You might have seen this in cartoons or Laurel and Hardy skits and, if you did, you probably laughed about it. Because there’s just something about moving a piano that makes people roar with laughter. However, when it comes to doing it in real life, the laughter ceases and you’re faced with quite a daunting task. This is why, if you need to know how to move a piano, you’ve come to the right place. Here is the safe and easy way to do it, accidents and damage free.
Moving a piano – the basics
The first thing you need to know about moving a piano is its weight. You are about to handle a massive musical instrument that will get damaged at the slightest hesitation or fault on your part, so knowing what you’re faced with is basically preparing for the battle. Small upright pianos usually weigh between 300 and 400 lbs. The big upright ones vary from 500 to 800 lbs., while grand pianos run between 500 and 1200 lbs.
The second thing that should be on your list of items you need to figure out is whether to hire professional piano movers or do it yourself. Because of its size, a piano can pose veritable safety threats. Professional movers will come equipped with special tools that will make the process easy, fast, and safe.
How to move an upright piano in 4 easy steps
The most common type of piano known today, the upright can be tricky to move without causing it any damage. Here is the easiest way, in 4 main steps.
Step 1. Know the piano you are moving
The upright is usually 58 inches wide. There are two models, the small upright and the large one, but the moving method is the same. The only things that differentiate them and that you must take into consideration is their weight and center of gravity. The small weighs between 400 and 600 pounds while the big one can go up to half a ton. This is why it’s called a ‘full vertical’ and why it’s probably best if you call in some professional help.
As far as their center of gravity goes, the small one’s is lower, coming to about 4 feet off the ground, while the larger one’s comes to 5 feet off the ground.
Step 2. Carefully plan your route
Think about what path you will take towards the moving vehicle. If you need to move the piano through several rooms, measure the doors first to make sure the musical instrument fits. If there are stairs involved, consider a ramp. Try to park the vehicle that will transport the piano as close to the exit as possible, so as not to have to carry it down the street, which might be crowded and filled with obstacles.
As far as how many people you will need to lift it goes, divide the piano’s weight as follows – 100 pounds per person. Everyone must be wearing thick leather gloves, as their palms will get sweaty and slip off the piano’s lacquered surface. If possible, have everyone wear weightlifting support belts as well, to ensure no one hurts their back in the process.
Step 3. Prepare the piano itself for the big move
You need to tilt the piano onto a dolly. It’s simply too big and too heavy to be lifted and carried away. When doing this, be careful not to rely on gravity for help. Use manpower from beginning to end. Once you’ve secured it onto the wide dolly, wrap it in blankets.
Step 4. Move the piano as gently and slowly as you can
Although the piano is secured onto the dolly, do not allow your moving crew to let go of it at any time. Remember any mistake you make, as small as it may be, can have disastrous consequences on both the people and the instrument. Should you feel the piano is unbalanced at any time, stop immediately and slowly put it back in its place.
How to choose between piano dollies?
Choosing the perfect moving equipment for such a delicate and big musical instrument depends on its size and numbers and on the space you are trying to move it through. All of them are wheeled, but there are all sorts of piano dollies available on the market, such as heavy duty ones, dollies made for buildings that are more than one story high, singles, winter, digital, tandem, and even small ones for lesser pianos, like a mini spinet or a small Cable Nelson.
Here are some examples of models, reviews, and prices which will help you choose. All the dollys presented here work for the majority of pianos made of wood, be them a Gulbransen, Yamaha, Kimball Whitney, Janssen, Chickering and Sons, Everett or other artist pianos. The dollies also work for other large objects, the likes of furniture or heavy boxes.
- The Schaff Twin Dolly Set for Upright Pianos – retails for approximately $289 and you can find it at your local Home Depot or at Lowes. It’s also available for rental.
- The Jansen Upright Dolly Set – Retails for $299 and it can be used to haul pianos everywhere, thanks to its rubber finish applied to the wheels. This means the Jansen dollie will not scratch the floors.
- The Jansen Heavy DutyTwin Dollies – the system retails for $465 and you will need to use it when moving a grand piano, both big and baby.
- The Schaff Spinet / Console Piano Dolly – its retailing price starts at $580. The machine is made in the USA and its review shows how you can load the biggest of grand pianos on it without damaging the instrument or the cart itself.
