New mailboxes don’t cost very much. It’s a good thing I didn’t spend anything on this project other than my time, because I just now looked it up and you actually can get a new mailbox for less than $10! Oh well. This was free because I already had all the spray paint and other materials, and it’s strangely satisfying to make something old look nice without buying new.
Here is the former mailbox in all its glory. It has looked like this for years, and for at least two years I’ve been wanting to repaint it but just haven’t gotten around to it. One Saturday evening a few weeks ago, with a postal holiday that Monday, I decided to go for it!
Mitchell took the mailbox off the post for me on his way home by removing the single bolt. It was already getting dark but I had just put the boys to bed and so I had some spare time on my hands, which is rare during daylight hours. I started sanding the mailbox down to get rid of the rust before I painted. Then Mitchell reminded me to take pictures of the mailbox before I painted it… oops. So I drove back down the driveway to set the mailbox on its post and take some pictures! Hence why my pictures are dark and gloomy.
I used a screwdriver and some pliers to take off the flag and then, in a stroke of genius, decided to put the bolts back in the holes so the heads would get painted too. (Much faster than my original plan of painting the bolts separately!)
I gave everything a very thorough sanding because there was a LOT of rust which, in turn, made a lot of dust. Rust dust to be precise.
This just happened to be the white spray paint that I had lying around, but I do like Rust-Oleum brand. No affiliate links here because the only can on Amazon is smaller and costs 4 times as much. Get it at Walmart!
I’m sure there are manufacturer labels warning against using this product after dark, but like I said, my daylight hours are limited as far as time for things like painting, so I donned our super bright LED headlamp and went outside. I sprayed on one coat and then came inside to work on painting the flag while the first coat dried.
The next hour or two cycled between painting the flag red and going outside to put another coat or touch up spots with the white. I had to pull some bugs out of the paint between the first and second coat… ew. Actually, even ew-ier, some of the bugs I couldn’t easily get out so I just painted another coat over them. They are forever a part of our mailbox!
I spent a good half hour or 45 minutes painting the flag red with the only red paint I had (or so I thought), which was acrylic paint from my craft box. My plan was to spray polyurethane over it after I finished painting so that the paint wouldn’t wash off or fade. The next day, after meticulously painting six coats of red paint on both sides of the flag… I found a can of red spray paint. I liked the color better than the way the flag looked with the craft paint, so I spray painted over my other red paint job.
The next afternoon, while the kids were napping, I started working on the numbers. I didn’t think I’d be able to freehand them neatly enough, so I found a font I liked and printed out the numbers and words to copy. I taped the paper down in place and used a semi-dull pencil to trace around the numbers, pressing hard enough to make indentations in the paint.
Mitchell wanted to put a message on the inside of the mailbox door to thank our mail carrier for faithfully delivering mail to us, so I traced over those words too. It was pretty easy to go back with a Sharpie and go over the indentations.
My hand was a little shaky but after going over each letter two or three times it looked pretty good. I used a Sharpie pen for the letters and numbers on the inside of the door and a combination of a Sharpie pen, regular Sharpie, and Sharpie Magnum. The Magnum is a crazy overkill marker that I don’t use super often but when I do use it, I’m thankful I have one so big. The big fat tip helped make the numbers on the front of the mailbox so thick and dark.
The next task was to cut some stencils to paint new numbers on the post. The post used to have sticker numbers on it but they faded and peeled off over the years. In hindsight, it would have been better to just buy some new numbers, but making stencils was kind of a fun project even if it was mostly unnecessary and a waste of time. Hah.
To make the stencils, I cut out the numbers I had printed and then traced them onto cardboard. My original plan was to cut out the numbers from the cardboard and then just use the cardboard as the stencil. After I did that, I realized that there would be an overspray (or in this case, I guess underspray) and the paint would seep around the edges of the stencil and I wouldn’t have nice crisp lines.
So I decided to create twice as much work for myself and cut out all the numbers again out of tape. I headed outside and drove to the end of the driveway to finish up this project.
I wiped down the post with some wet wipes I happened to have in the car, since I forgot to bring a rag with me. I carefully taped my number stencils to the post and tried to get them as straight and evenly-spaced as I could.
I realized I needed to cover the rest of the post also because it was pretty windy and spray paint tends to kinda… spray. I had used up all my white paint on the mailbox itself, so I had to change plans. I had two cans of Rust-Oleum stainless steel spray paint that I found in our shed that must have been from a previous renter and I thought the silver might look nice against the black post.
While I was waiting for the numbers to dry so I could move the stencil to the other side of the post, I decided to spray a polyurethane over the letters and numbers I had done with Sharpie just to make sure they stayed for a good long while. Unfortunately, I had a little oops.
The mailbox wasn’t sitting level when I sprayed the thank you note and reference, and I didn’t stay around long enough to notice that the wet polyurethane made the Sharpie bleed and run. By the time I noticed, it was too late. Oh well! It’s still readable and it looks kind of cool and almost like I did it on purpose… maybe? Maybe not.
I learned from my mistake and made sure that the mailbox was perfectly level before I sprayed the numbers on the front of the door. I moved my tape stencils to the other side of the post, hoping the tape was still sticky enough to make crisp lines again.
After everything was dry, I put it back together and wa-la! The kids, in the meantime, had woken up and Mitchell took them for a walk down the driveway. This little cutie wanted to model for me.
Aforementioned little cutie had put in a request for Paw Patrol when I first started working on the mailbox, so I took him to the back to show him the little surprise I’d put in for him. I stuck a few stickers on the back and polyurethaned over them. He was ecstatic!
And that’s it! It took me probably about 4 hours total to save $10… shhh. $10 is $10 and the spray paint was free. The process of restoring and rebuilding and making old new is more enjoyable than buying something new, even if it’s not always the most economical.