Report by Paula Antolini
April 4, 2013 8:00PM EST
Did Your Mailbox Survive the Snowplow This Year? Creative Solutions for Mailboxes
Ah…Spring weather is almost here, and along with that comes the unveiling of winter’s wrath on our property, and the clean up. This includes replacing damaged mailboxes.
As I drove through Bethel and Newtown I found it fascinating to see the inventive methods residents created to protect their mailboxes from the dreaded snowplow. Some of these methods worked and some woefully did not. You’d think by now there would be a better mailbox available for purchase to withstand the swoosh of ice/snow/slush coming towards our poor defenseless mailbox from the snowplow. Well maybe there is.
When my family and I moved into our new home in December 2004, our first experience was to immediately have our pretty Victorian-style metal mailbox and fancy post (that included a custom-made metal base plate to mount it upon, for sturdiness) smashed to the ground in smithereens by the force of the snow from a passing snowplow. It was literally in pieces.
We eventually purchased a square wooden post and placed the metal Victorian mailbox on top of it and now we have a full ritual when winter approaches. We place another wooden post wedged into the underside of the mailbox at a scientifically-calculated-precise-45-degree-angle to the unavoidable high-velocity-snow that will surely be hitting the mailbox by snowplow during the next snow storm. So far this wooden post brace has worked for us for years now. It’s not pretty, but certainly practical, and it is easily removable for the rest of the year. We have made our way through a fair few mailboxes and been on MailboxWorks.com more times than I’d like to admit but none of them have been because of the snowplow (more my partner’s bad parking).
We have experienced many snow storms this past winter so I thought it would be interesting to photograph some of the protective “inventions” for mailboxes and see which ideas worked and which did not.
I was amazed to see the variety of solutions residents had, from huge plywood boards leaning against the mailbox on a slant, some with added braces or pipes, to a second set of posts and wood slats built a few feet in front of the mailbox as a first barrier to the snow plow. These methods seem to be the most common, but not necessarily the most effective, to prevent damage.
After I observed a sufficient aftermath of mailbox damage from snowplows, my vote is for the rubber style all-in-one post with cubby-style mailbox holder, not for it’s beauty, but as a strong solution in this mailbox/plow war. I saw that most of those rubber mailboxes were still standing after numerous inches of snow were plowed into them. I was going to give it a top rating but then I saw one held together with bungee cords, so I guess that mailbox type is not completely snowplow-proof after all, even though the majority of those do seem to survive unscathed.
Groups of mailboxes together did not necessarily all suffer the same exact fate. Some made it and some did not. Now there’s a study in physics!
The mailbox solution that was most amusing was one I will label “when all else fails, use duct tape” which was, of course, a mailbox securely taped together with duct tape! (see my photo)
Another alternative is to have the foresight to have a mailbox cubby built into end-of-the-driveway brick or cement decorative pillars, that sometimes hold a light post on top too. Those seem to be indestructible, although expensive to install.
View photos below:
Other than a stationary mailbox and post, there are numerous mailboxes and accessories that can be purchased to solve the mailbox/plow dilemma.
Some examples are:
“Post Saver” for Mailbox
A post saver that allows the post to bend and spring back, cost $49.99 plus $19.95 shipping.
“Spin Mail” for Mailboxes?
A device that allows the mailbox to rotate 360 degrees to retrieve mail or avoid snow plow damage, cost $24.95 plus $8.00 shipping.
“Return to Center” 360-Degrees-Rotating Mailbox
A 360 degrees swing away style “return to center” mailbox, with a spring that has flexibility and moves the mailbox back into place, cost of $189.
“Swing-Clear” Raise-Up Mailbox
A mailbox that uses a boom system and raises up and out of the way then swings back to center, cost $139.99 plus $19.10 shipping.
A damage-proof fire-proof locking mailbox with lower compartment to hold more than one day’s mail, cost $349 plus a $49 post.
“Mail Gator” Mailbox
Locking Large Capacity Mailbox, same idea as the Armadillo mailbox, but made of vinyl, cost $235.19, free shipping.
In my online research I even came across a humorous mailbox made from an outboard engine from a boat (scroll to page 66 in that link, to see the mailbox). The engine compartment is the perfect size for a mailbox, obviously also a perfect mailbox for the boat enthusiast, and environmentally correct too because you are recycling an item for another purpose. Would this mailbox withstand a snowplow? I suppose it depends on how it is attached to the ground.
Of the mailboxes I researched online the “Armadillo” mailbox seemed to have it all. Not only is it strong but mail falls into a lower locked compartment so no one can steal your mail. This quality and security does come at a price of approximately $400 though.
Of the mailboxes I viewed in Bethel and Newtown, the winner is a red cement-lined home-made mailbox on a metal wide metal post, not very attractive, but it seems bomb proof! (see my photo).
If you’re buying a new mailbox, look for the Postmaster General’s seal of approval; every new mailbox design should be reviewed and approved before it goes to market.
If you opt to construct your own mailbox, you should run your plans by your local postmaster. Overall, the mailbox you build will need to meet the same size, strength, and quality standards as manufactured boxes.
The house or apartment number should be clearly displayed on your mailbox. And, if your mailbox is on a different street than your house, the street name should appear on it, too.
Your local postmaster must approve the location of your mailbox.
Put a roadside mailbox where a carrier can reach inside without leaving the truck. That means positioning it about 41″ to 45″ off the ground and back about 6″ to 8″ from the curb.
If you live in the city and are attaching the box to your house, just make sure it can be accessed easily from your sidewalk, steps, or porch. Because city carriers often shoulder heavy bags, put your mailbox about 4′ from the ground. That way, your carrier won’t have to stretch or bend to reach it. And remember to keep the path to your mailbox clear in inclement weather.
If you’re mounting a curbside mailbox on a post near the street, the support should be secure and safe. The best supports are designed to bend or fall away if a car hits them.
The Federal Highway Administration recommends:
• a wooden mailbox support no bigger than 4″ x 4″
• a 2″-diameter standard steel or aluminum pipe.
Bury your post no more than 24″ deep, so it can give way in an accident.?Don’t use potentially dangerous supports, such as:
• heavy metal pipes
• concrete posts
• farm equipment, such as milk cans filled with concrete.
In areas with lots of snow, we suggest a semi-arch or extended arm-type support. That way, snowplows will be able to sweep under without knocking it down.
Your mailbox takes a serious beating from the weather, especially in the winter. We suggest a routine mailbox check-up every spring.
You might just need to:
• Replace loose hinges on the door
• Repaint rusty or peeling parts
• Remount the post, if it’s loose
• Replace missing or faded house numbers
And year-round keep obstructions away from your mailbox. Your carrier may not deliver your mail if there’s a car, shrub, snowdrift, or unfriendly dog in front of it.
Feel free to post your own “invention” regarding “mailbox protection” or the sad results of the snow plow’s force your mailbox might have experienced!
Note: See more photos from Paula Antolini on picturesbypaula.com