I want my couch back.
June 2, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

I can't get my couch upstairs. Help!

I just moved to a second-floor apartment in a multi-family home. The stairs are narrow with a 90 degree turn, so large items were difficult to get in to the new place. The couch was impossible to get in. It's now sitting in the basement and I have nowhere to sit.

I would like advice on the following:
How do I get my couch upstairs? It looks impossible to take it apart to bring it upstairs in pieces. There's a balcony that I could potentially hoist it up to, but I'd like to do that with minimal damage/injury. Has anyone managed this before?

How have people managed to bring large furniture to upstairs apartments?

If it is in fact totally unfeasible to get the couch upstairs, what do I do with it? I guess I'd look to sell it, but as far as I can tell, craigslist is a terrible place to sell sofas due to market saturation. Any suggestions on a possible replacement that is smallish or can be easily disassembled?
posted by backseatpilot to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Was there a couch in the apartment when you looked at it? Unless your couch is significantly larger than the average couch, surely there must be some way to get it in there (a window?). Maybe ask your landlord or a new neighbor if they have any recommendations.
posted by boomchicka at 8:54 AM on June 2, 2008

Often the best way to get a couch around a 90 degree corner, especially when going up stairs, is to tip it up on the end, shimmy it around the corner and go on. Other than that you can usually take off the feet of a couch and thats about it.
posted by sanka at 8:55 AM on June 2, 2008

Oh, and some advance planning so that when you tip it on end, it's the seat and back that go around the corner (already "curved") instead of the flat bottom, is also key.
posted by bartleby at 8:58 AM on June 2, 2008

I had this same exact problem once when helping a friend move. The balcony is probably your best bet, that's what we did.

Can you pull a truck under the balcony? Then you can get a couple friends to help you hoist it up to the truck, then on to the balcony. Before you do this though, measure everything twice to make sure you can get it in once you get it onto the balcony.
posted by bondcliff at 8:58 AM on June 2, 2008

I've carried large things like couches up stairs by standing them on end. Once you get to the 90-degree turn at the landing, don't turn it. Just take it up still facing the way it got there. So, if the part you sit on is facing down the stairs when you start, it will be facing to one side or the other as it goes up the second section of the stairs. Does that make any sense?

Alternatively, although market saturation will keep the price of selling the couch down, it will also keep the cost of a replacement that will fit down -- sort of like a direct trade. I'd guess a futon couch could be taken apart and brought upstairs.
posted by Capri at 8:59 AM on June 2, 2008

My roommates and I were able to wrangle our large couch up three stories on a tight staircase, then get the couch through a door that, by all measurements, was a few inches too narrow. The small details that made the difference were:

1. Removing the legs. Some couches do not have easily removable legs. Ours didn't, so we sawed them off. We then reattached them using some screws and metal brackets from the hardware store.

2. Couches often have a lot of padding that makes them appear much more unwieldy. With some shoving and compressing we gained a few crucial inches in leeway, which is how we got it through the door. If you are willing and able to really squeeze that thing against the walls on the way up the stairs, you may get the extra space that you need.

Also, turning the couch like a tetris block as you're going up may allow you to find that perfect orientation that lets the couch slip around a corner.
posted by otolith at 9:01 AM on June 2, 2008

I've had to to this twice and it's a pain, but the balcony is one option. Make sure it will fit through the door though, otherwise you're going to have a couch on your balcony.

The second time I did this, the landlords were helping us and actually took out the window *frame* which allowed the couch to fit through that opening. They were really nice, and also had the carpentry knowledge to do this and put the frame back in after all was done.
posted by jerryg99 at 9:01 AM on June 2, 2008

Response by poster: I forgot to mention that the ceiling in the stairwell is quite low, making uprighting the couch also virtually impossible.

