How to move a piano
August 10, 2005 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Can 4 strong guys move a piano up 1 flight of stairs safely? and are there techniques or strategies in addition to brute force? Upright piano abandoned by 1st floor neighbors. I'd like to have it, but don't want anyone getting hurt.
posted by theora55 to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hire a moving company, or at least get an estimate. It'll be a bargain compared to possibly maiming your friends.
posted by words1 at 9:08 PM on August 10, 2005

Use a dolly, with straps, mind that the straps are on the solid frame and not the cabinet panels, moving pads to protect the corners, some dollys are designed for stairs. Local rental outfits have a variety. It is important that it be moved upright, not on end, clear the way of obstructions. Take your time.
be careful. good luck, they are heavy. Nice find btw.
If you can afford it hire pros.
posted by hortense at 9:19 PM on August 10, 2005

You definately want a piano dolly, and possibly two more friends. Pianos are a bitch to move, and even more so without the dolly.
posted by nmiell at 9:43 PM on August 10, 2005

If you care about the tune, or it's a valuable piano to start with, it's worth hiring pros. If you don't, at least use the money to hire a tuner afterwards. But it'll definitely be easy to get hurt if you're not very careful and smart. Hiring someone is preferable if it's an option.
posted by nickmark at 9:44 PM on August 10, 2005

Yes -- get pros. I have an upright piano and it was an asskicker just getting it up & down a 30-degree ramp on a Penske truck. Someone could get seriously hurt if you lose your grip on the piano, which is a real possibility in my experience.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:07 PM on August 10, 2005

My experience parallels rolypolyman's. Much harder than it should be.

There is no such thing as a free piano.
posted by words1 at 10:15 PM on August 10, 2005

A friend of mine once volunteered us to move a used upright piano another friend had purchased. There were four of us, all fairly strong (and a couple way strong), and the source and destination were both ground floor, so we only had to go down a step, into and out of a truck, then up a couple of steps. Even then, it was tough. There's no way I'd ever try moving a piano up or down a flight of stairs. I definitely agree with everyone that's recommended professionals.

Also, maybe you've already considered this, but will the stairs and your floor support a piano? It's a lot of weight concentrated in a fairly small area. I don't know if normal floors need to be reinforced to hold pianos, but it's definitely something I'd check into.
posted by blm at 11:01 PM on August 10, 2005

Interesting business name I trundled up: Deathwish Piano Movers. Hmmm. The thing is, the pros do this with cranes and stuff. I would really agree, there's no such thing as a free piano. How's your liability insurance?

You might even consider the pros and cons of moving downstairs, to where the piano is. ;-)

A piano's weight shouldn't be a worry on any reasonably constructed building (heck, they're largely air). Be careful on a porch or deck, though.
posted by dhartung at 12:09 AM on August 11, 2005

I used to work at piano store. I sold and hauled many pianos. Anyway you slice it, it's a bitch hauling pianos, especially up stairs.

BUT, it can be done with four strong backs and this "on sale" for $231.26. It's what the pros use.

I just found one on ebay. Current bid $15.50.

It consists of two solid oak frames and casters (wheels) with long handles for extra leverage that strap on to the piano with heavy nylon straps. It's what you gotta have. If you don't have 'em, you are gonna be hurting. Those big oak handles on the sides give you the leverage you need to move it up the stairs one step at a time, which, of course, is the only way.

If you hire someone to move it for you they will use that device.
posted by wsg at 1:04 AM on August 11, 2005

If you hire someone to move it for you they will use that device.

Let me clarify: if you hire professionals to move it, that's what they'll use.
posted by wsg at 1:11 AM on August 11, 2005

Moving a piano upstairs can be done with as few as two guys. In my experience as a piano mover, the key was not a dolly, but a piano skid.

A skid is basically a long flat board that's reinforced and padded with a lip on one end. They are primarily used for moving grand pianos, but have various other uses in a piano movers arsenal.

