has lower durability than powder coating, requiring a homeowner to be more watchful about repairing paint damage to prevent rust.
Tip 6: Choose local
This tip is more a personal preference than a hard and fast rule. The truth is that manufacturing in the US is dying. Only 5% of new businesses in the US are manufacturing-related. Yet money that’s spent on local products funds local employment, local schools and contributes to a healthy community. So if you have a choice, buy a locally-made or US-made mailbox. Your community will thank you.I hope these tips help you find the perfect mailbox whether you’re planning your next remodel, or just looking to replace your tired old mailbox. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.