Moving a Piano: Professional Advice for Reducing the Risk of Damage and Injury

Posted by Gordon Bolton

Pianos were once reserved for society’s elite with only the wealthiest families having the privilege of owning one. Times have changed, and they’re now widely available to all. Models have been created to cater to virtually every preference and budget.

With millions of pianos now appearing in households throughout the country and at least 30,000 new ones being sold each year in the United States alone, the need to move them from one place to another is bound to arise from time to time. Of course, moving a piano isn’t quite the same as moving, say, a clarinet or clock radio.

Common Issues with Piano Moving

It’s no secret pianos are heavy. Upright models can weigh in the neighborhood of 300 to 400 pounds with grand models hovering around 1,200 pounds. This creates plenty of challenges in its own right, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

  • Awkwardness: Pianos are large and bulky. Grands and baby grands have odd shapes to contend with, and uprights tend to be a bit top heavy. They can easily tilt and get away from you when you least expect it.
  • Lack of Balance: Many pianos appear symmetrical, but looks can be deceiving. Though each string and its connected keys and hammers are in perfect balance, it’s an entirely different story from a collective perspective. As mentioned, uprights are heavier near the top than at the bottom. At the same time, pianos are considerably heavier on their bass sides than on the treble ends of the spectrum.
  • Poor Grip: While many pianos appear to have excellent handholds, those nooks and crevices don’t always hold up well to handling. They’re slippery and fragile, and their weight, bulk and lack of balance only add to the struggle.
  • Delicacy: Despite being heavy and awkward, pianos’ inner mechanisms are extremely delicate. Small bumps and mishandling could send the entire instrument out of tune. They also scratch and dent easily. Purchasing a piano is a sizable investment, and having one restored after a moving mishap is yet another costly venture.

On top of all that, pianos can cause significant damage of their own during the moving process. They’ve been known to tear up walls, door frames and flooring and lead to a number of potential personal injury cases. Moving one the right way is the key to avoiding numerous levels of damage to the instrument itself as well as its surroundings and the people involved in the process.

First Things First

First off, please keep in mind having built-in wheels doesn’t mean a piano was made for moving. Their tiny casters are often in place for decorative purposes and short moves, like from one room to another. Even those notorious transition strips between carpet and hard floors can cause the casters to fold and break off.

Furniture dollies are essential for the move, preferably padded ones equipped with four wheels. Two-wheeled hand trucks will suffice in many cases, but they’re a bit more difficult to work with when moving a piano. You’ll need two dollies, one for each end of the piano. Ideally, you should have at least four people on hand for the occasion as well.

Moving Forward

Before setting a piano in motion, be sure to wrap it well with moving blankets and keep them in place with packing tape. For grands and baby grands, the lid should be closed and locked before wrapping. If possible, the legs need to removed as well.

Use moving straps to help reduce the strain on your back and shoulders, and consider strapping the piano to the dollies to limit the likelihood of unexpected shifting. Have two people on each end of the piano to help balance the load. From there, carefully lift the piano onto the dollies.

Upright pianos should remain upright at all times. Though grand and baby grand models will probably need to be tilted to get them through doorways, this should be done carefully to avoid damaging the internal workings of the instrument. From there, they need to be returned to their upright positions.

Transitioning to the Truck

Regardless of the other types of furniture being moved, a piano should be one of the first items placed in the moving truck, or the bed of a pickup as the case may be. If possible, strap it to the truck securely. Place other pieces of furniture snugly around it to reduce sliding and bouncing on the road. Again, be sure to place the instrument in its natural upright position rather than on its side or back.

Extra Tips and Advice

As mentioned, pianos are lighter on the treble end than on the bass. This can make moving them up and down stairs and ramps especially difficult. When moving the piano along downward slopes, always be sure the bass side is on the upper end of the angle because those handling that end have more control over the instrument.

When going up an incline, the bass end of the piano needs to be on the downward side of the slope. This way, those pushing it have more control over the brunt of the weight. Otherwise, it could end up working against its movers and pushing or pulling at all the wrong times rather than gliding along with them in either scenario.

In the event you and your helpers aren’t experienced with using moving straps, practicing with them a little beforehand might be a good idea. Consider starting out using the straps for lighter pieces of furniture, such as a sofa or stove, but don’t put them in the moving truck until the piano is in place.

Navigating corners and sharp turns is tricky when moving any large, inflexible piece of furniture. Always come up with a plan and be sure everyone is on board before moving a piano. Of course, things don’t always go as planned. If you find you need to take a different approach, find a level place to stop and put down the piano before rethinking the matter.

All Things Considered

Moving a piano isn’t easy, and even slight mistakes could damage the instrument. What appears to be a minor dent or scratch on the outside often leads to extensive internal damage and costly repairs. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to professional piano movers for help. Should you have your heart set on doing the job yourself, be sure to follow these guidelines to minimize the risk of property damage and bodily injury.

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