I don't recommend amateurs trying to tackle an upstairs move on their first run out of the blocks. In the least it's dangerous to the piano, and at worst deadly to the people moving it. Their centers of gravity move in all sorts of strange ways when you get them up in the air. Call a piano store and hire some pros who'll do it right and who'll be insured in case anything happens to the piano or the surrounding walls. And when I say pros, don't call a run of the mill moving company, call a piano store... there's an art to moving pianos that your average furniture mover doesn't understand.

(My first job out of high school was as a piano mover for two years, and I still count it as one of the most interesting and satisfying experiences of my life.)
posted by friezer at 3:59 AM on August 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

I did a stretch as a piano mover as well (or rather worked for a general mover on a crew that specialized in large pieces, pianos above all, and like friezer I actually found it a fascinating gig). I concur with the general advice here. Hire pros if you care about the piano, the stairway, and your own sanity. Brute force is rarely the best option. Piano moving is an art.
posted by realcountrymusic at 4:29 AM on August 11, 2005

Also did some time working for a moving company that did pianos as part of their business. I'll never forget moving an upright piano down three flights of SPIRAL stairs. This was with one other small, but pretty strong, guy. We used shoulder dolly-type moving straps. We made it, but it was, by far, the single hardest thing I ever had to move. I thought death was eminent several times on those stairs.
posted by Otis at 5:10 AM on August 11, 2005

I moved an upright into my new home off a Uhaul. It was just me and my buddy. We managed to get 100 feet into the house but the two steps up were almost impossible. You either need at least 6 strong guys or hust hire the mover. You got the piano for free remember.
posted by doug3505 at 5:22 AM on August 11, 2005

My oldest brother hired Deathwish to move his grand. Even though it technically could have made it up a short flight of stairs with a tight (for a piano) turn, they opted to take it through a window with a crane.

Me and my brothers have moved an upright from one spot in a room to another and that was a bear.

Leave the stairs to the pros.
posted by plinth at 5:46 AM on August 11, 2005

A friend and I moved an upright down the ramp off a truck, over 30 feet of badly cracked sidewalk, and up three stairs into his house front foyer. Had a four-wheeled flat rolling thing to put piano on, but nothing special.

After reading this, I feel like King frickin' Kong. Thanks, AskMe!
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:06 AM on August 11, 2005

Response by poster: Well, it has small casters, and I've moved it around the room with no trouble, but reading this, I'll hire movers or freecycle it.
posted by theora55 at 6:34 AM on August 11, 2005

I helped someone move an upright once. We had to get it out of a garage and up a ramp into the back of a truck. This took us about 30 minutes, and it was raining outside.

We had a grand total of four people who could shove at any given time, none of us being particularly strong. We did it only on the piano's casters, and it was a complete bitch of an experience. Even better when three guys decide to stop pushing and leave one fellow at the top who was pulling to keep the damned thing from sliding down the ramp.
posted by staresbynight at 6:42 AM on August 11, 2005

Before attempting this yourself I suggest you rent a copy of "The Music Box" starring Laurel and Hardy. It will have you calling your local piano store for recommendations on professional piano movers [and it will have you laughing].
posted by caddis at 7:07 AM on August 11, 2005

Caddis -- Good one! Did you know that stairway is still there in L.A.? I visited it once, and had my picture taken on it. Lots more building around the site now. You wouldn't recognize it.
posted by shambles at 10:03 AM on August 11, 2005

I moved an upright upstairs once. There were three of us (and my girlfriend watching and shaking her head), all we used was rope. Didn't even have a pully system. One of us (me) was pretty strong, the other two were scrawny guys. None of us workout or anything like that.

We successfully got it up the stairs though. Although in hindsight the potential for that SOB crushing major bones of mine was pretty high, so it wasn't a real bright way to do it.
posted by KirTakat at 12:48 PM on August 11, 2005

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