- The Digital Upright & Clavinova Dolly – the price can be as cheap as $391. It was designed for digital pianos and it has double wheel rear casters and locking casters for the two wheels in the front. It has a low profile that can accommodate all kinds of digital pianos.
- The Economy Wood Dolly – is available for purchase for only $99. You can also rent this moving dolly for an even lower price, and it’s one of the most amazing tools when it comes to relocating smaller instruments. If you’re wondering where you can buy it, it’s available online at big retailers such as Amazon, where you might also find it for sale.
- The Adjustable Grand Piano Mobileer by GRK Mfg – this one is a spider dolly with a number of three wheels and brakes on all of them. This ensures the dolly nor the piano for that matter will move at all during the transportation.
In case you do not wish to buy your own dolly, you can also use the services of a piano dolly rental. The price depends on the dolly model you choose and whether you wish to hire movers as well or not.
Using a piano dolly is the key to transforming the gruesome task of moving such a grand instrument as the piano into an easy deal. As long as you follow the basic moving rules and securely hoist the piano onto the dolly, the rest should be as easy as a walk in the park.
How to move a baby grand piano in four easy steps
The steps required to move a baby grand piano are the same as for an upright one. However, the details are different, and it’s a good idea for you to know them. Here they are.
Step 1. Know the piano you are moving
Unlike the upright, the classical grand piano is both very wide and very long. Unfortunately, this makes them even harder to move. Even the small ones, which weigh a minimum of 500 pounds, are still tricky, because of the overall weight and shape. This is one of the main reasons you don’t see many grand pianos in private homes.
Step 2. Carefully plan your route
Just the same as with the upright piano, you need to clean the route you are going to take. Moving all the furniture that might block the path, pets, and people whom you might cross ways with in the process. You need to check that all the doors are both wide and tall enough to accommodate your piano plus a few inches to spare. Should the musical instrument prove too deep to fit through your doors without these additional inches, you will need to call in professional help.
Step 3. Prepare the piano itself for the big move
Unfortunately, this is where things get really complicated, much more so than with the upright. You will need to mount it onto a rolling skid board. Take as many people as you can find to help you with this move. Have them all lift the bass corner while you unscrew the supporting leg. Carefully wrap it in a blanket and proceed to the next legs. When finished, wrap the body in thick blankets as well, as tightly as you can.
Hoist it on the rolling skid board and divide your crew in two. Half of them will push from the end while the other half will pull from the front. Absolutely no hurrying is allowed. Remember that the grand piano is heavier towards the bass end.
How to move a spinet piano, an upright one or a grand piano
Although all three kinds are different, the basic steps of moving these gargantuan musical instruments are the same. The difference comes due to their size and shape, but it’s not considerable. Here are the main steps of moving a piano.
1. Plan a route
The first thing you need to do before starting to actually budge the piece is to carefully plan the route you and your helpers will follow. Inside the house, move all the furniture, rugs, and objects that might become impediments out of the way. Make sure the pets are locked away, so they don’t trip anybody.
Think about the stairs and the stairwell also, if that is the case. If there are tight corners, take some time to think how you will handle them. When outside, park the truck or car you’re using as close to the building entrance as possible, so as to avoid hauling the piano down the street. If necessary and you know the street to be busy, move the instrument at night when there are fewer people on the street.
2. Prepare the piano for the move
In case you don’t already have this information, the primary action is to measure the piano. Uprights, for example, are usually 58 inches wide while grand pianos measure some 5 feet in width and 6 ½ in length. This is an average estimation, and the size of your keyboard depends on the brand, model, and how old it is. This is why you need to measure it yourself. Remember also to measure all the doors it needs to fit through on the way out.
After the measurement, it’s time to wrap it up in blankets. The upright and the spinet, for instance, can be directly wrapped up, but the grand needs to be taken apart. Have your moving crew gently lift up the piano and unscrew its legs one at a time. In this way, you will get a flat surface to work with, which will be far easier to lift onto the dolly.
Place the instrument gently on the grand piano dolly. Very slowly push the dolly out the doors until you reach your destination. Take as much time as needed because this is not safe and can harm not only the piano itself but the people moving it as well, should something go wrong.
