3 Issues to Avoid When Choosing a Mailbox for Your D.C.-area Home

3 Issues to Avoid When Choosing a Mailbox for Your D.C.-area Home

You may not give your mailbox at the end of the driveway much thought, but it’s an important part of your home.

Ask yourself this: How many days would you like to be without your mail?

It's one of those things that when it needs fixing, it needs fixing fast.

“You tell me your mailbox is on the ground, and I’ll be working on it in the middle of the night,” says Jim Hughes, owner of the highly rated Mailbox Xpress in Alexandria, Virginia.

Snow plows, errant drivers, mischievous kids — the hazards can add up. Hughes suggests replacing your mailbox every six to eight years.

You've not got mail? Your mailbox may be at fault

Picking the right kind of mailbox is just as important for prompt postal mail delivery as keeping it well maintained. The place to start? Know the local rules for mailbox construction and placement. 

The United States Postal Service offers some national mailbox guidelines, but Hughes also stresses the important of checking with your local postmaster and homeowners association.

“You better follow your HOA rules,” Hughes warns.


Brick Mail Box (Photo by )
While brick mailboxes look sharp, some local postmasters won't approve of them. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member David S.) (Photo by )

Hughes says three things should be avoided when choosing a mailbox in the Washington area: brick, cedar and that plastic container attached to the post for your newspaper.

A brick foundation or encasement is sturdy and decorative, but it's also a possible danger to passing cars. Postmasters, too, worry about damage those brick structures could pose to mail delivery vehicles.

Cedar posts are not a danger, but chances are that suburban Maryland and Virginia residents would need to replace the wooden mailbox post sooner rather than later. 

“Cedar rots in the ground,” says Hughes, adding that local carpenter bees can do plenty of damage to cedar. What the bees don't finish off, woodpeckers will.

“You need to stick with pressure-treated wood,” he advises.

Ouch! Stinging surprises lurk at the end of your driveway

Skip the newspaper containers altogether, Hughes advises. It may be a clever concept, but in reality, the container ends up being a perfect nesting spot for birds. Bees, wasps, spiders and all sorts of other stinging insects will call it home, too.

“There's nothing like having your kids getting stung when they go get the mail,” Hughes says.

Hughes usually charges between $175 and $300 dollars for an average mailbox installation. Some mailbox customization is fine, such as making the box look slightly more contemporary or traditional. But he recommends homeowners don't get too creative with their mailboxes.

“Someone around here had a really nice stone structure," Hughes recalls. "It was very decorative, but he had to take it down.”

The local postmaster, it seems, was worried about damage to his mail truck.

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