How To Pack and Haul Furniture

As Snag reader Susie recently shared with us, transporting your fabulous finds can be a challenge, especially when they’re heavy, awkward and delicate—all at the same time. Susie, we feel your pain. For all of us there is that moment that comes after the dizzying intoxication of buying something wonderful starts to wear off and you realize you have to find a way to get it home. Be that distance one mile or 1,000 miles, it can be tricky to make the journey without bumps, bruises or—gasp—a chip in the veneer! As I was accumulating furniture in Pennsylvania, I became more and more nervous about the ride back to Iowa. Surprisingly, this was one of the smoothest transports I’ve ever experienced. Everything made it back without so much as a scratch. The secret? Good planning. Today I’ll share the tools and tricks we used to make this trip a success.

1. Gear Up
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there is no substitute for preparedness. I’ve learned to keep a few furniture-moving essentials in my car at all times—you never know when you’re going to find something. Before you move anything, be sure to have these supplies on hand.

  • Blankets. Blankets, towels, sheets, comforters, quilts, drop cloths, old curtains, tablecloths—anything large, flat and soft to protect surfaces. These are critical. The majority of damage that happens to furniture when moving are scratches, nicks and dents caused by surfaces jostling against each other. Blankets cushion any blows and buffer any friction. Fluffier blankets and quilts are a good idea to have around for glass doors and mirrors. I’ve gotten into the habit of buying boxes of linens at estate sales for a couple bucks here and there. For the Pittsburgh trip we actually raided every thrift store in town on half-price day to get dozens of blankets and we still ran a little short. If you’re renting a vehicle, you might also consider renting moving blankets if you don’t have enough of your own.

You can never have too many blankets

  • Stretch Wrap. Also known as pallet wrap, this clingy plastic is perhaps one of the greatest inventions ever. This stuff stretches around objects like cling wrap and sticks to itself, making it perfect for securing drawers and doors on case pieces or wrapping panes of glass together. I also use this frequently for wrapping dishes together so they don’t rattle without the need for excessive packing material. It comes in two sizes, the larger is useful for furniture pieces. The important thing to remember with this is not to let the plastic touch finished wood or painted surfaces. I don’t know why, but it reacts with finishes and causes them to dull. Instead, apply it over a protective material like a blanket or paper.
Plastic makes it possible.

Plastic makes it possible.

  • Bungee Cords and Tie-Downs. It may be tempting to spring for a much less expensive ball of twine, and for occasional use that may be just fine. But if you’re moving several pieces or moving things often, these suckers save a lot of time and you never have to worry about the integrity of your knot-tying abilities.
Bungees

Bungees

  • My new favorite things are these cam buckle tie-downs. If you’ve ever used ratcheting straps, you know they work but they can be a huge pain to use. These straps simply work like a belt—strap it around anything and pull it tight through a self-cinching buckle that holds it tight until you release it. These cost about $4 each, but they’re worth every penny. A little later in this post I’ll show you how we used them.
Cam buckle tie-downs

Cam buckle tie-downs

  • Sliding Robots. I’ve spoken the gospel of sliding robots before—they make moving furniture a snap. Simply put under the legs and easily push any piece of furniture across the floor. For this trip we actually used these under furniture in the truck. It sounds a little counterintuitive because you’d think it would make the furniture slide around in transport. It actually takes a lot more lateral force to move heavy pieces than you’d typically encounter in a vehicle—even on the sliders. These made it super easy to slide furniture into tight spots in the truck and to pull them back out when we unpacked. If you’re storing furniture, the plastic sliders will also protect wooden legs from drawing any moisture out of concrete floors.
And slide, and slide…

And slide, and slide…

  • Tools. That should really say Tools! I’ve actually purchased separate tools that I only keep in the car. More often than you’d think furniture requires a little disassembly. Mirrors need to be taken off, legs removed, sometimes even hardware or doors need to be removed for a piece to travel safely and you can’t rely on thrift stores or private sellers to have the tools you need. At minimum I always keep a pair of pliers, a multi-bit screwdriver and a tape measure on hand. A socket set is also pretty handy, especially for removing table legs.
Tools—don't leave home without them

Tools—don’t leave home without them

  • Pipe Wrap. I have to admit, I wouldn’t have thought of this on my own. This was all my mom’s idea and it was a great one. Foam pipe wrap is hollow in the middle and split down one side making it perfect for protecting the corners of furniture or protecting edges from bungee cords or tie-downs. Look for wrap that doesn’t have self-sealing adhesive on the edges so it’s a little easier to use.
Foam pipe wrap—weird, but it works.

