Deciding where to install your mailbox when building or moving into a new home is an important consideration that many homeowners overlook. While the placement may seem trivial, there are actually quite a few rules and regulations around mailbox location issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and local municipalities.
Following proper mailbox placement guidelines ensures safe and efficient mail delivery for both you and your mail carrier.
This article synthesizes information from USPS regulations, municipal codes, and common practices to provide a comprehensive guide on ideal mailbox placement for residential homes.
General Mailbox Placement Guidance
The first overall rule of thumb is that curbside mailboxes should be installed on the right-hand side of the road in the direction of travel of the mail carrier. This allows the carrier to easily pull up and access mailboxes without having to leave their vehicle. For homes on the left side of the street, you may need to install an extended arm type of mailbox so it reaches across to the right side.
Mailboxes are best positioned at the end of driveways or toward the trailing end (nearer to the house). This allows vehicles to fully pull into the driveway before reaching the mailbox. Locating mailboxes at the start of driveways can block access.
Distance from Road
For mailboxes along roads with curbs, the front of the mailbox should be 6 to 8 inches away from the curb. This allows enough room for the mail truck to pull off to the side.
Where there are no curbs, mailboxes should be placed 41 to 45 inches away from the edge of the road surface to the bottom of the mailbox. This distance ensures mail carriers can easily reach out of their window to deposit mail.
The bottom of wall-mounted or post-mounted curbside mailboxes should stand between 41 to 45 inches off the ground. For freestanding mailboxes, the bottom of the mailbox should be 3 to 4 feet from the road surface.
Mailboxes must be high enough for the mail carrier to easily insert mail but low enough for residents to conveniently access it. Standard mailbox heights allow access from a mail truck window.
Distance from Driveway
Mailboxes are best positioned toward the end of the driveway, on the side closest to the house. This allows vehicles to fully pull into the driveway before reaching the mailbox.
For single-door curbside mailboxes, a minimum of 15 feet should be allowed from the mailbox to the start of the driveway. An additional 15 feet after the mailbox is also recommended. This provides enough room for mail carriers to safely pull over and re-enter traffic.
Mailboxes should have a clear path free of tree limbs, bushes, and other obstructions that may block access to the mailbox or pose hazards to the mail carrier’s vehicle. Regular yard maintenance is required to keep the area around the mailbox clear.
Mailbox posts should be constructed from approved breakaway materials, such as wood, lightweight metal, or plastic. This allows the post to snap if struck by a vehicle rather than damaging the vehicle or injuring passengers.
Concrete posts are not permitted in many areas since they can be safety hazards. Always check with your local postmaster on approved mailbox post materials before installing.
Post Installation Depth
For proper breakaway function, mailbox posts should be installed no more than 24 inches deep into the ground. Going beyond this depth may prevent the post from snapping off as intended if struck by a vehicle.
Mailboxes have some flexibility in dimensions but should be large enough to accommodate the size and volume of mail received. A typical curbside mailbox is around 19 inches long, 6.5 inches wide, and 8.5 inches high. Larger mailboxes up to 22 inches long may be installed if needed.
The main limitation is that mailbox and post should not obstruct or pose hazards to mail carriers. Consult with your local post office if you wish to install an oversized mailbox.
House numbers should be clearly displayed on the mailbox to identify the address. Use numbers that are large and legible from the street, preferably at least 1 inch tall. Reflective or contrasting numbers can improve visibility.
Some common options for house number placement include:
- On the side of the mailbox
- Across the front of the mailbox
- On a plate attached above or below the mailbox
- On the mailbox post or arm
Numbers should face the direction of traffic so they are visible as mail carriers approach. Having numbers on both sides can also be helpful.
Mailboxes should have a signal flag installed that can be raised to notify your mail carrier you have outgoing mail for pickup. Bright red or fluorescent orange flags are recommended for high visibility. Make sure the flag color contrasts well with your mailbox color.
Moving an Existing Mailbox
If you need to move an existing mailbox, either to a new home or a new location at your current home, there are a few steps to take:
- Contact your local postmaster and obtain approval for the new location
- Move the mailbox to the approved location following all placement guidelines
- Alert your mail carrier of the change in advance
Moving mailboxes between different sides of the street is not recommended and may cause issues with mail delivery. However, moving to a new spot on the same side is often approved if placement guidelines are followed.
Alternative to Curbside Mailbox
While the curbside mailbox is standard, another option to consider is a centralized mailbox unit, sometimes called cluster box units (CBUs). CBUs are centralized structures with multiple locked compartments for each home’s mail.
CBUs can be an affordable alternative to curbside boxes and may be required by your municipality or HOA. They also do not require driveway access for mail carriers. If interested in CBUs, check with your local post office on availability.
Following Proper Mailbox Placement
Taking the time to properly place your mailbox may seem trivial, but it ensures safe and efficient mail delivery for years to come. Always be sure to check specific mailbox regulations in your area and obtain approval for mailbox placement or modifications when required. With the right placement, you can avoid hassles and enjoy seamless mail delivery to your home.