Asking for Help from Professional
Every household out there has plenty of things that are difficult to move. Given their size, shape, and value, they pose a real problem when it comes to safely relocating them. In the category of things that are difficult to shift, piano moving takes the cake, probably. It’s not only big and cumbersome, but it’s also awkward and valuable. If it happens to be an old or collectible instrument as well, then you really have your work cut out for you. This is why we’ve assembled a list of the best tips and tricks to moving a piano, to help you along the way.
#1. Ask for help from professional piano movers
Whether you knew it or not, there are moving companies out there that specialize solely on pianos. It’s recommended you choose one, get an estimate, and then hire them to do the job for you. If you need to wind your way through furniture and a labyrinth of rooms, traipse down the stairs with the piano, or if the musical piece itself is old and valuable, it’s always best to not take any risks.
Should something happen to it, the damage is almost irreparable. This includes new pianos as well. If they are damaged in the process of moving, it will cost you a lot to get them back to their original shape, because pianos are very expensive. Usually, they cost somewhere between $3000 and $100 000, so you don’t want to harm one.
#2. When moving a piano, make sure you have the right equipment
Moving a piano is almost impossible without a piano dolly. It’s an essential piece of equipment that will help you carry it easily and securely. You can use a regular moving dolly as well, provided the type of piano you have allows it, but specially made piano dollies are best. You can also find these for rental.
Apart from the dolly, you will also need some heavy-duty straps. They will tie down the piano and make sure it doesn’t shift while you’re transporting it. You can also use the straps to secure the piano inside the moving truck so that it doesn’t slip and get damaged in traffic.
The third piece of equipment you need are blankets or any other type of padding. You must wrap the musical instrument in them to protect it from bumps, scratches, and cracks. Once again, it’s crucial you don’t start the job without any of these elements. When moving a piano, it really is best to be safe than sorry.
#3. Don’t neglect the piano’s lid
To keep it from opening and possibly tearing while the move is in progress, close and lock the lid prior to starting. If the piano doesn’t come with a lock, you need to wrap the lid closed or even tape it down. However, be careful what kind of tape you use, so as not to damage the piano’s surface.
Apart from keeping the lid from tearing, you will also protect the keyboards themselves, which are very fragile. If the moving damages the ivory key tops, it will cost you some $10 to $20 to replace them, plus an average of $40 to $50 an hour for the manual labor. However, if the whole key gets damaged, it will have to be custom made or ordered so that it fits the piano correctly.
The third scenario happens when your piano is very old and they don’t make it anymore. Simply put, you’re in trouble because you will have to contact the manufacturer or use some generic parts to replace it. However, it will be expensive, and it will not sound like the original did. As pointed above, it’s just not worth it if the quality of your piano is high. Call in for local pro help and they will go the distance for you in a modern fashion, without damaging any pieces on your spinet.
Don’t also forget to remove any sheet of music that might be lying on the piano itself, so that it doesn’t get lost when the piano moves.
#4. Don’t forget about the corners
When you wrap a piano to get it ready for the big move, don’t forget to pay particular attention to its corners. These are the parts most likely to get damaged during the shift. Wrap them tightly in padding or blankets. Also, make sure the blankets are long, thick and fluffy enough to actually protect the piano from bumps, not just cover it.
As much as possible, try not to let the tape you’re using touch the surface of the instrument, as the glue will damage the wood.
#5. Never lift a piano by its legs
A crucial piece of advice is never to lift a piano by its legs, as they are its most vulnerable part. Actually, most movers recommend you unscrew the legs altogether and move them separately, to avoid any mishaps from happening. Always lift the piano by its body and place it gently on the dolly.
#6. Don’t turn the piano on its side
Turning it on its side will only damage the inner mechanics of the instrument, which are delicate to begin with. When moving a piano, it’s best you keep it as straight as possible, in an upright position. However, there are some cases in which you must turn it on its side. For example, when you need to fit it through a door, get it inside an elevator or down a staircase. Make sure you move as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t spend too much time on one side.
#7. Find a location for it in the new house before you move it
When moving a piano into a new house, make sure you know exactly where you’re going to position it before you move it there. It should be against a wall, preferably an inside one. The purpose is to protect it from the cold and dampness outside walls usually suffer from.
