Building a Brick Mailbox Like a Top Professional
Mailboxes are the dropping point for mail, periodicals, and even some small packages. Because of the important role they play in our daily lives, the mailbox has evolved into an "addendum" to the home--in some cases complimenting the very architectural style of your house.
The opportunity for creativity in designing a mailbox allows for expression of one's design tastes, allowing for its owner to make a statement as it greets any observer approaching the residency.
One way to personalize your mailbox is to create a brick mailbox. As mentioned earlier, many designs use the very bricks that were used to build the home of its owner. If there are leftover bricks from the original building of the home, they can be utilized to make a great looking mailbox. We will break down the steps it will take for you to make a one of a kind box for you to have the standout box on the street
For example, if one lives in a neighborhood where he/she is a part of an association, it will be to their advantage to investigate into what the parameters of building one of these will be. Also, it is necessary to find out if a permit will be necessary, according to where you live.
Before we begin any project make sure that the materials and tools needed are on hand. There is nothing more troublesome than having to stop a project and hunt for the tools and materials that should have been on hand at the start of the project. Here is a list of tools and materials that you will need to build your own brick mailbox:
- Measuring Tape
- Framing Square
- Stiff-bristled Brush
- Masonry Saw (Rental, recommended)
- Fast-drying Cement
- Premixed Mortar
- Rubbermaid or Plastic Mailbox
- Metal Strap Anchors
- Concrete Blocks
- Pea Gravel
- Newspaper Holders
STEP 1 Prepare the Location and Dig the Hole
The foundation of any project can determine the success or failure to the entire project. Bricks and mortar are heavy, and the brick mailbox will need a sturdy, strong foundation to support the weight it bears. Clear away the dirt and debris from the site and mark off a square that will be 2’x2’square.
NOTE Make sure that the edge of the square is exactly one brick long from the street side.
Now for the digging! Dig a hole for your footer that is 12" to 18" below the frost line in your area. Keep in mind that the frost line depth is not consistent around the nation because there is such a dramatic difference in climate from state to state. For example, the frost line in Texas is less than an inch, while in North Dakota it approaches nearly 90 inches. The best source of information regarding your frost line depth is your local building department, or you can also check this Frost Depth Map.
Finally, use the tamper to compact and level the soil at the bottom of the hole. Add a 2” layer of pea gravel and tamp and level this layer also.
STEP 2 Pour the Concrete Footer
Mix it Up! Mix the fast-drying cement according to the manufacturers’ instructions. After you reach a consistency of oatmeal or cake batter, carefully pour the cement onto the pea gravel. Smooth the pad until it is level using a trowel and carpenter’s level.
NOTE After you have smoothed the cement, let it cure for at least 24 hours.
STEP 3 Construct the Block Core
The block core is built by laying a course of bricks around an interior core of cement blocks. Position to blocks that are 8”x8”x 16” side by side onto the footer pad. Be sure to check to make sure that the blocks are positioned in the correct location. Mark the position of the blocks on the footer with a pencil or marker. After you have marked the blocks, place a generous amount of pre-mixed mortar along these marks. Place the blocks onto the mortar while pressing them into place. Apply a layer of mortar onto the top of the blocks and press the top layer of blocks perpendicular to the bottom blocks, then press them into place.
NOTE Be sure to keep the blocks square and plumb.
STEP 4 Lay the First Courses of Bricks
Apply a good layer of mortar onto the footing where you will be placing the bricks. Lay the mortar around the base of the foundation. Place the first brick gently onto the mortar. Place a layer of mortar on the end of the next brick and place it into place as well. Be sure to place it against the last brick. After you place the brick into place remove the excess mortar. Continue this same process until the first course is placed in place around the entire foundation. Check to make sure the course is square and plumb as well as level. Use the handle of the trowel to tap the bricks to the correct level.
For the next course be sure to place a generous amount of mortar on top of the bricks of the first course all the way around. Make sure that the joint of the bricks is staggered, place and press the next course of bricks. After placing the mortar on the end of the bricks press the brick into place around the second course. Now check the brick to make sure that they remain square and level. Tap the brick into position using the handle of the trowel. Continue this process for the next few courses. Be sure to use the jointer to shape the joints before the mortar joints dry to hard.
