How to Move Heavy Furniture: 9 Tips and Techniques

by James Fitzgerald
Couple carrying mattress upstairs

Moving Heavy Furniture at a Glance

  • Tools & Materials: Moving blankets, stretch wrap, packing tape, moving sliders, dolly, screwdriver
  • Wrap furniture and clear a path
  • Disassemble furniture
  • Slide instead of carrying
  • Use dollies
  • Use lifting straps
  • Follow proper lifting practice
  • Turn sofas on end
  • Tilt top-heavy items
  • Approach stairs with caution

Moving is both stressful and expensive, but it can also be dangerous. Moving heavy items like refrigerators, washing machines, and heavy pieces of furniture can lead to debilitating injuries if done incorrectly. You also risk damaging the furniture and your home if you don’t use the correct techniques and tools.

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Read on to discover the best techniques, tools and tips for moving heavy furniture.

Equipment You’ll Need

  • Moving blankets
  • Stretch wrap
  • Packing tape
  • Moving sliders: commercial or improvised
  • Moving dolly or hand truck
  • Screwdriver or power drill
  • Optional: Lifting straps
  • Optional: Pry bar and hammer

Top Tips for Moving Heavy Furniture

1. Prep Furniture and Plan a Route

The first step is to prepare your furniture and clear a path of travel. Start by wrapping large pieces of furniture in moving blankets, then covering the blankets with stretch wrap secured with packing tape. Not only will the moving blankets protect the furniture, but they will also help to avoid damaging doors, walls and floors while you’re moving the furniture. Moreover, the wrapping can make the furniture easier to carry since it will offer a better gripping surface than the furniture itself.

Next, plan the route you will be moving the furniture through. Measure the piece of furniture, and cross-reference the dimensions against any doorways, hallways or sharp corners it has to fit through. If a doorway is too small, consider removing the door from the hinges or taking off the stop molding that’s wrapped around the inside of the door jamb. The stop molding can usually be easily removed with a pry bar and hammer.

2. Disassemble Furniture

Most pieces of furniture have several detachable or removable components, and disassembling as many of these items as possible will make the furniture smaller, lighter and overall easier to move. For example, drawers can be removed from dressers and desks, cushions and feet can be removed from sofas and chairs and legs can often be removed from tables. A handheld screwdriver or power drill may be required to remove certain parts.

3. Slide Instead of Carrying

Sliding furniture requires significantly less manual effort than lifting, which also translates into a reduced risk for injury. Commercially available furniture sliders are square or circular discs with a slidable bottom surface that’s placed under the furniture's legs or feet. You can purchase furniture sliders in a variety of sizes and that are capable of sliding across a wide range of flooring materials. Some sliders are made for hardwood floors, while others are designed for carpet or tile.

Alternatively, you can use a large moving blanket, bed covering, carpet, glossy magazines and plastic frisbees as makeshift furniture sliders.

4. Use Dollies

Dollies are platforms with wheels that are designed to hold and move heavy objects. There are two main types of dollies you can use for moving large furniture: hand trucks and moving dollies.

Hand trucks are L-shaped dollies that stand upright, with two wheels at the base, handles at the top and a flat ledge to place objects on the bottom. Appliance dollies, a type of hand truck, have an additional strap in the center that secures the object being moved. They are useful for moving bookcases, dressers and certain tables, but they’re also good for moving fridges, washers, dryers and other large appliances. To use them, rest one end of the furniture onto the bottom ledge of the dolly, secure the strap (if included) and lean the dolly backward until the weight of the furniture is balanced on the bottom wheels. Depending on how large the furniture is, it may be wise to have a second person stabilize the load as you’re wheeling it around.

Moving dollies are flat, square or rectangular platforms with four wheels. They are available in a variety of sizes, and some models come with adjustable platforms. To use a moving dolly, lift up one end of the furniture and slide the dolly underneath until it’s centered and balanced on the furniture. Then, push the furniture across the floor on the dolly’s wheels.

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5. Use Lifting Straps

Lifting straps help with lifting heavy furniture by evenly distributing the force of the load over your major muscle groups and offering more lifting leverage. They consist of a single strap that wraps underneath the piece of furniture and has carrying handles or loops on the ends. You can use lifting straps to lift smaller items by yourself, but heavy furniture usually requires two people that each have a lifting strap.

The two most common types of lifting straps either wrap around your forearms (“forearm forklift”) or wrap around your shoulders (“shoulder dolly''). Generally speaking, shoulder dollies are the most versatile since they leave your arms and hands completely free to assist with stabilizing the load you’re carrying. Shoulder dollies are capable of moving furniture up and down stairs.

6. Use Proper Lifting Technique

Using proper lifting techniques is essential for preventing injuries while moving heavy furniture. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Lifting with your legs instead of your back. Your legs are much stronger than your back and are less susceptible to injury. Lifting from your legs involves bending at the knees instead of the waist and maintaining a straight spine throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Carrying objects close to your body. Keeping the furniture as close to your body as possible will help you maintain proper balance. It’ll also help minimize fatigue on your arm muscles.
  • Not twisting while lifting or carrying. Keep your spine as straight as possible throughout the lifting and carrying process. If you need to twist while turning or changing directions, turn your torso first and allow your feet to follow.

7. Turn Chairs and Sofas on End

The awkward shape of sofas and chairs can make them challenging to move through tight doorways and sharp corners. The solution is to turn them on end so they resemble the shape of an L. With one person on the opposite side of the door or corner, feed one end around and through the opening, then hook or curl the other end through.

8. Carry Tall Furniture High and Low

Tall and top-heavy pieces of furniture (dressers, shelving units, filing cabinets, etc.) can be challenging to stabilize in their upright position. Tilting these items at an angle, however, will center their gravity and make them easier to carry.

Using two people, tilt the item back while one person grabs the top and the other person holds the bottom. This technique is particularly helpful when moving up and down stairs, since the angle you’re carrying the furniture will roughly match the slope of the staircase.

9. Exercise Caution on the Stairs

Moving heavy furniture down the stairs should be done with caution the proper technique. Fortunately, some of the techniques mentioned above — shoulder straps, hand trucks and carrying items high and low — can also be used for moving furniture safely up or down stairs.

The main consideration is having the most experienced or strongest person at the bottom, moving backward and supporting the majority of the weight. You also need to be mindful about not damaging stair banisters, overhead light fixtures, walls or wall hangings. If damaging these items is a concern, you can cover them with moving blankets or move any removable items out of the way during the course of the move.

How Do You Move Heavy Furniture by Yourself?

As a general rule, you shouldn’t move heavy furniture by yourself — especially if stairs are involved. Having a second person to help support and stabilize is always helpful, and they can also call for help in the event of an injury or emergency.

That being said, it’s possible to use sliders and dollies to move certain, less awkward pieces of heavy furniture from one room to another. However, you should recruit a helper whenever you’re moving to a different residence, as that involves lifting in and out of moving vehicles, carrying the furniture in outdoor settings and other special challenges.