Don’t forget to tune it after you moved it to its new location. Although you might have been extremely careful with it during the move and although it seems like a sturdy instrument, it’s very sensitive to movement. Ask a professional for help and he or she will get it back in tune in no time.
How much does it cost to move a piano?
Should you decide to hire help so as to safely move your precious musical instrument, there will be some costs. Movers are usually paid by the hour, taking the following criteria into consideration.
- The type of piano you are trying to relocate
- The distance between the two places
- The difficulty of the move itself, due to stairs, grass patches, tight corners, etc.
- The number of people it takes to move it
- The season you are moving it in, seeing as it’s a lot more difficult to move it in winter time, for example
- The waiting time that the whole process might take.
Depending on the area you live in, here are some estimated moving prices.
- Orange County, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Sacramento, Utah, Tampa Bay – according to yelp.com, moving a piano in this area of the country will cost you $150 plus $3 per step, on average
- New York City (Brooklyn included), Pittsburgh, Kansas MO, Boston, Philadelphia, Raleigh NC, Charlotte NC, Baltimore – moving a piano in this area will cost you an average of $175
- Chicago, St Louis, Nashville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Tacoma – in this part of the country you will have to pay some $125 to $250 for an upright piano and $600 for a baby grand.
- Seattle – moving a piano in Seattle in a house with a single flight of stairs will cost you $250
- Denver – reviews show how in Denver, the moving of this musical instrument is worth an average of $188.
- Austin, Dallas, TX, Albuquerque – the local price in Texas and its surrounding areas can come to $225
- Minneapolis – this part of the country doesn’t come cheap since users report paying up to $600 for a quality move
- Ontario – although there are many variables to take into account, moving a piano in Ontario comes close to $200
Hiring professional help to secure moving your piano fast and easy is not cheap. This is why many people chose to do it themselves, accompanied by friends and family. However, while pondering on how to move a piano yourself, make sure you take into consideration all the advice and details we’ve put at your disposal in this guide.
Other Tips How the Piano Moving
Spinet pianos are the smallest of upright pianos (spinet, console, studio and upright). They are generally 36”-39” tall and 58” wide ranging in weight from 250-300 pounds. 2 men can handle these, unless flights of stairs are involved. If stairs are involved, a 3rd mover is probably a good idea.
A console is a little larger than the spinet measuring 40” to 43” tall and approximately 58” wide ranging around 300 to 350 pounds. Like any spinet, 2 men can handle without stairs and a 3rd man is better when flights are added.
Studio pianos are popular in schools and music studios because of high tone quality. They are generally 45” to 48”tall and 58”wide. The weight usually ranges from 300 to 400 pounds, and the preferred crew size should be 3 movers without stairs and 4 movers with stairs.
This is the largest and heaviest of the four pianos; they range from 48” to 50” tall and weigh 400 to 500 pounds, with the width of 58”. These pianos require a 4 man crew and can be even heavier if they are the “player” variety due to more internal guts.
Petite grand pianos are the smallest of the horizontal pianos measuring 4’5″ to 4’10” long. At least 3 movers are required for all horizontals because of disassembly of legs, removal of lids, music racks, and pedal assemblies. A “piano board” is also required for proper moving of horizontals. If the piano is moving up or down flights of stairs, a 4th mover is recommended.
This is the most popular size of horizontal measuring 4’11” to 5’7″ long. 3 men are fine for “baby grands” unless flights of stairs are involved, then a 4th mover is a good idea.
A parlor grand is similar to a “baby” ranging from 5’9” to 6’1” long. All other aspects resemble a “baby grand”. 3 movers are required for moving this piano, unless there are stairs involved, then a 4th mover should be used.
SEMI-CONCERT OR BALLROOM:
A semi concert or aka Ballroom piano measures about 7’ long. 4 men are preferred for handling this style of piano and anything larger. A 5TH mover can be added if there are flights of stairs involved.
At 9’ long this is the largest of all the horizontals and requires at least 4 men without stairs and should probably have a 5th or 6th man with flights of stairs.
The horizontals are definitely not for novices, because of the complicated disassembly, you should look for a company with extensive experience with these types of moves.
This list should provide you with tips and knowledge, in determining what style of piano you have when calling movers for estimates, and give you an idea of how many movers you will need to have your move done efficiently. Your accuracy in description can be the difference between the movers being prepared and unprepared to do your move properly.