Shortly after moving into our new home, I realized that the mail slot, was going to be a problem. The previous homeowners had installed this elaborate contraption to catch incoming mail.
The container would manage to catch the occasional letter, but anytime the mailman delivered one of those larger circulars for the supermarket, all the contents would be scattered on the floor. And this winter, the floor of the garage has never been dry.
I wanted something collapsible. Not only did the existing bin fail at it’s main purpose, but it made it difficult to get through the door with garbage bins and other large objects. I settled on a design using two pieces of wood, attached with hinges that would collapse when the door was opened and the catcher hit the wall. A chain would restrain the wood at the specified angle when the catcher was open. For appearances sake, the entire catcher would be wrapped in fabric.
I originally designed the catcher to accommodate an item that was 18″ long. Accounting for the height of the mail slot itself, this required two pieces of wood, 18″ wide, and 12″ and 24″ long, respectively. After cutting the first piece, this 24″ piece looked ridiculous next to the shorter piece, so I reduced it to 20″. This should still accommodate an item that is 12″ long.
I attached the two hinges to the wood and ensure they operated smoothly. The wood was wrapped in the fabric. We selected a thicker, canvas-like fabric to withstand the abuse. Since installation, the red color of the fabric has worn onto the adjacent wall. Our mail slot is in the garage, so this isn’t a problem, but if your slot is in the house, you may want to select a lighter color fabric. I attached the fabric using a staple gun.
Next, I attached screw eyes to the left and right sides of both pieces of wood. After determining the proper length of chain to hold the catcher open at the desired angle, I counted the chain links necessary so both chains would be the same length. Naturally, one length was a little shorter than the other, so only one chain is actually supporting the collapsible side of the catcher.
Measured and cut two more pieces of fabric to prevent mail from falling out the sides. Attach those with a few more staples and it’s complete!
The Final Product
A few screws into the door and the mail catcher is installed. As you can see in the picture above, shortening the collapsible leg was probably from the best as the proportions above look “normal.”
In the image to the right, you can see how the catcher easily folds in, permitting the door to open all the way. The previous bin restricted the door, which made ushering trash bins through the door difficult.
By the time I had this installed, it was Sunday. So, we had to wait to see if it would work as planned.
Sure enough, when I retrieved the mail on Monday, it was not swimming in a puddle, but was right in the mail catcher. Success!
Amazon sells wall-mounted mailboxes for under $20. Mounting one of these on the side of the house and abandoning the mail slot would have been significantly cheaper. However, doing so would mean I would need to go outside, or at a minimum, reach outside to retrieve the mail, whereas with this solution, I can get the mail without ever leaving the house.
In total, this project cost me a whopping $192.05. In most places, I could rent a PO Box for more than three years for that amount of money! Of course, more than 75% of that price was tools that I needed to buy because I had none. If you also already have staples and screws, then this project can be completed for $28.27 and about 2-3 hours of your time.
$9.16 — Birch (x2) 2′x2′x1/4″
$3.96 — Hinges, pack of 2
$3.45 — Screw Eyes
$1.71 — $14 Jack Zinc Chain, 3 feet
$9.99 — Red Fabric, 1 yard
$6.47 — 1-1/4″ Drywall Screws
$3.37 — 9/16″ T-25 Staples
The mail catcher has now been in place for roughly three weeks, and it hasn’t missed a single piece of correspondence yet. It has performed terrifically, catching everything from postcard-sized junk mail to newsprint-sized junk mail. The cost is not overly prohibitive and neither is the time or effort needed to construct it. I recommend this solution to those who may have a similar predicament.