Renting a moving truck, filling a movable storage container, or even piling as much as possible into your minivan may be the best bet for your budget.
Moving heavy furniture, however, requires a bit of skill and planning to avoid injury. Moving too quickly, skipping the right equipment, or ignoring proper lifting techniques could lead to a torn muscle or damaged piece of furniture.
In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know about preparing for a DIY move and specifically how to lift heavy items safely and effectively.
Plan Your Move
Before we leap into the lifting process itself, take a moment to think about your moving process. Moving companies vary across the country—some offer full teams of movers while others allow you to simply rent a truck or container and handle the loading yourself.
But opting to skip the team of movers doesn’t mean you can skip your homework when choosing the best moving company. You still want to make sure the company:
- Guarantees your rental
- Guarantees your delivery window (if they’re handling the driving)
- Meets federal standards
- Offers additional insurance
- Provides a clear contract
If you opt for the DIY approach, make sure you have enough people helping to move heavy furniture within a reasonable timeframe. Couches, loveseat, dining room tables, and large bookshelves require at least two people. Professional furniture movers typically provide more than two people so that all the heavy lifting doesn’t fall to one pair.
Lastly, be sure to measure your door frames and hallways in both your old and new homes before starting the move. You may need to disassemble certain items for a clean fit.
Purchase or Rent Moving Equipment
Even if you’re looking to cut costs, buying or renting professional moving tools will save time and energy as well as protect your safety. These items are ideal for carrying large pieces of furniture, heavy boxes, or awkwardly shaped items. Moving equipment can also protect your floors, walls, and stairways from damage on the way out or into a home.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common pieces of equipment. The majority of these can be rented from your mover or at a local hardware store.
Dollies and Hand Truck
Add a set of wheels to your moving process with a set of dollies or hand trucks. Moving dollies tend to have a wider base, making them ideal for transporting boxes, large items, or even appliances like washing machines.
Hand trucks tip backward, adjusting the weight of the item back toward your body. You can also specifically rent an appliance dolly with industrial-strength handles and straps for heavy loads.
If you have a clear path from your home to the door, sliders will save you crucial time and energy. These small tools come in many shapes and sizes but all work the same way. Sliders fit under the legs of large chairs, tables, or sofas to easily push them along floors without damage.
Even if you have to eventually head down a flight of stairs, sliders can help while rearranging your furniture for the moving process.
Lifting straps—also known as shoulder dollies—redistribute the weight to different muscle groups in your body when lifting a heavy piece of furniture. The straps fit over your shoulders and under the large item to make it easier to pick up without straining your back or arms.
The system also keeps your arms relatively free so you can maneuver through doors and head to the moving truck.
Similarly, a mattress sling wraps around larger items to safely carry a mattress to and from a moving truck with ease.
Professional movers use moving blankets or large sheets of plastic wrap to keep furniture in place during transitions. These versatile tools can:
- Protect the item from nicks and scratches
- Provide a safer grip
- Assist in moving heavy items across the floor or carpet
Lastly, make sure you check off all the common packing supplies before attempting a move on your own. All fragile items should be protected with bubble wrap, newspaper, or protective blankets.
Arrange Your Home
Before sending the first box out to the truck, make a plan for emptying out your home. Large and heavy items should always go into the truck or container first. Be sure that there are no boxes or obstructions between the doorway and your largest pieces of furniture before starting.
Arranging your items from lightest to heaviest can significantly save time on moving day, especially if you are charged by the hour for the rental.
Does your bed frame, bookcase, or futon come apart? Professional movers break down as much as possible before fitting it all out the door.
Spend the day before the move disassembling items that will take up unnecessary space in the truck. Remember to store and clearly mark all hardware from each piece of furniture so you can safely reassemble them when you arrive at your new home.
Practice Proper Lifting Techniques
Now that you have your home and equipment in order, it’s time to tackle the big question: how do you lift heavy furniture safely? Follow these general techniques to get started.
Bend at Your Knees
Never lean over from the hips and lift with your back muscles. The weight of the items can lead to injury when your back is placed in this position. Instead, bend deeply at the knees with your hands in front of your body.
Keep Your Back Straight
Once you have a strong grip on the edge of the item, keep your back straight and push up from your knees without leaning over. Engage your core and hip muscles to stay upright.
Carry Close to Your Body
Keep the piece of furniture as close to your body as possible when walking. Hanging it too far away will place the weight on your shoulders or forearms instead of your hips and legs.
Be Mindful Moving Down Stairs
Handling stairs is a skill of its own, especially when making several trips with heavy items. We recommend using the high and low method in this case. One lifter carries the item by their chest while the other lets it drop below their hips. This method can distribute uneven weight in a safer way, particularly when moving down steps.
Recruit a Lookout
You should always be able to see where you’re moving next, even if you have to move backward when carrying. For extra safety, ask a friend to help guide your path. They can alert you of tight corners, low ceilings, fitting through small doorways.
Turn Chairs as You Go
Large chairs and sofas may not first appear to fit through a small door frame, but there may be more options if you use the hooking method. Fit the larger half of the chair through the door first (typically the seat and cushions) and turn the chair as you push, fitting the backrest through second.
Be Mindful of Height
When using a furniture dolly, never load an item higher than your eye level. Not only does it obstruct your view, but the weight can throw off your balance and become dangerous.
Moving heavy furniture is possible on your own when you take the right precautions. Above all else, put your health and safety first. Many companies will also offer last-minute moving team services if you’re concerned about heavy objects a few days before the big move.
FAQs About Lifting Heavy Furniture
How do you move furniture that is too heavy?
If you know that you and a friend cannot lift a heavy item, turn to professional equipment for help. You can quickly rent or purchase these items from movers or at your local hardware store. These items are made to distribute weight beyond what you can carry without assistance, especially up and down stairs.
Common items include:
- Moving blankets
- Lifting straps
- Mattress slings
- Hand trucks
How do you move heavy furniture with a blanket?
If you need to move heavy furniture and do not have assistance available, slip the edges of the item onto a thin blanket or quilt. Be sure each leg has a blanket or a plastic slider beneath it to avoid scratching the floor.
Once in place, spread your arms and pull the items toward you. The blanket distributes the weight more evenly, making it easier to transport.
Are full-service movers expensive?
Full-service movers typically charge between $75 and $300 an hour for local moves or an average of $4,300 for large long-distance movers. You can also hire movers for loading and unloading labor only for a lower hourly rate.
How do you fit a large item up or down the stairs?
If you’re moving a couch, table, or bookcase up a flight of stairs on your own, you may need to clear the pathway as much as possible. For example, test if the banisters can be easily removed and reassembled. If possible, remove the doors from their frames if you need several extra inches as well. Lastly, remove any parts of the piece of furniture that come off, including the feet, cushions, or shelves.