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How to pack a moving truck

It's important to pack your moving truck properly

Edited by Jon Bortin

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    family loading a moving truck

    Moving can be a real hassle. Most people dread packing and relocating from one home to another. Knowing how to pack properly can minimize at least some of the stress, though. It simplifies your move, protects your belongings and makes unpacking easier.

    How to prepare for a move

    Begin by gathering your moving supplies. Choose boxes that are the correct size for the items you are packing — you don’t want a box that is so small that items are sticking out of it. You also don’t want a box that is so large that it's difficult to carry or has items rattling around.

    Here’s a complete list of supplies to collect for your move:

    • Boxes
    • Cushioning and packaging material
    • Packing tape
    • Marker or large felt-tip pen for labeling boxes
    • “Fragile” stickers
    • Stickers in several different colors for color-coding boxes according to rooms or contents
    • Blankets for covering furniture
    • Twine for securing items that may open, such as dressers

    Depending on the belongings you are packing, you may not need some of these supplies. There may also be things that you need that are not listed here.

    Always clearly label boxes before loading them in your moving truck.

    Once you have your supplies assembled, it’s time to begin packing and preparing for your move. Identify a staging area in your home. As you pack boxes, you can move them to this area so that they are out of the way — you can actually see your progress, which can be a great motivator. It also helps keep you organized.

    The area should be large enough that the boxes and items can be separated by room (the boxes should be color-coded using stickers), and you can set aside boxes that you’ll need to unpack first, like bed linens, towels and, of course, the all-important coffee maker!

    Best way to pack a moving truck

    When packing a moving truck, you want to do two things: maximize your space and evenly distribute the weight of heavy items.

    Begin by disassembling your furniture. This helps accomplish both of those goals. If you have dressers, chifforobes or desks with drawers, you can put boxes or other items inside to help keep them more secure.

    Sofas, tables, headboards, desks and other similar items should be loaded in an upright position. Use moving blankets to add some extra protection for these items.

    When packing a moving truck, you want to do two things: maximize your space and evenly distribute the weight of heavy items.”

    Clean your rugs, roll them with the top side facing out, wrap them in plastic and tie them securely. This saves room and protects your rugs. It is also an outstanding storage method.

    Make sure that you distribute the weight evenly so boxes will stay where you put them and you don’t have an avalanche of belongings falling on you when you open the door. Also, use moving straps to secure larger items and keep them from shifting as you're going down the road.

    Loading a moving truck in tiers and cells

    Many truck rental companies and moving experts recommend loading a moving truck in tiers if possible — this is often the best strategy for maximizing space and keeping your belongings from shifting in transit.

    The process is pretty simple. Use furniture pads, packing blankets, filling materials and stretch wrap.

    Load the truck in tiers. Load vertically, then tie off those tiers to form a cell. Continue this way, making sure that you fill in any gaps to prevent the contents from shifting, until you reach the rear of the truck. Make sure you tie down the last tier before closing the truck and getting on the road.

    Best order to load a moving truck

    When you load the truck, start with the heaviest and largest items. Furniture, large appliances, mattresses and similar items should be on the bottom toward the front, closest to the cab. This keeps the weight better distributed and prevents larger items from crushing the smaller ones.

    The lightest items should be loaded last. Small appliances, boxes, smaller furniture, pictures and other medium-to-small items go in after the larger items are loaded.

    Finish loading your truck by putting your important boxes at the very back of the truck so they are first off.

    Frequently asked questions

    Do movers load boxes or furniture first?
    Professional movers load furniture first to maximize space and evenly distribute weight.
    Should you empty a dresser when moving?
    If the dresser is not stable or feels flimsy, then keeping the contents in the drawers could put added stress on it and cause it to break or crack. In that case, empty the drawers. If the dresser is solid, you can simply secure the drawers. Always remove an attached mirror before moving.
    How do you protect furniture when moving?
    Use packing blankets, moving pads and plastic wrap to protect furniture when you move it.
    How can you protect floors when moving?
    Get some red rosin paper or cardboard to lay on your floors to protect them. You can also use furniture sliders or runners. If you have boards like plywood or other floor protection boards, you can use that to protect your floors.
    How long does it take to load a moving truck?
    This depends on a lot of factors. Two professional movers can load the contents of a first-floor apartment in about an hour or two if the truck is less than 50 feet from the door. In general, loading a 24-foot moving truck takes about four hours. A 26-foot moving truck takes up to five hours to load.

    If there are floors above the first, add 20% of the time to each floor. If your moving truck is parked more than 50 feet from the door, add 20% for every 50 feet.

    How long does it take to unload a moving truck?
    Unloading a moving truck takes about the same time as loading it. A small box truck (holding the contents of a small apartment) can be unloaded in an hour or two. A larger truck, such as a 24-footer, takes about four hours to unload, and a truck that is 26 feet takes about five hours to unload.

    Professional movers can unload contents in the shortest possible time. It probably will take you a bit longer, especially if you have little or no help. If you don’t have a hand truck to load the larger items, that can also add to your time.

    Bottom line

    When you’re moving, take the time to pack your items carefully and mindfully. Yes, it adds some extra time and effort, but the rewards are worth it. Your move and unpacking will be more organized and less stressful. Plus, there is a much better chance that your belongings arrive safely.

    Once you pack up properly, your next step is to learn how to unpack your new home. If you are moving to an older property, you might also be interested in reading about home warranty companies to protect your household systems and appliances.

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