How to move a piano
Can you do it yourself?
So, you’ve inherited your grandfather’s old piano and need to get it home. This is no small task, and whether you decide to do it yourself or hire professionals, keep in mind that a piano is both fragile and heavy — it’s this combination that makes for a complicated move. It’s crucial to have the right equipment and enough manpower to move it safely.
- A piano may weigh anywhere from 200 to 1,200 pounds, and moving even a small one can take at least two people.
- Without the correct equipment, moving a piano can be dangerous to the movers and the piano itself.
- The process will differ slightly depending on whether you have an upright or grand piano.
Piano moving equipment
Unlike when moving the rest of your belongings, you can’t simply put your piano in a box or load it into a truck without significant planning and equipment. Because pianos are bulky, heavy and delicate, they must be loaded and transported in a way that supports their weight and minimizes damage.
Moving an upright piano is easier than relocating a grand, but they both require some muscle power and specialized equipment. At minimum, you’ll need a moving dolly, straps and padding in the form of moving blankets or moving pads. You’ll also probably need a ramp to get the piano into the truck and up and down steps.
How you move your piano largely depends on whether it’s a spinet, console, upright or grand model
Moving an upright piano
For upright pianos, you need a dolly that can support the size and weight of the piano. A standard dolly should work, but some are only rated to hold 400 to 600 pounds, while a heavy-duty furniture dolly can hold 800 to 1,000 pounds. Some of the bigger uprights can weigh up to 800 pounds — if this is the case for yours, make sure your dolly is rated accordingly.
You’ll also need straps to place under the piano and hoist it on and off the dolly and into the back of the truck. Although it’s possible to use these straps without a shoulder harness or lifting belt, it’s not advisable except for with the smallest pianos, like a spinet or console, which may only weigh around 200 pounds. For all others, rent or purchase a harness that allows you to bear the weight of the piano on your shoulders without injuring yourself or risking a drop.
Moving a grand or baby grand piano
Grand pianos are significantly larger than uprights and can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. They’re also more unwieldy, which affects how you can transport them.
Grand pianos require a specialized dolly (called a “piano board” or “piano skid board”). This is a longer, padded dolly that’s specifically designed for moving grand pianos. They’re stronger than standard dollies and include slots to strap on the body of the piano directly. You’ll also need heavy-duty strapping and a harness to safely lift and secure the piano to the skid board.
Moving a piano step by step
When moving a piano on your own, the most important thing to remember is to take your time and plan carefully. Don’t attempt it at the last minute — you could end up hurting yourself or damaging the piano, floors, walls or door frames as you move it from one location to another.
1. Measure your spaces
Take accurate measurements of all areas the piano will move through. This includes its current location as well as your new space, whether that’s 10 miles down the road or 1,000 miles across the county. Measure doorways, corners, staircases, landings and the height of the truck you’ll be transporting the piano in. You don’t want to find out halfway through your move that you can’t actually fit it in the room you were planning.
2. Gather your equipment (including helpers)
At minimum, this means renting or buying a dolly or piano board, heavy-duty strapping and padding material. Ideally, the two main movers will also be outfitted with a shoulder or body harness.
3. Prepare the piano
The steps for preparing your piano for a move vary depending on the type of piano you own.
Upright: Make sure the piano is closed up completely, including the keyboard lid, which should be locked if possible. Cover the entire piano in a moving blanket or furniture pad and use packing tape to secure it. You can then slide the straps underneath and lift the piano straight up and place it squarely on the dolly. It’s helpful to have a third person who can position the dolly directly under the piano.
Grand or baby grand: Close and lock the piano and the keyboard lid. Remove the legs of the piano with a screwdriver and store them and the bolts in a safe place, preferably wrapped in a moving blanket. To do this, you’ll need one to two helpers to hold the body of the piano in place while you work. It’s easiest to remove the front left leg first, then rest the left side (the longest side) of the piano on the skid while you remove the remaining two legs.
If your skid doesn’t have sufficient padding, fold a furniture pad and place it underneath for added cushioning. Once it’s securely on the skid, wrap the piano in moving blankets, securing it with straps, bungee cords or tape. Never put tape directly on the piano, only on your packing material. Lastly, use two or three straps to secure the piano to the board using the existing slots.
