Now that the garage door was up, I was in the mood to finish off the outside, and one of the last pieces of finish work was putting up the house numbers. Our house had been “numberless” for over a year, and it was high time to give it back some dignity.
As always, I decided to put some thought into this project because I felt that your house numbers are the first thing a person will look for when visiting. So if they’re placed so they’re difficult to read, or if they are installed crooked, or if they aren’t in balance, they really can detract from the curbside appearance. On the other hand, if they are tasteful and good looking, they really can be a very nice architectural detail instead of just being some “requirement”.
I initially did some online shopping with the big box stores (Home Depot and Lowe’s) and they had the standard ho-hum selections, so I started poking around and found some really classy numbers from a mom-and-pop outfit in Phoenix, AZ. They are called Modern House Numbers (http://www.modernhousenumbers.com) and I thought that they had not only very elegant designs, but also a quite superior product. Their numbers are made of solid CNC aluminum, are powder coated in appropriate colors, and they have a very interesting mounting system that uses little posts to offset the numbers from the wall surface, giving the numbers a 3D appearance. Yes, they cost some money, but hey, this is my house and my remodel. Plus I felt that the house needed something special after being numberless for a year.
Mounting these numbers wasn’t particularly difficult, but I did have to pay attention to a few things. The instructions were OK, but I created a video which really breaks down the process in detail. It also has some tips about performing the individual tasks such as dealing with epoxy and drilling holes in stucco. You’ll find the video on my YouTube channel and right here:
The critical steps in mounting these kind of house numbers are as follows:
Locate them properly. Although Modern House Numbers provides you with a template, you still have to put it in the right place so it is easily seen from the street and is consonant with the architecture of the house. No need to get obsessed with the placement, but consider a number of options and choose what looks “right” to you. If you don’t have a template, then my recommendation is to put your numbers on a sheet of paper in the orientation that you want and MAKE a template. All you have to do is mark where the screws go. Eyeballing the alignment and spacing while standing on a ladder is just faking it and will result in a hack job.
Drill the holes. For these numbers, you’ll need to drill a certain depth because of the posts that offset the numbers from the mounting surface. If you’re just using numbers that are directly screwed to the wall, then just mark the locations according to your template and either drill pilot holes (for wood) or holes appropriate for your mounting surface. If mounting in stucco, then try to use screws designed for stucco. You may have to paint the heads to match the numbers. The other option for masonry walls (e.g., stucco or brick) is to use masonry anchors. These require a little more work, but you still have to locate the holes correctly so the numbers will be in alignment.
Apply the epoxy. Disregard this step if you’re mounting the numbers directly to the wall. Epoxy is a miracle glue. It sticks to almost everything, is gap filling (meaning that if your hole is too big, it will fill in the gaps), and is waterproof. People who make high-end wooden boats use this stuff throughout, and it is amazing what can be accomplished with a fiberglass reinforced epoxy topcoat. The fiberglass disappears and you can see the beauty of the wood underneath and still have an incredibly strong and abrasion resistant surface. You can also see all the imperfections, which is why these creations are truly artisan. But I digress… The important thing to remember about epoxy is that the advantages can become disadvantages. Remember how it sticks to everything? Well, that’s EVERYTHING. So, if you don’t wear nitrile gloves, you will be scraping dried epoxy off your fingers for 2 weeks. (I know this from personal experience.) If you get it on something you don’t want it to get on, then it will be almost impossible to remove. You need to seriously think about how you will handle the goop so it doesn’t drip where you don’t want it, and protect the surrounding area from the drips that inevitably do happen.
The other thing worth mentioning about epoxy is working time. Your have several choices, ranging from short (5 min), to long (hours). For a job like this, you probably want a short working time because if you do the preparation and pre-fitting correctly ahead of time, you shouldn’t need a lot of time to do the final assembly. For this project, I used 5 minute epoxy and did the installation in two steps: mounting the posts to the numbers, and then mounting the number-post assemblies to the wall. The video shows the details.
The finished product looks really nice. As always, there were a few boo-boos, but remember the craftsman’s axiom: The difference between an experienced and inexperienced craftsman is the experience one has in hiding mistakes.