Parcel Drop Box - build it yourself

We have a drop box for parcels at our house. It's homemade, built to last for years, and it serves several purposes. If you need something similar, you might get a few ideas from my experience.

Finished drop box ready to put into service. Since this photo I've painted our house numbers on the box too.

Such a parcel box is easy to make, and the drivers of delivery vehicles just love it. Let me tell you why:

  • First, it's convenient for the drivers. Instead of coming down our lengthy driveway, they simply turn around at the top of the drive and drop the parcels off in the box. We've created a large circular driving area where it's easy for them to approach it from any direction without having to put their vehicles in reverse.
  • Second, it prevents drivers getting stuck down at the bottom of our drive. When it rains, our driveway can become thick with mud at the bottom, and that makes it difficult to climb. A couple of times drivers almost became stuck. The same thing happens when it snows. What a pain in the neck it would be if our delivery drivers had to be towed out of our driveway.
  • Third, the box provides drivers with a safe place where they know the package will be out of the rain, snow, wind and blowing dust and dirt that are common out here on the prairie.

I suppose if I were a parcel delivery person, I'd be please with this drop box too...I wouldn't risk getting stuck in the mud and snow at the bottom of the steep drive, and it provides an easy drop off point for packages.

We love our drop box too, and here's why:

  • Noise from delivery trucks stays away from the house. We live in the country for peace and quiet, so fewer vehicles coming to our doorstep is just what we're interested in.
  • With UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, Airborne and others delivering packages at the top of our drive, perhaps 250 feet from our home, it affords us much more privacy than it would if they were to leave packages in our garage or on our doorstep.
  • Packages can be delivered while we're away from the house, even if we're gone for weeks at a time. We never have to be concerned about running out of a secure space to keep them safe until we return.
  • We never have to redirect a package or ask neighbors to watch for our packages. We have plenty of room for any size parcel and practically any number of parcels from different delivery services.

Okay, enough singing praises about our parcel drop box, let's get to building this thing. It takes a bit of time, but it's not that difficult. My motivation was knowing that this hardy parcel drop point would serve our needs for many years to come, and help us avoid big headaches as well.

For those who know me, you know that I can be excessive. Keeping with that tradition, I designed a box that is more than large, it's very large. It's large enough for several men to get into at one time. Why they'd want to get in this box is a mystery to me, but if needs be, there is plenty of room. Photo below shows the author posing inside his new parcel drop box. If it's big enough for him, it's plenty big enough to hold whatever the delivery folks might drop off.

Clair Schwan poses inside his parcel drop box, happy to have it finished and ready to use.

I started with 4 foot by 4 foot plywood as the platform for this drop box. I selected this material because that's the scrap material that I had on hand. No sense spending lots of money on plywood when you already have it on hand, just waiting for a worthy project. A parcel drop box was just the right project for my scrap 3/4 inch plywood.

The top of the walls were cut at an angle such that the lid would readily shed rain. The lid was reinforced with 2 by 4 runners to help it keep its shape, and provide anchor points for the counter-balance that would help it to open without assistance.

Using scrap 4 inch by 4 inch lumber as the corner posts, I fastened the floor and four walls, then created a hinged lid with a heavy strap iron handle. I used standard interior door hinges to hold the lid in place, but used five of them so I would have no problems with hinge failure, even after repeated use. Again, this was scrap material, much of it from garage sales and auctions, all just waiting for a worthy project like this drop box.

After the lid was fastened, I secured steel siding to the top to act as a roof. I used self-tapping sheet metal screws with neoprene washers so they would secure and seal at the same time. After the roof was installed, I attached tubing to it using conduit clamps, and let the bend in the tubing hang down over the back. I found a piece of scrap I-beam and cut it to size, cut slots in it to allow for mounting on the steel tubing, and ground off any sharp edges for safety. Large sheet metal screws were used to secure the I-beam to the bent portion of the steel tubing.

