Introduction: Do-it-yourself Brick Mailbox

About: I am a mixed media artist living in the Ozarks with my family. I have been published in many magazines including the cover of Sew Somerset.

Here is an Instructable showing you how to build your very own brick mailbox. My husband built this mailbox in one day, although he is a 20 year masonry veteran, we believe anyone can do this with the correct tools, materials, and planning. It is a very simple 16" square masonry mailbox. By doing this yourself you will have saved at least $300. Possibly more. You will have a very nice addition to your home. Take your time, plan it out, and be proud of the end result.

Step 1: Step 1 Tools and Materials

You will need the following tools for this job...
Masonry Trowel
masonry joiner
tape measure
wheel barrel
tuck point (optional)
Masonry hammer
brick tongs (optional but recommended)
Rent a Masonry saw (optional)

Materials: Approx.. 200 8" brick, 6 bags 60lb each Quickrete Mortar Mix (with sand), 2 8"x16" blocks (for base), 1 bag 40lb Quickrete Cement mix, 4 10" lengths of 1/4" rebar, Mailbox, water

Step 2: Step 2 Digging a Hole

The First thing you will need to do is figure out where you want your mailbox, consult with your local post office to find out what the regulations are, how close it should be to the curb, how tall the mailbox should be ect. After you have decided where to put it you will have to dig a hole. We had to remove an old masonry mailbox that had been ceremoniously destroyed by the back bumper of car. You hole needs to be 8" deep by 16"x16" or a little larger. Enough to fit the two block in side by side and as level on the bottom as you can make it. Place the two block inside and use your level to make sure they are both level front to back and side to side, you can push rocks or dirt underneath here and there to adjust level as needed. Now drive your rebar through each of the four holes of the block into the ground leaving 4-5" sticking up above the ground inside the holes. Next you will pour the 40lb bag of Quickrete cement mix into the hole (both inside the block holes and around the outside of the blocks), pour in the water per package instructions and mix with your trowel (add gravel or rocks to this mix as you go to bring it up to the level of the top of the block)

Step 3: Step 3 the First Course and After

Dry fit (called dry bonding) the first two courses of bricks, alternating the stacks so you know how to lay them down. The next thing to do, is to mix your mortar. Open 2 of the 6 bags of Quickrete Mortar mix (containing sand) and pour them into your wheelbarrel. (only two at this point because you don't want your mortar to set up (harden) before you can use it) Pour in water per package instructions and begin to mix with a shovel until the consistency of heavy oatmeal and there are no more dry particles. Spread mud around the edge of your base (two blocks) using your trowel be sure to spread the mud out to the edge of the block about the width of a brick. Begin laying bricks atop the mud (don't push them down too far at first, it's better to have too much mud under them before leveling, than not enough, too much and you can tap them down removing the excess squeezed out mortar with your trowel, too little mud and you have to remove the brick, relay your mortar and basically start over) Lay each brick on the course before using the level at the end, start from your first corner layed and level each side all the way around in a circle, gently tapping the top of the level with the handle of your trowel to get each brick to "settle" downward. Keep going all the way around your course leveling and tapping until you have done your first corner over again. Next level from corner to corner, then use your square to check the corners, gently tapping the brick with the handle of the trowel to move them slowly. To double check the square, measure the distance diagonally with a tape measure, both measurements should be equal corner to corner. You want approximately 3/8" joint between courses and between bricks (bed joints horizontal and head joints vertical) Congratulations, you've just layed the first course of your new mailbox! Now continue up to the next course by spreading mud and laying down a new course of brick, level, square, continue.

Step 4: Step 4 Going Up Up Up

Continue adding layers of mortar and brick checking level around the top gently tapping bricks into place and using your trowel to "slice" off the excess mud that squeezed out when you did so, also making sure to check each corner for square. You also need to make sure to plum each side, do this by putting your level verticle against your brick and gently tapping to be sure all is lined up correctly, do this to each side and corner with each course. Check level, square and plum for EVERY course so that you do not get a leaning mailbox. This is not only unsightly but it could also be dangerous. You don't want thousands of pounds of bricks and mortar falling on someone. Do NOT skip these crucial steps. When you reach course 5 start putting mud into the center of your square and build up the center with brick, mud, bricks, mud, 2 bricks wide. This part will not be seen so there is no need to smooth mud ect. Continue building up, adding your center bricks every few courses, until you are approximately 40" from the top of the curb. This is a postal standard (so that the mail man can reach the mailbox from the car) be sure to check with your local post office for regulations in your area. When you have reached 40" set your mailbox at the top and invision what your finished mailbox will look like.

Step 5: Step 5 Completing the Top

This step will require the cutting of some bricks. We show bricks being "broken" to the correct length with a brick hammer, this is something that takes practice, you can try it but be prepared to break a lot of bricks into unusable pieces. Even and experienced mason will lose some. If you don't have enough brick or are worried about losing too many you should rent a brick saw from a contractor supply. Talk to the folks there and they can show you how to use it properly. Follow all safety instructions. Measure the distance from the outside edge of the column to your mailbox and reduce that measurement by 3/4 inch (the width of the mud joint between the brick and the mailbox) cut bricks as needed to finish out your last couple of courses. When you have reached the top of the mailbox, continue with your final course over the top of the mailbox to incorporate it into your column of brick. Finish out your mailbox by adding the top. Add one line of brick front to back down the center along the line of the mailbox, then add brick around those hanging them off the edge approx 1 1/2". Fill in the top holes with mortar and smooth to a finish with your trowel. Now you will need to finish all the joints using a jointer. Fill in any holes in your joints with more mortar now. Use the jointer on each vertical joint and then each horizontal joint (on the horizontal be sure to joint from the outside edges in toward the center, so you don't knock your mortar out of the joints at the end) Now use a brush at a 45* angle, brush the entire column gently, using a diagonal sweeping motion, and then rejoint to smooth and rough spots. Push the screws of the mailbox flag into a mortar joint before it sets up. Allow to set for at least a full day before use. Enjoy your new mailbox.

Craftsman Workshop of the Future Contest

Participated in the
Craftsman Workshop of the Future Contest