By Tom Seymour | Feb 13, 2020
Photo by: Tom Seymour A new ditch caused this mailbox post to tilt, so the homeowner took remedial measures.

How is your mailbox doing? Does the post lean, or is the mailbox itself falling apart?

Mailboxes, like many objects around a property, often go neglected until there is absolutely no way to keep them going.

But think of this, our mail includes many important documents including paychecks, insurance policies, tax notices and a plethora of other vital and time-sensitive documents.

So why do so many of us have such a cavalier attitude toward the upkeep of our mailboxes?

Perhaps the laid-back, countrified look of a dilapidated mailbox and leaning post lull us into thinking that this is how things should be. But it isn’t.

Lots of factors besides age tend to compromise our mailboxes. Snowplows rank among the top enemies of mailboxes. The most common damage involves the blade, or sometimes the wing, hitting the mailbox and driving it, flying, off the post and into the ditch or snowbank.

As anyone who has to re-attach a mailbox to its post in winter knows it’s a cold job, and one that we complete as quickly as possible just to get it done and over with.

Roadside Ditches

Another often-overlooked threat to mailbox security comes in the form of roadside ditches.

Towns sometimes adopt ditch-digging campaigns in order to allow water to quickly drain from roads. But often, these ditches cause homeowners big problems. These problems extend further than just standing water that in turn, providing mosquitoes places to lay their eggs.

Here is a worse consequence of these often ill-placed ditches. This occurs when ditches are dug behind an existing mailbox. The end result is that the mailbox post, instead of being firmly secured to solid ground, becomes loosened because the ditch was dug within inches of the post.

This, in turn, causes the post to assume crazy angles. Just digging another posthole seldom helps, because there isn’t enough remaining ground to achieve a solid footing for the post.

That’s when residents become innovative. Five-gallon pails filled with sand or stone serve to hold the mailbox post. But these are easily upended and certainly are not the best solution.

Others find extra-long poles and these are secured vertically on the landowner-side of the ditch and extend out to the road.

The pole rests on a post, perhaps set in the ditch itself. The list of cures for the problem of leaning mailbox posts has no visible end.

New Construction

Here’s some advice for someone setting up a mailbox for the first time.

Buy the best mailbox you can afford, the bigger the better. A larger-than-usual mailbox accepts large packages. That means fewer trips to the post office to claim otherwise undeliverable parcels.

A visit to the local post office before setting up a new mailbox makes sense, because there you may possibly work out an arrangement for packages to be left in an outbuilding, in case you aren't at home when your package arrives. The post office will also give you the parameters for mailbox height.

Essentially, a mailbox should be in a position for the mail delivery person to easily reach it from the delivery truck. One too high or too low causes problems.

Also, while not absolutely necessary for the postal service to deliver mail, it helps to put your name on the mailbox in order to make it easy for visitors to find you. What is necessary, though, are numbers.

The post office will assign you a number and this should be displayed on both sides of your new mailbox.

Mailbox Types

Mailboxes vary considerably from one to another. Metal, the industry standard, remains the most common. But plastic mailboxes are gaining in popularity.

Once, no one would have considered plastic as a sufficiently strong medium for a mailbox, but that has changed. Newer, stronger plastics last a long time and better yet, don’t rust as metal mailboxes invariably do.

Then, we have those novelty mailboxes. Some people like the personal touch. Anglers, for example, might install a mailbox in the form of a largemouth bass. An authorized, standard mailbox always sits inside the outside shell, thus allowing it to comply with postal regulations.

Lobstermen sometimes encase their mailboxes in an old, wooden lobster trap.

And so it goes.

At the very least, perhaps this article will encourage people to take a second look at their mailboxes, and after that, take steps toward improving them.

Again, mailboxes are a lifeline, especially for the old, infirm and for those living in remote areas.

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