When moving house, most objects can be packed and transported fairly easily with a little bit of preparation. Pianos on the other hand tend to be one of the most heavy, awkward and dangerous items to move. Whether you are moving within the UK, to Europe or internationally, we would always recommend that you hire a professional moving company when relocating these giant instruments, but if you have a very small piano, it may be possible to move it yourself.
Pianos vary in size, shape and weight quite considerably. The smallest pianos commonly found in households are spinet pianos, which are about 90 cm high and under 150 cm long and the largest are concert grand pianos which can reach sizes of over 2.7 metres across. Flamboyant pianist Liberace actually had a specially designed piano built which was over 3.5 metres long and weighed over 1500 lbs!
You should be able to move a spinet piano yourself with a little help from your friends, but in our experience, any piano which measures over 1.8 metres long will require the services of professional piano movers in order to ensure a safe and successful move. Piano removal is really an art form.
Below, we share some tips that we have gained over our many years of piano moving for those brave enough to attempt this complicated feat and we also outline the potential hazards to avoid. If in any doubt, contact professional movers for assistance.
Before the move:
- Avoid staircases (particularly winding or circular ones). If you will be encountering these obstacles on your move, hire an established removal company. This is just far too difficult and dangerous for inexperienced people to attempt.
- If your piano movers are moving the piano up or down the staircase of an old house, be sure that it can take the weight of the piano and all the movers involved.
- Check the weather. Avoid piano removals on a rainy day if at all possible, as not only will the move be far more difficult and dangerous, but also changes in temperature are likely to warp the soundboard and throw the piano out of tune. If you have to move on a rainy day, ensure you have plenty of plastic sheeting to cover the entire piano.
- You will need approximately one mover for every 100 lbs of weight. Never underestimate the amount of movers you may need and try to recruit a couple of extra helpers if possible. Don’t worry, you will require their assistance!
- Measure the piano’s dimensions and all points of entry beforehand so you can be sure you won’t get stuck midway through the move.
- If you will be moving the piano across uneven ground such as a gravel driveway, you can use plywood boards to help level out the terrain.
- If you will have to move the piano over any more than four consecutive steps, you will need to carry the piano over them and will need a locking piano belt to avoid damage. To get up or down steps, use a hump strap and step padding. For a grand piano, you will need two belts and also a skidboard (if you’re feeling ambitious, you could build your own!) Keep in mind that if you are moving an upright piano with four legs, you will only be able to traverse a maximum of one step.
- Grand and baby grand pianos will need to have their legs, lyre and music rack removed beforehand, which should all be wrapped securely in blankets, put into removal boxes and moved separately.
- Ensure the lid is firmly shut and locked.
- Wear heavy duty gloves to help with grip and to protect your hands.
During the move:
- Never attempt to move the piano on its legs or casters. These are mainly decorative and will most likely break immediately if you try to move the piano in this fashion. Additionally, it is very likely that they will damage or gouge holes in the floor you are trying to move them across.
- Use a piano dolly and carefully manoeuvre it underneath the centre of the piano by gently lifting or tipping the piano into place. If the dolly is underneath the piano’s centre of gravity, moving it across level, even ground will almost be effortless.
- If using a piano skidboard, mount the piano on its long side onto the skidboard.
- Carry the piano as little as possible during the move. Carrying should only be done in short bursts for overcoming obstacles where other methods will not work. When lifting, ensure you squat, maintain a straight back and ‘lift with your legs’.
- Take one step at a time and then stop and assess the situation. Communicate with everyone involved at each step of the move.
- With both upright and grand pianos, the keyboard side weighs far less than the cast iron harp which holds the strings, so the weight must be centered – don’t worry if the piano appears visually unbalanced as long as the weight of the harp is centered. Upright pianos have a tendency to tip backwards when moved away from walls, so ensure no one is behind them when moving.
- When moving the piano into the truck or moving van, ensure the keyboard side is at the bottom of the ramp. Once inside the truck, the keyboard side should face into the wall at the back of the truck. Remember to always remove the dolly before transportation begins, or the piano will slide around in the truck and get damaged.
- Move the piano into the truck before any other items, so your house removals team have plenty of room to manoeuvre it into the correct position.
Weighing up the benefits:
While it may be tempting to try to save money and move a piano yourself, the reality is that pianos are probably the hardest of all household items to successfully transport due to their size, awkward shape, fragility and potential for severe injury (losing your grip on a piano on a staircase for example, is not a laughing matter for the people at the bottom). When you factor in these points, along with the fact that you will also need to rent a truck (possibly one dedicated truck just for the piano) it soon becomes apparent that trying to move the piano yourself is a false economy. We would advise that you use the services of BAR accredited removals experts, who provide moving insurance as we do.
Remember that even if your piano is moved by experts, it will still most likely need retuning upon arrival in your new home, so try to book a piano tuner in advance. Just like people, pianos often find moving house one of the most stressful times of their instrument life! At Pink & Jones, we do whatever it takes to ensure that this isn’t the case.
If your new home isn’t quite yet ready for the delivery of your beloved piano, why not consider our safe and secure storage options for the interim period.
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