The couch is about 33x33x80-ish inches. The stairs are about 35 inches wide and the ceiling is only about 6.5 feet (or less) high at the lowest point.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:02 AM on June 2, 2008

How high is the banister on this staircase? Would it be possible to lift it up and flip it over the banister, avoiding the corner alltogether? (This will take many people and lots of heaving.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:08 AM on June 2, 2008

Reading from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency might also be therepeutic:
"In the novel, a sofa is irreversibly stuck on the staircase to Richard's apartment; according to his simulations, not only is it impossible to remove it, but there is no way for it to have got into that position in the first place. This is probably based on an incident that occurred while Douglas Adams attended St John's College of Cambridge University. Furniture was placed in the rooms overlooking the river in Third Court while the staircases were being refurbished. When the staircases were completed, it was discovered that the sofas could no longer be removed from the rooms, and the sofas remained in those rooms for several decades."
posted by bartleby at 9:09 AM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd like to put in another vote for putting it on end; I got my couch into my apartment that way, with only minimal scraping (leather, going up the back fire escape). It took about four people to make it work.
posted by limeonaire at 9:32 AM on June 2, 2008

I know it sounds crazy, but: Hire professional movers. They will tell you if it's possible -- and if so, they'll do it for you. (Small, local stuff is often surprisingly cheap -- certainly less than a new couch.)
posted by turducken at 10:21 AM on June 2, 2008

A friend hired a crane to get a couch into the 3rd floor. Wrapping the couch in plastic and tying clothesline around it might make it slipperier, and you can use the clothesline to grab onto. Plus, it won't get damaged as it scrapes by a corner. Pay attention, because however it goes in, it has to come out.
posted by theora55 at 10:38 AM on June 2, 2008

If you don't have the couch oriented in the right way at the beginning, there is no hope. It takes experimentation, removing of legs and anything else that can come off, and there are still sometimes when the couch is simply physically too large. Often you need to do a twisting or corkscrewing motion, in three dimensions, to get the couch around the corner -- the front comes up as the couch is rotated to the side, and the front is eased around the corner.

As has been mentioned, furniture can come in and out of windows, as well. (And if you are willing to partially disassemble the window frame, you can bring in quite large items this way.)
posted by Forktine at 11:24 AM on June 2, 2008

Simplify. Unless you have a serious attachment to the couch in question, sell it, and use the money to buy other seating arrangements. As others have said, remember that once it's in, you also need to get it back out again on the next move.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 11:29 AM on June 2, 2008

If the couch is a standard woodframe covered with fabric, you might be able to partially disassemble it, move it, and then put it back together again with a few nails. YMMV.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:54 PM on June 2, 2008

Best answer: My best friend just moved into a second floor apartment, and his front staircase was too narrow to fit the couch, even with the legs removed. However, there was a spiraling staircase outdoors that led to a back entrance to the apartment. We managed to get the couch up by balancing it on the handrail, one of us pushing up from the bottom while another pulled from the top. We also had a third friend, who was the right height to dart under the couch when needed to provide extra leverage.
posted by DrSkrud at 1:50 PM on June 2, 2008

We did what Blue Beetle suggested. fabric ripper on the top, sawed some of the back beams in half. Ta-da!
posted by Brainy at 1:56 PM on June 2, 2008

we used a combination of a homemade ramp and a window that opens very wide to get our big furniture up to the second floor. also, a pulley system attached to rafters in the attic. probably a bit more than you're looking for but totally efficient. (and very intriguing for our neighbors.)
posted by killy willy at 9:10 PM on June 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas. The front staircase is walled in on both sides, so there's no bannister to get over. If it's not raining too hard this afternoon, I think we're going to try hoisting it up to the balcony. Stay tuned!
posted by backseatpilot at 5:14 AM on June 4, 2008

Response by poster: We did it! Similar to how DrSkrud mentions, but without the staircase.

Two people tipped the couch on its end and pushed it up to the second floor balcony. A third person on the balcony maneuvered it so the legs caught on the top of the railing, locking it in place. One of the people on the ground ran up to the balcony and they both pulled while the third person pushed on the other end of the couch using the hand railing we had previously removed from the wall (when we thought it might fit up the stairs). once the center of mass got over the railing, it just tipped right on to the balcony and it was an easy carry from there to the living room. A little damage to the fabric, but nothing terribly noticeable once the cushions go on.

Thanks for all the help!
posted by backseatpilot at 7:04 PM on June 4, 2008

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