4. Clear the pathway
Make sure you have an unobstructed path directly to the truck. This includes moving all furniture out of the way, rolling up rugs and ensuring any ramps are in place and secured.
5. Load and unload the piano
Moving slowly and deliberately, wheel the piano to your loading location and up the ramp into the truck. Ideally, the piano should be loaded into your moving truck first and positioned as close to the back wall as possible. This is the most secure location and will reduce shifting during transit.
Remove it from the dolly and strap it to the floor or walls of the moving van. Ensuring it’s strapped down securely is especially important if you’re moving a long distance.
Essentially you’ll reverse the steps to move your piano into its new space, clearing a path ahead of time.
Tips for moving a piano
What else is there to know about moving a piano? Here are some tips:
- You can purchase a piano board directly from a retailer, but you may be able to rent one from a local moving supply company and save yourself some money.
- Never attempt to move a grand piano by its legs. Kate Hart, relocations manager of Fantastic Removals, a moving and storage company in London, points out that “a piano's legs are vulnerable to breakage, and if you lift a piano by its legs, the weight balance can shift, causing them to snap.”
- If possible, roll up all the carpets in the house. Hart also warns that “pianos are heavy and difficult to move, especially when a carpet is involved. Pushing a piano over a carpeted floor will cause the legs to break because of the extreme weight of the instrument and the surface friction of the carpet.”
- Many pianos have wheels or casters under the legs, but these should not be used to move the instrument more than a few inches for final positioning. These are designed to bear the weight of a piano when it’s stationary, and attempting to roll it any distance can bend or break the wheels or cause severe damage to floors and carpets.
- At minimum, you should have two strong individuals to lift the piano, but it’s also helpful to have an extra set of hands to slide the dolly underneath the piano to make sure it’s positioned correctly and to keep the path cleared.
- Plan to have your piano tuned after the move and once it’s in its permanent location. Even a short move can cause one of the over 12,000 individual parts of your piano to move out of place and go out of tune.
If you need to store your piano for any length of time, choose a professional company that ensures a climate-controlled environment to prevent warping of the wood, ideally between 68 and 70 degrees.
Can you move a piano yourself?
The short answer is yes, but if you have any reservations about being able to do this on your own, you should hire professionals.
How much do piano movers cost?
According to our survey of 15 piano movers, professional piano movers charge an average of $275 to move an upright and $450 to move a grand, but this is only based on local rates. A long-distance move will run you $500 to $1,000 on average, regardless of the type of piano. However, if you’re moving a piano along with the rest of your belongings, a general moving company should be able to quote you a modest upcharge for packing up your piano as well.
Is it worth hiring a moving company for a piano?
There’s no one answer to this question, and whether you choose to hire movers will depend on how valuable your piano is and your budget. If you’re fairly confident in the process, most people can move an upright by themselves with the right equipment, but you may find moving a grand more challenging and decide it’s worth bringing in professionals.
Does moving insurance cover pianos?
If you’re working with professional movers to move across state lines, the company is legally required to offer two coverage options for the valuation of your belongings: released value protection and full-value protection. Both plans provide valuation based on weight, with released value providing minimal coverage and full-value protection providing comprehensive — but also more expensive — coverage.
In either case, if you have items of “extraordinary value,” they must be individually listed and you should check with your mover to see if your piano falls into this category.
Those with valuable pianos may wish to purchase extra coverage so they’re not left like Loren of Michigan, a reviewer on our site who hired professional movers. When they arrived at the house, “the movers had no information regarding what I contracted and so had no idea that I had a 1939 Steinway to move or that I had paid to have my kitchen and bathrooms packed by them. No furniture was wrapped and all was damaged including the piano.”
Owning a piano can provide entertainment and educational opportunities, and playing and listening to music have been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. However, moving a piano into your home can be challenging. That said, it’s completely possible to move a piano on your own with adequate help and the right equipment — though in some cases hiring a moving company may be a better option.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page. Specific sources for this article include:
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), “Liability & Protection.” Accessed October 27, 2022.
- Michigan State University, “The role of music in stress management.” Accessed October 28, 2022.
You’re signed up
We’ll start sending you the news you need delivered straight to you. We value your privacy. Unsubscribe easily.