Foam pipe wrap—weird, but it works.

  • Neoprene Coated Gloves. I first received a pair of these as a gift. I thought I’d never find a use for them at the time, but they’ve quickly become my most valued tools. The rubber coating on these thin gloves protects your hands from sharp edges and splinters while giving you a much better grip on whatever you’re lifting.
Gloves

Neoprene gloves—find them at your local home improvement store

2. Pack With Care

There can simply be no cutting of corners when it’s time to pack up your goods. Just a few simple steps will make sure everything gets where it’s going safely.

  • Wrap it up. Now it’s time to put all these supplies and tools to work. Wrap anything that has doors or drawers snugly with a blanket and use the stretch wrap to secure it. It’s a good idea to put the wrap over the fronts of all drawers and doors to keep them from sliding out while in transit. Trust me, they will fly out on the first turn if you don’t. If the piece has interior drawers or removable compartments inside doors, stuff some paper or packing between them and the door to keep them from banging into each other.
The Brasilia chest of drawers under wraps

The Brasilia chest of drawers under wraps

  • Strap it up. The key to safe furniture moving is restricting movement. If you’re traveling in a large truck and pieces must travel standing up, you’ll need to secure tall or top-heavy objects. Most trucks have wooden bumper rails down the sides that can be used for tethering. We used the cam buckle tie-downs to lash the Drexel hutch to the side of our truck. Once the straps were tightened it couldn’t even jiggle a little bit. We also used bungees and tie-downs to secure light objects like end tables, chairs, nightstands and even boxes of glassware to larger, heavier objects like dressers. When the straps are pulled tight, a collection of loose, lightweight tables and chairs becomes one rigid, immovable object.
Strapped In

The Drexel hutch ready for take-off

  • Protect your edges! Pipe wrap, paper, towels and even cardboard come in handy for protecting edges. Not only is it important to put extra cushioning where two pieces of furniture might touch, but it is important to put padding under any bungees or tie downs. The immense pressure of tie-downs and straps can be enough to dent wood or chafe wood finishes, even through a blanket. Placing foam on edges that come into contact with straps will prevent this.
Bumpers

Oh, THAT’S what the pipe wrap is for

And that’s it. With a few supplies and a little good old-fashioned ingenuity, you’ll be able to get anything home in one piece. Hopefully this helps next time you need move a wonderful piece of furniture safely. If you’ve got any special tricks or tips you’ve learned in your travels, please leave them in the comments below. We love hearing and learning from our readers!

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5 Comments

  1. Susie
    Posted November 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for that great post, and the mention ;)! Very informative. From now on I won’t be passing up those cheap blankets I see at the tag sales. And those sliding robots, I need those to save my hardwood floors. And the strap buckles, wow….I’ve never known about most of theses handy things. What a great list!

    • Austin
      Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      Some night you’ll see me schilling for all of these things on an infomercial :) But no joke, all of these have been lifesavers!

  2. Posted December 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    These are some great tips for moving your furniture safely from one location to another. Remember that if you are moving several large pieces you should get help from friends and family so that you don’t wear yourself out. Or in the care of particularly hard to move objects, try a moving service to be on the safer side.

    • Austin
      Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Great point, Julia. I do always have some help lined up (there are several people on my contacts list who I’m sure dread getting calls from me!). Professional movers are a good idea if you don’t have the tools/vehicles/manpower to do it on your own—or if you live in a building with lots of stairs and no elevator :) Always remember, if you can, remove any glass from a piece if someone else is going to move it for you, even if it’s just store employees moving it to the back for pickup. We once watched in horror as a store employee shattered the sliding glass doors on a hutch we’d just purchased. Lesson learned.

  3. Posted December 28, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Hi Austin

    Thanks for this great article !

    Packing is very important before moving in different state. The fragile items should be packed properly.

    Regards

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