How to move a grandfather clock

They’re tall, heavy and fragile — plan to do your research and employ precision

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grandfather clock in a living room

People treasure their grandfather clocks, especially if they are antiques or family heirlooms that are difficult or impossible to replace. But grandfather clocks are tall, complex and heavy, typically weighing between 100 and 300 pounds. When you think about all the steps and knowledge required to move a grandfather clock, it can feel as involved and laborious as what it takes to move a piano.

That is why you should consider employing a professional mover or clock service person to move a delicate grandfather clock. However, if you can’t afford to hire an expert, you can move a grandfather clock with the help of one other person, research, supplies and an abundance of care.

Key insights

Since not all grandfather clocks are identical, it's important to research your specific clock before you begin the moving process.

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You should have one other person to help you move a grandfather clock, but more than one helper could potentially get in the way.

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Hiring a professional to move a grandfather clock is preferred, but if you choose a DIY approach, make sure you have the supplies and knowledge necessary to move your specific clock.

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Moving a grandfather clock yourself vs. hiring a mover

A grandfather clock is a fragile, weighty timepiece. That is why you should first consider hiring a professional before deciding to move the grandfather clock yourself (with a helper). Hiring a professional to move your grandfather clock can also be beneficial if you have a busy schedule and cannot devote the time to researching and moving the clock.

A professional mover can have a grandfather clock ready to move in under an hour, according to Nick Valentino, vice president of market operations at moving company Bellhop. Plus, if you have physical limitations or are worried about injuring yourself during the process, a professional mover can be especially helpful.

If you previously used a moving company and were happy with its service, call to ask if they move grandfather clocks. If you don’t know of a moving company, ask friends, family, neighbors or your social media connections for a recommendation.

You can also find professional movers using resources like Thumbtack or TaskRabbit. Regardless of how you find potential companies, do read online reviews to make sure the mover is reputable. Ask the moving company how much they charge to move a grandfather clock to see if the price is within your budget.

If hiring a mover is not within your price range, allocate enough time to research, disassemble, move and reassemble your grandfather clock. Ensure you have all the tools and supplies you will need to properly and safely move the clock, as well as one other person to assist you in the moving process.

» LEARN: Moving yourself vs. hiring movers

Steps to moving a grandfather clock

Moving a grandfather clock requires three key approaches: research, precision and safety. It is also important to note that not all grandfather clocks are alike. “With the various ages, types and styles of grandfather clocks, it is tough to generalize,” Rafael Delgado, owner of Watchpital, a watch, clock and jewelry service and repair center in Fishkill, New York, said in an email.

Whatever you do, don't try to move a grandfather clock without taking it apart first. There's just too much risk that something inside will break. ”
— Nick Valentino, Bellhop

While the following steps are a helpful guide, make sure you are aware of any other moving instructions that may be specific to your grandfather clock. If you are unsure or have questions, reach out to a professional for advice.

