Modern Industrial House Numbers





Introduction: Modern Industrial House Numbers

We were looking for a way to save money on modern standoff house numbers (which can cost up to $50 per number online).

We decided to use what we already had left over after our project, a half empty box of screws!

The beauty of this project is it can be installed anywhere, by anyone and your numbers can be done in whatever font, style and color that best fits your home!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

All you need to get started is:
- a driver (handheld screwdriver works fine, but a power driver will make quicker work)
- a box of stainless steel/exterior screws (i used number 8 at 1 5/8")
- a printed set of numbers to use as a template (more on this in the next step)
- a hammer, rock or blunt object to tap the screws.

Step 2: Layout/Grid

Find a set set of numbers you want on your home...
This could be a font you like in a word processor or a fancy set of numbers you found using a google image search (or ones you drew by hand).  

Once you've got your numbers, overlay them with a gird and mark at each point where the numbers and grid overlap.

I decided to use the computer and photoshop for this step, but you could just as easily draw numbers by hand and use tracing paper or a printed out grid.  The idea is simply to give yourself an easy grid to transfer to the wood you plan to put the numbers onto later.  

Hint: the closer you can make the spacing of your grid to the size of the heads on your screws, the tighter the pattern will be when your numbers are completed.

Step 3: Transfer the Numbers

In a perfect world, you would use your new full spectrum laser to burn the perfect grid onto your wood...but if you're like me and don't (sadly) have a laser of your own yet, you can still transfer your numbers the old fashioned way =)

Simply tape your printed number/grid to the wood you plan on using.  The wood could be a piece you plan to mount on your house later, or (as i did) you can simply screw directly into the wall or a piece of trim next to your front door.

Once taped securely, grab one of the screws from your box and a hammer, rock or other blunt object.  
Simply tap the screw at each grid point where you will eventually be inserting a screw.  Tap a few points and peek behind to make sure you can easily see the holes.

You will soon have a bunch of holes perforating your paper, so its easy to see when you've completed this step.
Peel off your paper and lets make some numbers!

Step 4: Screw It!

Now start inserting a screw into each of the dots you created on the wood.

You can decide how far you would like the screws to standoff the surface, and it's easy enough to change later if you decide you want them longer or shorter. I used screws that were 1 5/8" long and left about 1" protruding from the wall so that i could still see plenty of threads and so my numbers would catch a nice long shadow in the afternoon sun.

I found that with a bit of practice, each screw kind of guides the next and if you spend enough time you can actually end up with all screw heads touching each other and holding the next one in place. It doesn't have to be perfect to look really clean and striking from a distance.

A driver makes this easy work, but having a handheld screw driver makes slight tweaks in depth a breeze!

Keep screwing until each dot has been replaced with a screw and that's it, your one-of-a-kind house numbers are everyone can find you, and they'll be impressed with your craftsmanship and skills before even entering the house!!

Hint- if you start somewhere in the center of each number and work out in all directions it seems easier to keep the screws relatively straight in relation to each other. If you are using a piece of wood that will be attached later, you could even pre-drill to ensure each screw is perfectly straight.

to see the rest of the project, also all built by hand, visit


Step 5: Update: Make Them Even Better!

Here's a view of my second set of numbers. with all the kinks worked out.
Same stainless deck screws, but set in a plank of ipe and with all holes predrilled.

now if only i could come up with a way to make them faster!

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89 Discussions

Okay, this will seem like a buzzkill and a rant, but please, please, please hear me out.

As a former delivery driver (way back in the late 90's, but still), I have to point out that although these look cool in abstract, they run a HUGE risk of being aggressively anti-functional as actual house numbers.

House numbers aren't house jewelry. They're more like house licences plates. They need to be clear and contrasty in order to do their actual job, otherwise they might as well not be there at all. The bane of every delivery driver is "that guy" who thinks it's cool to have black numbers on a dark brown plank, or numbers recessed way back in the shadow of the eaves. Depending on your neighborhood, up to 2/3 of your neighbors are already That Guy (meaning the driver may have a hard time even triangulating using the surrounding house numbers). Please don't be That Guy.

I've seen sooooooooooooooooo many attempts to turn house numbers into house jewelry that look "pretty", but completely destroy the functionality of the numbers. From things like carved wood numbers tacked to a tree branch, to glass mosaics that from the road are halfway to looking like a color-blindness test card. Lighting plays a big part too: two common things I'd see are sconces that light up the wall above the number while putting the number itself directly in the sconce baseplate's shadow, and backlit numbers that become unreadable from an angle because the thickness of the numbers occludes the lighting on their opposite edges.

