On move day, your piano is likely to be the most awkward, most expensive, and heaviest item to move. Understanding how to move a piano safely by yourself, is critical. Unlike other DIY jobs the stakes are incredibly high; one bad move and your piano and any flooring (or people) underneath it could be damaged/injured. In this guide we discuss all necessary steps to ensure your piano’s safety before, during, and after the move.
The short of it: to move a piano yourself you will need to cover the piano with blankets, use moving straps and a dolly to transport it to the U-Hual type truck, and recruit many helpers to make sure the process goes smoothly.
Piano Moving Prep
Step 1: Make Sure You Actually Want to Do it Yourself
As mentioned, when you move your piano you risk the safety of the piano and the movers. You can hire piano movers for about $150 – $550. Only if I could answer yes to at least 1 of the follow questions would I attempt the move myself:
- Can I secure 3-6 strong helpers and other equipment?
- Is my piano inexpensive enough that I am ok with the risk?
- Is the move sufficiently easy? (Few steps, sharp turns, short carrying distance, etc)
Step 2: Gather Equipment
So you’ve decided to go for it, great. Let’s talk about the equipment you need:
- Heavy duty work gloves (for grip)
- Dolly (that can bear 500+ lbs)
- Moving straps (that secure over the movers shoulders and underneath the piano)
- Duct tape
- Piano skid board (if you move a grand)
- Truck (probably you want a uhaul type truck instead of a pick-up – more on that later)
- 3-6 strong friends
Step 3: Plan a Path and Take Measurements
It may be obvious the path you should take, but if not you can decide by considering the dimensions of the obstacles. The most challenging obstacles are stairs, turns, and doorways. Take measurements of all these obstacles, and compare them to the width of the piano or height of the piano + dolly as appropriate.
Turns can be hard to measure. If you are struggling, gather a group of 3 people. Have one person hold one end of the measuring tape on one wall, another on the perpendicular wall, and a third on the obtruding corner. Have the two people on the perpendicular walls adjust their positions until the tape measure reads its shortest mark. That shortest mark should be larger than the width of the piano in order to successfully complete the turn. Note: if the turn happens at a 3 or 4 way hallway intersection, you may be able to finagle your piano between rooms to achieve the turn more effectively.
Stairs are treacherous. A move up stairs is probably best left to the experts. However, if you do attempt it you will need to make a make shift ramp out of plywood to place over the flight of stairs. You can read more about moving a piano upstairs here.
Step 4: Clear the Path
This is a self explanatory step, but worth mentioning. You will have at least 3 people on the piano, so the path should be as wide as possible. Additionally, note any bumps in the path; you will need to navigate these with particular care.
Moving the Piano
At this point you have made all necessary preparations, and have gathered your rag-tag group of movers around the piano. It’s time to move that piano!
Step 5: Take Precautions
Some of the precautions the movers should all be aware of are:
- To lift with their thighs by bending their knees, not their back.
- If the piano goes down, don’t try to save it. It is too heavy and could cause serious injuries.
- Don’t lift by the legs or pedals.
- Don’t use the piano’s wheels if it has them. These are for small adjustments not large movements.
Step 6: Wrap the Piano
Close and tape the lid shut. Place the blankets and padding around the piano. Cover the pedals with a cloth or plastic covering. Secure all padding with straps, or duct tape. If you use tape, be careful not to apply it directly to the exterior of the piano.
Step 7: Place the Piano on a Dolly or Skid Board
If you are working with an upright you’ll want to place moving straps beneath the piano with straps secured on the two peoples shoulders. Then have everybody lift the piano carefully onto the dolly.
If you are moving a grand piano you first need to remove the legs with a screwdriver. To do so have as many people as you can hold the frame of the piano, while another person unscrews the legs. The person who unscrews should position themselves away from the piano frame, so that if it falls they won’t get crushed. Place the piano on its side on the dolly or skid board. You should research dismantling a grand piano, before doing so.
Step 8: Wheel the Piano to the Moving Truck
One person can push in the back, one can guide in the front, and one or two can stabilize on either side. Watch out for any bumps along the way. If you run into a set of up to four steps, you can transition back to using the moving straps with as many other hands supporting the instrument over the steps.
If the piano is in a moving truck with other furniture, place it against the front wall where it won’t bounce as much as towards the rear. Secure it to the truck walls with straps.
If you are taking the piano far, or it is a particularly hot/cold day, the truck should have temperature control.
Remove the piano and place it in its new home!
After Moving the Piano
Step 9: Clean up
Remove any blankets. If it is a grand carefully screw the legs back on with the help of your crew. Make sure to place the piano away from fire places, direct sunlight, vents, windows, doors and exterior walls as all these places can have higher temperature and humidity fluctuations which will make your piano sound out of tune quicker. Piano tuners will often cost about $100.
Step 10: Retune the Piano
When a piano moves, it often looses it intonation, especially if it was bumped. It takes several weeks for a piano to acclimate to a new location, so wait to tune it.
You have officially moved your piano. Congrats!
Can you move a piano laying down?
Rotating the piano won’t damage it, however, bumping or dropping it could. Also check for any loose pins, pencils, or other small items in the piano, by opening the front panels. There are 1000+ moving parts in a piano; these items could cause damage if wedged in the wrong spot.
How much does an upright, baby grand, or grand piano weigh?
So you know what you are up against:
- Uprights are about 500 lbs
- Baby grands are 500-800 lbs
- Grands are around 1000 lbs
Can you move a piano in a pick up or U-Hual?
You can safely move a piano in a U-Hual type moving truck, however a pick up is more risky. The pick up truck might not have as secure places to strap the piano to and may be bouncier if it has poor suspension. In addition, it will be challenging to get the piano up to the level of the tail gate; if you place a ramp on the tail gate, it may not be strong enough to support the weight of the piano and the movers.
How much does it cost to higher piano movers?
Generally it costs $150 to $550. This varies depending on factors such as your area’s cost of living, transportation distance, type of piano (grand, baby grand, upright), number of flights of stairs involved in the move, and more. Additionally you will need to pay tips.
Hiring a piano mover is a good idea for challenging moves with stair cases involved, and when you are transporting an expensive piano – especially grand pianos. A perk of hiring a moving company is that they often include insurance.
You can learn more about the cost of moving a piano here.
Does moving a piano damage it?
No. The only concern in moving a piano is if it is bumped or dropped. Often moving a piano throws the tuning out of wack, but as long as you are safe, significant damage shouldn’t occur.
That said, I read of a piano technician who found some of his pianos to be untunable because of structural damage. He usually found that the damage was caused by a poor move job.
How do you move a piano without scratching it?
This is a valid concern. Often pianos have a polyester resin finish, which if scratched or gauged can shatter like glass. By following the process outlined in this article – using padding, carefully planning your turns, not dropping the piano, etc – you should be fine.
If you are still anxious, try using more blankets during the wrapping phase, and to wrap it completely.
There are more risks in moving your piano than other DIY jobs, however, if you take appropriate precautions, you can move your piano without professional help. Be sure you have the right equipment, proper planning, and sufficient helpers so that you can complete the process successfully.