  1. Enlist the help of one other person to move the grandfather clock.
  2. Ensure that you have a van or truck you can rent that will fit the clock when it is standing in its upright position. A grandfather clock should never be moved on its side.
  3. Open the grandfather clock’s door. This may require the clock’s key.
  4. Stop the clock’s pendulum from swinging by holding it in place.
  5. If your grandfather clock utilizes cables to help it move, insert a small piece of foam or folded newspaper in between the cables and above the pulleys. This will help maintain tension on the cables once you remove the weights.
  6. On the clock’s dial, there should be one to three crank holes where you will individually insert the clock’s crank. Typically, you use the crank to wind the clock, lifting the weights to their original position on a weekly basis.
  7. With the weights still on the clock, move the crank counterclockwise until all weights are fully wound up to their topmost position. If your grandfather clock is chain-driven, wind the weights about halfway to three-quarters up the clock using your crank. Do not wind them all the way to the top to avoid damaging the sprockets or chains.
  8. Use a soft cloth to remove the weights from their hooks. Check that they are securely fastened at the top.
  9. Make sure each of the weights is labeled with its position relative to when you are facing the clock (left, middle and right). This is significant because each weight weighs a different amount and must be replaced in its correct position when the clock is put back together.
  10. Wrap the weights in cushioning material and safely place them in a moving box designated for your clock’s parts. For chain-driven grandfather clocks: Remove the side access panel to see and access the clock’s chains. Take a twist tie and, underneath the clock’s sprockets, thread the tie through the links on both sides of the chain. Twist the tie. Do this for each of the clock’s chains so that the chains remain on the sprockets during transportation.
  11. Remove the side access panel at the top of your clock to locate the pendulum guide. Wrap the access panel in cushioning and place it in your clock’s moving box. If the panel is glass, give it an extra layer of wrapping or padding.
  12. Grab the pendulum guide with one hand. With the other hand covered in a soft cloth or glove, reach inside the front of the clock, grasp the pendulum and raise it slightly to unhook it from the pendulum guide.
  13. Wrap the pendulum in packaging material and securely place it in your clock’s designated moving box. If the pendulum was secured with a pin, place the pin in a labeled bag or container so that it does not get lost.
  14. Take a piece of cardboard that is about 1 by 3 inches. In a straight line, poke holes in the cardboard that are approximately 1 inch apart.
  15. Thread the grandfather clock’s chime rods through the holes in the cardboard. Adjust the cardboard so that it sits at the top of the chime rods. This will prevent the rods from breaking off during transport.
  16. Remove the remaining side access panel. Wrap the panel in packaging material and place it in your moving box.
  17. Lock the grandfather clock. Place the clock’s key and crank in a labeled plastic bag or container so that you do not lose them.
  18. If any of the clock’s decorative pieces are removable, take them off the clock, wrap them in cushioning and place them in your moving box.
  19. Wrap the entire grandfather clock in packaging material or moving blankets. Secure the load with plastic wrap to keep it bundled and protected from moisture or dirt.
  20. Get a hand truck, which is an L-shaped wheeled cart used to move heavy objects, that can handle the grandfather clock’s specific weight.
  21. With the clock in its vertical position, have your moving assistant help you tilt or lift the clock onto the hand truck. Use the hand truck’s straps or your own to secure the grandfather clock to the hand truck.
  22. Carefully transport the grandfather clock to the truck or van you plan to move it in, taking extra care on stairs and around corners.
  23. Secure the grandfather clock onto the truck or van using ratchet straps.
  24. Place the moving box containing all of the grandfather clock’s parts on the vehicle.
  25. Move the clock to its new location and follow the above steps in reverse.

Tips for moving a grandfather clock

Here are a few tips for moving your clock safely and effectively:

  • Enlist the help of one other person. According to Valentino of Bellhop, having more than one helper is not needed and would actually be too much.
  • Make sure you have all the materials you need to move the clock and its parts: foam, newspaper, a soft cloth, packaging material, padding or moving blankets, plastic wrap, a hand truck and ratchet straps.
  • When you find a hand truck to move a grandfather clock, check that the hand truck can handle the clock’s size and weight.
  • Use soft gloves or a cloth to handle all of the clock’s delicate parts.
  • Check that your vehicle can fit the clock. If not, rent or borrow a moving truck or van.
  • “Whatever you do, don't try to move a grandfather clock without taking it apart first,” Valentino said. “There's just too much risk that something inside will break.”
  • Valentino advised taking notes as you work to disassemble the grandfather clock so you can refer to them when putting the clock back together. Filming a video of the process can also be helpful to refer back to during reassembly.
  • Take extra care when you remove the clock’s weights and pendulums. Delgado said most grandfather clocks have glass panels, which can be damaged if these heavy parts are dropped or mishandled.
  • Pay close attention to where the pendulum is set on the clock because, according to Delgado, if the pendulum’s adjustment is moved, the clock will not run or run out of beat when reassembled.

Putting the clock back together

Once you have your grandfather clock at its new location, follow the above steps in reverse order to reassemble the clock. You can also refer back to any notes or videos you took during the disassembly process. Make sure that you handle all of the grandfather clock’s parts with soft gloves or a cloth so as not to damage them.

According to Watchpital’s Delgado, the best placement for a grandfather clock is against an interior wall. “Any clock, not just grandfather clocks, should if possible not be on an outside wall,” he said. “Heat and cold could affect it.”

