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Moving a Piano: Why You’re Doing It All Wrong On Your Own

Everyone loves doing big tasks themselves, especially when it comes to saving money by taking on a job you’d otherwise have to leave to the professionals. So it is when it comes to moving a piano. Many people think that all it takes is muscles to get that piano to a new location. And that’s why, in many cases, do-it-yourselfers are – you guessed it – doing it all wrong.

Everyone knows a piano has 88 keys, but did you know that it’s common for them to have more than 10,000 moving parts – 10,000 moving parts that might wind up moving when you don’t want them to. The big professional moving companies – Allied Van Lines, North American Van Lines, Atlas Van Lines and many others – have expertise and equipment that most amateurs lack when it comes to moving a piano. That’s in addition to the muscle they need for a particular job.

How much does it cost to move a piano?

MYMOVE polled piano movers in Charlotte to see what it would cost to move a baby grand piano six miles in mid-May. Their answers:

Mover Specifics Cost
Carey Moving and Storage (a local Allied agent) 3 movers, 3 hours (minimum) $739
DeHaven’s Transfer and Storage (a North American agent) Flat rate $1,000
College Hunks Hauling Junk 3 or 4 movers, 2 hour minimum $270 or $370
Piano Movers (no specifics provided) $375

Keep in mind there can be regional differences, but the above numbers provide a guide.

If those numbers scare you, you might decide to do it yourself or with friends. Following are some common mistakes DIYers make moving a piano, some tips if you feel you must do it yourself, and a plea to do the smart – if not cheap – thing to move the music with you when you go.

How you’re doing it all wrong

  • Forgetting the scales. Playing the scales on a piano is one thing. Putting the piano on the scales – to know how big the job is going to be – is another. That’s not how you’ll figure out much the piano weighs, and that weight should guide the strategy you’ll use for the move as you navigate tight passageways, corners, doors, and, maybe worst of all, stairs. So how do you figure out the weight? Obviously, a piano’s weight varies greatly by the model. Grand pianos can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds or as little as 500 pounds. As for upright models, one that’s less than 48 inches high can weigh as little as 300 pounds. If your piano is 48 inches tall or more, it can weigh as much as 800 pounds.

  • Supporting players. Those weights are pretty daunting, so you’ll need to recruit help. Even the smallest of upright pianos means it probably will take at least three adults to get it safely from one place to another. Remember this: The consequences of dropping a piano are severe.

  • Forgetting to strap yourself. Or to use the right equipment and protection. All dollies aren’t created equal – you need a four-wheel piano dolly, specially made piano padding, and designated piano straps tightened to the correct tension.

  • Casting your fate. Specifically, don’t rely on your piano’s casters (if the piano legs have them). They’re not really made to roll great distances, and they weaken with time. And those rollers can jam, too. That can mean torn carpet and deep scratches on floors.

  • Upping the tempo. Moving a piano is hard, and it shouldn’t be done in a hurry – that’s when you make mistakes that can result in injuries to you, your helpers, your floors, your walls, and more.

Some tips for moving a piano yourself

If you’re dead set on moving a piano without professional help, you can take steps to make things go more smoothly:

  • Make sure it fits. Measure the room in the new place so you’ll be confident that things will go well. Measure doors and staircases, too.

  • Get equipped for the job. Get the dolly, straps and any other equipment you need to do the job right.

  • Clear the paths first. Make sure you have a clear path to the door in the place you’re moving from and from the door to the now location for the piano.

  • Secure and safe. The piano should be one of the first things loaded on the truck. And remember those casters that might not roll when you want them to? It can be a totally different situation when you don’t want them to roll. Secure the piano with straps and ropes to prevent this.

  • Stair down a path. If you have to go up or down stairs with the piano, make sure the stairs can bear the weight of the instrument.

  • Staying in tune. Moving a piano, even when everything goes well, can result in it going out of tune along the way. Be prepared to have it retuned after the move – though many experts advise waiting a month before doing it.

Here’s the best answer for how to move pianos

When moving a piano, hire a pro like one of the ones mentioned earlier – Allied Van Lines, North American Van Lines, Atlas Van Lines, and others, including local piano moving companies.

Yes, depending on the size of the piano, how far you’re moving it, whether stairs are involved, you could have to pay anywhere from $200 to $1,000 or so, just like in the example above. But pros use the right equipment and techniques, and they’ll know whether and how to remove the piano legs – and how to re-attach them. Plus, you can get a guarantee that they’ll do the job right. As opposed to the friends you’re paying with beer and pizza who’ll be sorry but take no responsibility for any mistakes along the way.

The risks to the piano and to the amateur movers and to the locations you’re moving from and to are too great. Do yourself, your friends and sweet music a favor and opt out of this do-it-yourself effort. At least make sure that when you’re carrying a tune (or tune maker, in this case), you’re not doing it all wrong.

Arthur Murray

Arthur has nearly 30 years of newspaper and magazine experience. A native of Virginia, Arthur attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism.

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