Continue this same process for several courses. This is now where you have several options. After several layers, you could place a layer of soldier bricks which are bricks that stand up. You place these bricks the same way you have pressed the other bricks with the exception of standing straight up.
STEP 5 Put in Newspaper Holder Support
Keep going until you get to nine courses. At this point you will need to place a concrete block standing up, inside the enclosure, to be used as support for the newspaper holder. A couple of bricks will also be needed to be added to reach the desired height. Add another course of bricks.
STEP 6 Put in the Newspaper Holders and Fill in Brick Around it
Now is time to put in the first newspaper holder. Make sure it is level. Here is where a rented masonry saw becomes handy as you will need to cut the first brick to go around the newspaper holder. Make sure to measure twice and cut once. Continue adding the courses until you completely cover the first newspaper holder, and then add the second one and follow the same steps of building up the courses up to the top of the last newspaper holder.
STEP 7 Complete the Mailbox up to the Desired Height
Keep applying as many courses as you need until you cover both Newspaper Holders, that is the time to install your plastic mailbox. You can still continue to add any type of stone or decoration throughout the entire process. The standard height for a mailbox is 41” to 45” to the floor of the mailbox. When you get to the point it is time to add the plastic mailbox in place using the same process you were adding the bricks. Place a mortar foundation to place the plastic mailbox and press it into place. Continue adding bricks and mortar until you have completely enclosed the plastic mailbox. Make sure to place the floor of the mailbox at the correct height.
After you get the right height established for your mailbox you will need to lay a layer of mortar to press your mailbox into. This will firmly secure your mailbox when the mortar dries. Now comes one of the most tedious parts of the whole project. We will need to continue laying brick, in the same manner, we have been laying from the beginning of the project. Continue laying the brick all the way around the entire box including the back. Lay the brick against the mailbox and continue towards the top of the mailbox.
STEP 8 Enclosing the Brick Mailbox
After you reach the top of the mailbox it is time to begin to shape the top of the mailbox post. You will now begin to curve the brick to achieve the crown finish you prefer on the top. In order to do this, it is time to determine the angle you will be cutting the brick. This could take a little trial and error. Before you cut up a lot of brick only to find out you have cut them all wrong it would be a good idea to only cut enough brick to stack in a single depth in the front of the mailbox until you achieve the look you desire. After you determine the look you want you can then cut more brick.
Continue laying the next few courses on the desired angle. Be sure to mix this mortar stiffer that the mortar used on the rest of the project. The thicker mortar will help you place the brick in a stiffer manner. If the mortar is too wet, it will not hold the weight of the brick. The brick will also have a tendency to slide and will be difficult to achieve the crown you are looking for.
Once you have reached the finished height of the crown you desired you can go ahead and clean the crown of brick you have just finished laying. It is a good idea to go ahead and use the jointer to recess the mortar in the joints to match the rest of the project. After you have the joints matching the rest of the project it is time to fill the back of the crown behind the mailbox. This can be achieved by cutting the brick to the correct size and angle you need. Lay the brick on the inside of the crown until the back is completely filled. After it has been completely filled now is the time to use the jointer and match the grooves.
STEP 9 Base of the Brick Mailbox
Now you will want to dig a hole right in front of the brick mailbox that is as deep as the height of the bricks that you are using. Fill it with a base of sand and use the tamper to compact and level it. Do not use any mortar for this area. Now place bricks to fill the hole and fill it in with sand.
STEP 10 Cleanup and Finishing Touches
Now is the most dreaded time of any project--it's cleanup time! After the mortar is dried, take a wire brush and clean away any extra mortar that is still on the bricks. Lay a layer of plastic down around the mailbox post. After you have brushed the entire box it is time to spray the entire project with muriatic acid.
ALERT Muriatic acid is a dangerous liquid and should be used with care.
This brick cleaner will help to remove any leftover mortar film. Pick up and clean up all debris from the work area. Allow your mailbox to set for at least a full day before use. Enjoy your new brick mailbox!