If you are worried about children or pets tipping the grandfather clock over, you can use an anti-tipping strap to secure the clock to the wall. Delgado states that most large clocks come with an anti-tipping strap, but if your grandfather clock does not have one, you can easily purchase one online or at a hardware store.

Otherwise, if you don’t have children or pets to worry about, Delgado says that grandfather clocks are stable enough to stand on their own without anti-tipping gear.

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What is the cost of moving a grandfather clock with a professional mover?

Professional packing for a grandfather clock will usually cost between $100 and $200, according to Nick Valentino, vice president of market operations at moving company Bellhop. As for having a professional transport the grandfather clock in a moving truck, it typically costs at least $100 more.

According to Rafeal Delgado, owner of watch, clock, and jewelry service and repair center Watchpital, prices to professionally move a grandfather clock can vary based on factors such as the distance traveled and number of stairs required to move the clock.

How do you move a grandfather clock from room to room?

When moving a grandfather clock from room to room, if no stairs are involved, Delgado recommends waiting until the clock runs down, which means that the weights drop down to the bottom of the clock.

Since each of the grandfather clock’s weights performs a different function within the clock, they each drop at a different rate. Typically, after about a week, all the weights will end up at the bottom of the clock. At this point, you would usually use the clock’s crank to rewind the weights back to their original positions to keep the clock running.

However, if you are moving the clock from room to room, leave the weights at the bottom of the clock. Then, pad the weights with blankets or another soft material to prevent them from swinging and damaging the clock. “Two people should grasp the clock from the top and slowly move the clock without swinging the inner weights and pendulum,” Delgado says. “This should work for changing the position of the clock in a room or on the same floor.”

If you are moving a grandfather clock from one room to another and it requires traversing a set of stairs, follow the above steps for moving a grandfather clock — minus the moving truck. “You'll want to use a moving pad, cart or moving straps to keep it level and upright during the process, and use a spotter to keep it from tipping,” Valentino said.

You will not need to pack the grandfather clock’s parts in a moving box. Simply wrap them in a soft cloth or padding, place them in a safe location and then move them from room to room.

How long does it take to move a grandfather clock?

“Professionals can have a grandfather clock packed and ready to move within an hour, in most cases,” Valentino said. However, if you are moving a clock from room to room and need to wait until each of the clock’s weights have reached their lowest position, that could require extra time.

This is because “grandfather clocks are powered mechanically by weights,” Valentino explained. “When the weights reach the bottom of the clock, the clock won't run anymore until you reset them.” Usually, it takes about a week for all of the clock’s weights to drop to the bottom of the clock.

Moving a grandfather clock without professional help will likely take several hours, according to Delgado. This includes researching the grandfather clock, preparing to move with proper supplies, disassembling the clock, moving and transporting the timepiece and reassembling the clock at its new location.

What precautions do you need to take if you move a grandfather clock with no professional help?

Before moving the timepiece without professional help, it’s important to research your specific grandfather clock. Make sure that you know where all your clock’s parts are located, how to remove them and how to reassemble them before taking the grandfather clock apart.

When moving a grandfather clock without experts, you will also want to make sure all the clock’s parts are labeled and safely stored in a moving box. Do not be afraid to use extra cushioning or padding — especially when transporting the grandfather clock’s glass pieces.

Can you transport a grandfather clock in the horizontal position?

It is not recommended to transport a grandfather clock in the horizontal position because it could cause the clock’s inner parts to move during transportation, resulting in damage to the clock. This is especially the case if you are not hiring a professional mover or clock service person to relocate the grandfather clock.

Bottom line

When it comes time to move a grandfather clock, you will want to first consider hiring a professional to save on time and prevent damage to the clock. If you cannot afford to hire an expert or would prefer the DIY route, make sure you recruit a helper and set aside enough time to research your specific clock, so that you can properly disassemble and reassemble its inner pieces.

“Taking the clock apart is essential and it's possible to damage it during this process, or during reassembly,” Bellhop’s Valentino said. Closely and slowly follow the steps required to move your clock from one location to another, doing so with supplies such as a hand truck designed for the grandfather clock’s weight and size. While taking the clock apart, write notes or film the process so that you won’t struggle to put the timepiece back together in its new home.

Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Accessed Jan. 23, 2024.
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