These numbers are halfway there already. The screws cast a dappled shadow that confuses the edges of the numbers, making them less readable. This is exacerbated by the fact that the face are made of dots (screw heads) instead of solid shapes, so they're going to dither into their own shadows. And the screw heads read as neutral grey, making contrast difficult. Remember: a driver will, under [i]best[/i] conditions, be looking for your numbers in quick distracted glances at a distance while moving.

This is less of a deal these days now that GPS navigation is common, but it can still be a problem if the GPS map is inaccurate (we've all had the experience of being pointed to the wrong building, I'm sure).

If you want to use this sort of method to make house jewelry, rock out. But I strongly advise using it for decorative designs instead of for the house numbers. If you must use it for house numbers, make sure you pay very close attention to your choice of colors, font, and location to ensure the sign is still highly readable. Not readable if you already know what you're looking for and are standing calmly halfway up the walk in midday light. Not readable in an up-close beauty photo. Readable from the road, at dusk (or night), in half-second glances while driving, past unfamiliar houses on an unfamiliar street, where you have no idea what to expect.

Unfortunately the specific example showcased in this 'ible (and unfortunately in several of the examples done by commenters below) is exactly what you NEVER want to do: ultra low-contrast. This person has camouflaged their number, ensuring that every delivery driver that arrives at their door does so cursing them. Unfortunately, a lot of the the ones that others have built in the comments are similar. It't defiantly arty, but it wrecks the functionality of the numbers so hard that it's potentially worse than not having numbers at all.

1 reply

Yikes! you weren't kidding about buzzkill

Genius, and unique. Who doesnt like unique?!!

Great idea! As a graphic designer, I would recommend using "pixel" or "bitmap fonts" for this type of application, with anti-aliasing disabled. I think you would get the best results, since these type of fonts a specifically designed to look good when "pixelated." You can find many free bitmap fonts here:

3 replies

Hey- You seem to really understand this... any chance I could pay you to create a template for me? i am construction savvy but clueless on the computer.

The numbers would 570 and you can make it in the size he recommends. I will go buy the screws to match what you create.

Happy to prepay for your service with paypal too!



my email

if interested.

If you want to get really fancy you could leave the anti aliasing "on" and use smaller screws or screws at a lower height for the smoothing. Obviously on a scrap bit of wood to test!

Hi. These are so amazing! I want to do this but am having trouble with the grid part. I have the same house numbers as you. 25. Any chance you still have your gridded out numbers?


What program can i use to Make the Design 901B ?
Do we need to purchase software to make this design>
Any size screws will work?

3 replies

You can use just about any spreadsheet software. I used Excel. I just changed the cell sizes to match the head size of my screws which were 0.4875" Then I just played with the grid pattern, looked at some LCD fonts and filled my cells with single character. Once I had it laid out the way I wanted, I set the cell properties to have an "X" through them, which in Excel at least is a function of the borders.

The question of screw sizes will depend on how big you want your numbers to be and how much you want to spend on fasteners. I felt lucky to find them at $10/lb and spent $60.

Hey awesome project!! i cant wait to try it. How did you change your Excel measurement to 0.4875? arent the Excell spread sheets colums measures in width/height?

This part was frustratingly confusing. First put Excel into Page Layout mode. Then the next trick is you can't change both height and width at the same time. So first highlight a bunch of rows only and right click and change height. Use the double-quotation notation for the number so Excel knows you mean inches, so: 0.4875" Then do the exact same thing for the columns. I then used a big capital "O" to "draw" my numbers in the cells. You can then use a function in Excel to count the number of cells that have an "O" in them to calculate your needed number of screws. Then use the border functions under cell properties and let Excel draw a big "X" corner to corner in your "used" cells so the intersection will be exactly where you place your holes. Print, tape, nail, drill and screw!

That's quite cool I like it. Out of a simple item

...and for those without a screwdriver, you could do the outline in various types of rocks, stones, plastic stuff, etc. and then pour resin over it. Punch tiny holes in the border of the letters after printing them and then use powder to create the outline on your substrate.

Cool idea. I might point out that TrueType and other fonts will render inside a word processor at full page size. Just use one letter and expand it to fill the page or whatever size then laser print or inkjet or even dotmatrix print.

I'm wondering the same thing about my brass shells collected from the shooting range.

.22's, 1/4 inch holes and a little glue.

3/8th dowels instead of screws with .45 shells slid over and glued

just keep in mind how many shells that actually is. a simple item even as this will easily be at least 10 wide and 15 tall per character, that's 150 shots for just one number... Buuuut, assuming you have that many, it would look really cool!