Moving Impossible: Pianos

Author: Alecia Pirulis

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They’re heavy, they’re awkward, and they are easily damaged – all of which puts pianos on the “moving impossible” list. Pianos range from the small spinet piano – usually about 300 pounds – to the beauties known as concert grand pianos – usually well over 1,000 pounds! Unless you are a concert pianist with a very large house, chances are your piano isn’t a concert grand. But no matter how large the piano is, the method to moving it is fairly similar.

First, consider hiring professional piano movers. They know how to move your piano without damaging it – something your regular movers or your well-meaning friends and neighbors won’t know. A piano is a delicate instrument, so it may be worth the extra expense to call in the experts.

If you have to move the piano yourself, gather some friends to help – you’ll need several. The rule of thumb is at least one person for every 100 pounds of piano. You may want a “spotter” as well – someone who can watch the doorways and jump in if necessary. Make sure everyone helping protects their backs by wearing support belts. Moving a piano – even a petite 300-pound piano – is going to be difficult because the piano is as awkward as it is heavy.

Keep in mind that most upright pianos will be about 58 inches long. Measure your doorways and make sure you can get through. Narrow passageways and tight corners will be an issue, so determine how you will maneuver the piano now while it is still in place.

If you are moving to an apartment and will have to get the piano up stairs, that will be another major issue to consider – and again, you may want to call in the experts. Examine the staircase carefully and ask the former owners or property manager about the age and design of the staircase. Make sure the stairs can support the weight of a 300-pound-plus piano – and the movers it will take to get it up those stairs. If there’s any doubt, don’t try to move the piano. It isn’t worth the risk.

Once you’ve determined your method and your route, it’s time to move the piano.

Close the lid on the piano and wrap it with blankets or padding. Secure it with packing tape, making sure none of the tape comes in contact with the piano’s surface. Watch the legs – they are very delicate and can break easily. Pianos tend to be very top-heavy, which makes the legs vulnerable – especially during a move.

With the piano wrapped up and well protected from bumps, dings, and scratches, it’s time to lift. First – make sure the ramp is down on the truck and you have cleared your path of any obstacles. The piano should be the first thing you move – put it in the back of the truck to one side. Don’t try to move the piano after loading boxes into the truck. The truck is already a tight space and your movers will need room to maneuver.

If your piano has casters, don’t trust them to move freely – especially if the piano has been sitting for a very long time. If you try to roll the piano, you run the risk of breaking the piano legs due to rusty or clogged casters that can’t roll properly. It is best to lift and carry the piano to avoid damage to the piano itself or to the floor from trying to roll a piano with locked casters.

If you have a heavy piano (many uprights can weigh as much as 800 pounds or more), you will probably want to use a furniture dolly or a skid board. You should be able to rent these from an equipment rental store. Don’t rely on it too much – you want several people around the dolly holding on to the piano. Remember: the piano is heavy, delicate, and awkward. You want to take it very slow and be sure there are plenty of hands to help avoid disaster.

Don’t tip the piano on its side! Keep the piano in an upright position. Laying the piano on its side could cause damage to the inner mechanics. Also, don’t ever lift the piano by its legs – these are the weakest part of the piano and the most vulnerable to damage.

Once you arrive at your new location, you’ll have to unload the truck to get to the piano. Be very careful where you stack boxes as they are unloaded so they don’t get in the way when moving the piano into your new home. It might be a good idea to take a break before moving the piano, especially if everyone is tired. When taking the piano off the truck, you may want extra hands to guide it gently down the ramp – don’t allow gravity to take over or there could be a calamity. Also, don’t try to stop a falling piano – remember, this is hundreds of pounds and it is best to get out of the way to avoid serious injury.

Once the piano is in, gently lift it off the furniture dolly or skid board. You should know exactly where you want it – now is not the time to waffle between putting it by the window or next to the bookcase.

Once your piano is in place, try it out. Does it sound funny? All of that jostling around likely knocked it out of tune. Call a professional tuner to get it working properly again.