Humidity and Piano Moving: Understanding the Effects of Moisture

Posted by Gordon Bolton

While most people don’t move their pianos often, there are times when doing so is necessary. Just about everyone understands that piano moving is complicated because of the size and weight of the instruments, but another factor to consider when moving any piano is moisture.

Because of the huge difference in humidity levels between parts of Texas, piano movers often recommend specific strategies to compensate for those differences. However, simply moving a piano from one part of a home to another can cause issues.

Why Humidity Affects Pianos

The majority of a piano’s components are wood. Extreme dryness and humidity cause wood to expand and contract. Those changes in moisture can easily crack or warp wood, which will impact the way a piano sounds.

To further complicate the humidity issues, woods expand, and contract at different rates. For example, spruce has entirely different characteristics than maple. Since most pianos contain multiple varieties of wood, that means changes in humidity can easily create unequal pressures on various components.

Avoiding Moisture-Related Issues When Moving a Piano

In most cases, piano owners don’t have a lot of leeway when moving. However, whenever possible, moving professionals will encourage owners to avoid moving a piano during extremely wet weather. The idea is to prevent significant changes in temperature and humidity between the initial location, the mover’s truck, and the destination.

That’s not always possible, so when conditions are less-than-ideal, and the move must be completed, the movers will carefully wrap the piano to minimize the instrument’s exposure to the elements during the moving process. If you’re concerned about the existing weather conditions, don’t be afraid to express those concerns with the piano moving professionals. They’ll be happy to explain the precautions used to keep your piano safe.

Storing a Piano Complicates a Move

Many piano owners are forced to store their pianos, and the conditions in a storage facility can greatly impact the instrument. Whenever possible, choose a storage facility that is climate controlled, as doing so will minimize any effects on the piano. In a state like Texas, both temperature and humidity levels must be controlled to protect your piano. That’s especially true if you’re moving from, for example, Houston to Austin, as the conditions in those two areas are vastly different.

Helping Your Piano Adjust to Its New Home
Once your piano reaches its new home, there are several tips that can reduce the chances of damage. Here are just a few things to consider:

  • Maintain a constant humidity level. Most piano experts recommend installing systems to maintain a constant temperature and humidity level. A quality humidity control system does more than protect your piano—it works to improve indoor air quality at the same time. The soundboard of any piano can be damaged when the humidity level in a home isn’t maintained, so explore different systems to see which one would be best for your home.
  • Avoid HVAC system vents. It’s not always easy to find a wall that doesn’t include at least one heating or cooling system vent. Those vents are not good for pianos. Drafts are either cold or hot, which means a piano that’s near a vent will be subject to constant changes in air temperature. When choosing a location for a piano, look for one that is not near a vent.
  • Stay away from windows. Pianos near a window get a lot of light. That much direct light can damage the instrument’s finish. Sunlight will eventually damage virtually any type of wood finish. At the same time, being in direct sunlight can overheat parts of the piano, which is never a good thing.
  • Pick a room without a fireplace. Working fireplaces are wonderful, but they provide no positive benefits for pianos. Wood-burning fireplaces cause abrupt temperature changes, and they also tend to dry out a room. Even gas fireplaces can be detrimental to a piano’s components.

Because every home is different, have an expert help you choose the best spot for your piano. A professional will also be able to recommend environmental updates to protect the piano from the effects of heat, cold, and humidity.

What Humidity Level is Ideal?

There are always slightly different opinions, but all piano experts’ suggestions will be quite close when they recommend a specific humidity level. In general, most experts agree that a humidity level significantly below 45 percent is likely to affect a piano negatively. On the other end of the spectrum, humidity levels over 70 percent are too high. In Texas, piano owners can experience humidity levels that are outside both ends of that spectrum.

That means owners may have to install both dehumidifiers and humidifiers to use at different times of the year and depending on the weather. Central systems are ideal, so discuss the options with a local HVAC contractor to determine how to maintain a humidity level of about 45 percent, which is considered just about ideal for a piano.

Tuning After a Move

When pianos are moved, they will always need to be tuned. Even when moving within the same building, you may need to tune your piano once it’s in the new location. However, piano experts don’t recommend tuning a piano immediately after a move.

It’s important to allow the instrument to acclimate to its new environment. In other words, give your piano a chance to get used to its new home before scheduling a tuning. In most instances, piano experts recommend allowing a piano to sit for at least a month after a move before tuning it.

Plan Your Move Carefully

Moving a piano is never easy. Even expert piano movers encounter situations requiring a great deal of care to avoid damaging the instrument. As noted earlier, piano experts recommend avoiding moving when harsh weather is likely.

The moving team will take every step possible to prevent damage to the instrument or home, but there are numerous considerations that every owner needs to be aware of when relocating a piano. If you’re unsure how to proceed, contact a professional piano mover for advice.

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