Guidance for replacing letter plates or letterboxes on wooden doors
When the time comes to replace a letter plate, many people look to find an exact match to the size of their existing one. It would of course be ideal if an exact size match can be found, but in most cases this is difficult to achieve. Unfortunately letter plates for wooden doors have never been manufactured to standard sizes and there can even be variations in the same model from the same manufacturer. The sand casting process is not an exact procedure, so these dimensional variations can occur between different manufacturing procedures.
When a letter plate is removed from your door, you are left with a cut out and two holes for the fixing bolts. Both these features can be altered and the job should be reasonably straight forward. However, if your cut out is badly positioned (e.g. near the bottom of the door) it is also worth considering this when replacing your letter plate. The cut out should be at an appropriate height for the person posting your mail or papers. If your original cut out is at the bottom of the door, consider making a new cut out in a better position, your Postman or Postwoman (and their backs) will appreciate that. Most original letterboxes are well placed, making replacement managable by tailoring the cut out, but if you have a poor original position, it may be difficult to disguise the original cut out without getting a new door. A joiner/decorator may be able to disguise or hide the original position with a wood or metal trim, perhaps a plate fitted over the original cut out in order to save the door. In most cases this will not however be an issue, so assuming you position is good, here is a list of factors which will help you select an appropriate replacement:
1) Above all you want your new letter plate to look good, so any marks left by the old fitting need to be hidden. Consider a replacement which is slightly larger than the original to cover everything up.
2) An exact match of the fixing bolt centres would be great, but unfortunately this will not be likely. At Bernards Door Furniture Direct we provide this measurement for guidance so you can at least look for a close match. It can be tricky drilling a new hole very close to an existing hole. Small variations may be resolved by drilling slightly larger holes. Alternatively you could glue a piece of doweling into the existing holes and start again.
3) The cut out size can be modified. It is usually easier to cut more wood out than put some back and so going slightly larger with your replacement will facilitate this. A good tip is to put a slight slope towards the exterior on the bottom of the cut out. This will ensure that any water dribbles from driving rain that enter the letter plate will run towards the outside rather than down the inside face of your door. Remember that the cut out size is not the same as the letter plate aperture; the cut out will need to be larger than the letter plate aperture to accommodate the flap size and its movement. A chamfer or similar may also be required to accommodate the letter plate mechanism.
Your end result will look like the original. The only visible remains from the old letter plate might be the original bolt holes on the inside. If you decided to fill these original holes, then a little redecoration might tidy this up, else they will more than likely be covered by the interior tidy. A smear of grease on the mechanism and spring of any letter plate is recommended, since this will preserve from corrosion and early failure. If your letter plate replacement was prompted by tarnishing or corrosion, why not consider replacing with a corrosion resistant PVD letter plate?