Photo below shows the metal tubing installed on the roof. These pieces of scrap tubing were part of a trampoline safety net. They were obtained through Freecycle, an easy way to obtain things you need and get rid of things you no longer wish to have around the house. The steel tubing worked perfectly to make the cantilevered holder for the I-beam counter-balance.

Drop box framing for the counter balance is made from scrap steel tubing.

As luck would have it, the weight of the steel I-beam was just enough to counter-balance the lid so it would open up without effort. That would be important so delivery personnel don't have to hold the lid open...they can use both hands to place parcels in the drop box.

One of my objectives was to make the drop box "abuse proof" and that meant that I needed a mechanism that would prevent the lid from simply slamming open when it was released. I employed chains and springs to attach the lid to the rear corner posts, and then tested it to be sure the counter-balance wouldn't bang on the ground, even if the lid were released completely.

Even though the chains and springs inhibit travel, it's still possible to push the lid completely open, against spring tension, so larger parcels can be loaded and removed with ease. Photo below shows the author pushing the drop box lid wide open with just finger pressure. Notice the counter-balance is resting on the ground...that's as wide open as the box will go.

Drop box lid can be fully opened for large parcels.

I then installed flashing and weather stripping around the edges to prevent snow from blowing into the box. Here in Wyoming, we get high winds and very dry snow, so if there is a way for snow to find a crack in anything, it works its way inside. Sometimes we have small snow drifts inside the garage, and that's what I wanted to avoid building up inside the drop box.

Next, I used a longer spring, an eye hook and a large cup hook to serve as the mechanism for holding the lid closed. I made sure the spring was a strong one because it would be under constant pressure from the counter-balance that would be continually trying to open the box. At the same time, I didn't want anything too tight or strong because it would then be difficult to open and close with ease.

First hold down hardware for the drop box used a spring and a hook.

Drop box spring stretched too much under the constant tension of the counter-balance.

The arrangement with the spring worked well for a while, but constant pulling on the spring caused it to stretch. Clearly it wasn't a great spring to begin with, at least it wasn't designed for continuous duty. What with the lid wanting to bob up and down in the wind, it was just too much for it. Besides, it was a little awkward to grab the spring and pull it up to unfasten it from the cup hook, and then once again to fasten it back onto the cup hook when closing the box.

I had to think of a better way to secure the lid against foul weather. With the wind able to bob the lid up and down, and our dry snows, the drop box would surely fill up with snow during our winter storms. That would be downright unacceptable, as it would create quite a mess to clean up.

A load binder secures the lid of the drop box using the handle.

After doing a little thinking, I remembered that I had a broken load binder in my shop. Load binders are also known as a boomers in trucker lingo. It's a device they use to secure chains across their loads. It turned out to be the best approach to securing the lid because it gently, firmly and assuredly pulls and then locks the lid down onto the walls of the drop box, sealing it up tight against the weather stripping.

With a clevis hook on top and bottom, the top of the load binder hooks nicely onto the strap iron handle of the drop box, and the bottom clevis hook is secured to a 2 by 4 using a large bolt. As it turned out, the broken handle worked out just fine. If the handle had been longer, it would have been too long for this application.

One of the last steps was to cut out a portion of what would be the west wall so I could install a window that faced the driveway. This would allow us to see whether we had packages inside as we drove by.

I moved the drop box into place before installing the single pane window and sealing it up, just so it didn't break during the journey up the drive. Any twisting of the box during transport on a set of skidsteer forks could easily crack the window.

I slapped on some white primer, inside and out, painted on our address, and called it good. My intention was to wait until spring before I paint the entire interior with a finish coat of bright white, and use a brown exterior paint for the outside so it blends in better with the landscape.

Two other tasks were necessary to make the drop box fully functional. The first was a foundation, and the second was a sign to direct delivery personnel to the location of the drop box. Again, I went a bit excessive on both of these.

I used five short power pole sections, buried two feet into the ground as my foundation. Only about six inches of the power poles stick up above the ground. Although this is mostly a chainsaw and shovel activity, it was rather frustrating getting the five poles arranged like a five spot on dice, and then getting their top surfaces all at the same level. Photo below shows the final orientation of the poles before I leveled them, backfilled with soil, and tamped it down.

The drop box foundation is a sturdy one to say the least.

Five sinker nails were used to hold the bottom of the drop box to the top of the telephone pole sections. That means 25 good size nails, all with cement coating, hold the drop box in place. I don't think it's going to move even if the delivery trucks hit it.

The sign for our parcel box is 12 feet long and one foot high, and held in place by three telephone pole sections buried about 18 inches deep. If the drivers can't see this sign, they shouldn't be driving. Two four-inch long deck screws hold the sign in place at each pole location. There is no way our 80mph winter winds are going to bother that sign. It may seem like overkill, but near the top of our drive is the crest of the ridge and that's where our winds are strongest. I like the idea of having peace of mind while I sleep at night, knowing that no matter how fierce the wind, in the morning I'll still have the sign for the parcel drop box right where I installed it.

Our drop box sign is a foot high and 12 feet long, yet some drivers don't see it. Go figure.

To eliminate the possibility of snow drifts, both the sign and the drop box are located on the east side of the drive. Our prevailing winds comes from the west and northwest, so drifting won't be an issue. Even our occasional winds out of the north and south won't create any problem for our driveway. The circular driveway we created for the delivery personnel won't be drifted with snow unless we get a rare storm coming out of the east.

While under construction, our regular UPS driver made a delivery and saw me working on the project. I introduced him to it so he'd be a bit familiar before it went into service. He said he liked our drop box and was looking forward to using it. Clearly, he knew how convenient this was going to be for him, especially when mud and snow settled in at the bottom of the drive.

As for the Fed Ex driver, we never were able to talk to him, but he left us a message that seems to show his level of satisfaction with respect to our efforts. And, we're satisfied too.

The Fed Ex driver loves our drop box. He knows how convenient it'll be for him when making deliveries.

Anytime you get an "awesome" that's much better than an "atta boy." At least it is in my book.

One of the last tasks accomplished before I considered the drop box to be complete was applying expanding foam sealant under the roof edge to prevent snow from blowing under the metal roof and settling on the wood lid. If this happened, it would promote leak through and possibly damage the untreated wood.

Also, I created instructions for the drivers so they'd understand how to use the drop box. They're taped right onto the roof and near the handle, so they can't be missed. My instructions include a warning about sharp edges as even with duct tape, there is no way to rid yourself of the risk of getting cut on sharp edges when you use metal siding to make a roof near ground level where people can get next to it. I figured the best I can do was to warn delivery personnel about the potential hazard. (I've since updated the instructions to describe operating the load binder as the means of securing the drop box lid.)

Instructions for the drop box just to make sure everyone knows how to use it.

I should note that our instructions include a list of objectives so the drivers know that we're trying to keep them out of trouble when it's muddy and when we have lots of snowfall. The instructions also encourage them to leave us a note if they have ideas for improvement.

So, there you have it, a parcel drop box for all of our deliveries, large and small, big and tall, and no matter how numerous. Perhaps you need a drop box for your parcels. You might not need one quite so large, nevertheless, this should help give you something to think about.

Good luck with your parcel box, whatever shape it might take, and wherever you might choose to locate it.

Done with Parcel Drop Box, back to Do it Yourself


Frugal Living Tips

If you don't want to build yourself a parcel drop box, you can always buy one. There are many to choose from. Here are some options.

I still own one of these drop boxes. They are very useful for flats and overnight letters, but won't hold much more.

These type of mailboxes are very common in rural areas and they can accommodate small packages.

If you need the "big job cleaner" then perhaps one of these might suit you.