Even well-made furniture is surprisingly fragile, and contingency plans take on a new meaning when you’re moving across the country. Moving anything long-distance can feel like a gamble, but with the right mindset, equipment, plan, and a little luck, however, it can go just as smoothly as moving down the street. Here are our tips for safely getting your furniture from one place to somewhere far away.
Choose the Right Moving Strategy
As you can imagine, how you decide to move your furniture will impact how you prepare it for the journey to your new and beautiful home. Consider how much furniture you have to move, your budget, and how much time and effort you’re willing and able to spend.
Full-service movers. If you have a lot of big furniture items (especially things like a piano) that may be difficult to move on your own, you may elect to seek traditional moving companies. This is effective, but it can be costly and risky. In fact, damage and loss claims for the full-service industry are around 20%. This is because items may be unloaded and reloaded several times during their journey, or even shipped with other people’s belongings. If you do decide to go this route, make sure to get insurance. You’ll certainly thank your past self should anything happen.
Freight shipping company. You can also hire a freight shipping company to ship your furniture long-distance. You’ll have two shipping options to choose from, LTL (less-than-truck-load) and FTL (full-truck-load), which will impact your cost, shipping time, level of security, and other factors. Whereas LTL shipments may be transferred multiple times during transport, FTL shipments remain on the same truck the whole time, which can significantly lower the chance of damage or loss. A good rule of thumb: If you have lots of furniture that require delicate handling and you need to move it long-distance fast, FTL is probably the best choice — although it’s going to cost you more. On the other hand, if you’re only shipping a few furniture items, and it doesn’t matter when it gets to its new destination, LTL should work just fine.
Also, you’ll want to explore both ground freight or air freight. The better option for you which will depend on what you’re shipping, how much, and even whether you have any perishables! (Note: We don’t recommend moving any perishables!)
Portable storage containers. Using a portable storage container (also called a moving container or just a storage container) is a great option for long-distance moves because they allow you to move and store with one solution. You can easily store your container if needed at a secure facility or keep it in your driveway so you can take your time loading and unloading your furniture. Portable containers also offer more control over how your items get loaded because you can do the loading yourself, which, trust us, can mean the difference between your favorite side table and your favorite side table with a big chip in it. Compared to the full-service moving industry, damage claims are less than 2% with PODS — more than 10 times lower. We don’t know about you, but that certainly makes us feel more at ease! (Insider tip: If you’re moving just a few pieces of furniture long-distance, the PODS 7-foot container is an ideal size!)
Portable containers plus hiring professional packers and loaders. To add just a bit more on portable containers, you also have the freedom to hire professional packers and loaders to do the hard work for you, or the easy stuff too! Here are some packing and loading partners we recommend if you go this route. They will connect you with highly rated, local moving-labor companies in your area who are experienced specialists when it comes to PODS containers. And they’re very friendly, too!
DIY Packing Tips
Okay, great. You’ve decided to put those packing skills you’ve spent hours carefully cultivating over the years to good use (Is that just us? Anyone?). If you’ve opted for the DIY version of moving your furniture long-distance, we have some pointers you’ll want to keep in mind.
Packing the Big Furniture
Time to put those well-earned Tetris skills to use. Before you pack anything, picture all the pieces you have to move. The couches, tables, chairs, bookcases, etc. Then look at the negative space within each of these. The key to making furniture secure for travel is by making it as compact as possible. We mean filled. Dense. What can be packed within the bookcase to fill the negative space? Visualize not just the piece of furniture but what space the piece will occupy in your moving truck, container, or otherwise, and get creative.
We also always recommend evenly distributing the weight when you pack a moving container. Oh, you’ll also want blankets and plastic wrap. Lots.
Mattresses – Be sure you have a plastic mattress slip to keep both the mattress and box spring safe. Your mattress is basically a big wall; use it strategically to box in other items you’re moving. If you’re using a container with a roll-up door, we recommend loading your mattress last to create a barrier that will keep items from falling against the door during transit. This will help prevent the door from jamming, saving you headaches later.
Bed Frames – Another one of the big items you’ll probably have to wrangle with, bed frames can be as simple as one flat, smooth piece, or as intricate as Victorian-style woodwork. Either way, a great place to put this is between your mattress and box spring.
Main Tables – … As opposed to side tables. If it’s an option, take the legs off your tables and wrap them individually. Wrap the accompanying chairs together, stacking them if possible, and use bungees to keep everything together and secured.
Mirrors – Grab some masking tape and mark a big “X” across the face of your mirror. Avoid duct tape here — your mirror won’t like it. This is a great idea for any glass surfaces. It will help minimize the impact of constant vibrations in the moving process so that it doesn’t break as easily. We also recommend packing mirrors and picture frames inside of moving boxes specially designed for them.
Couches – You’ll want to remove the cushions and use them to secure other pieces. Remember the negative space? It’ll come in handy here, especially when you plastic wrap the couch with softer items inside, like stuffed animals, linens, or clothes. Nothing too big or heavy — just enough to take advantage of the space. Stand it on end if you can, picking a nice corner. Just make sure it’s blocked in and won’t topple during the move.
Dressers/Chest o’ Drawers – Before even trying to move these out of your house and into a moving container, know that, 1) it’s a lot easier to get them to the container when the drawers are out first, and 2) corners can cause as much damage as they can receive. Pay special attention to the corners and finished areas, covering them completely with blankets (did we mention blankets are your best friend?). Pro tip: Fill the drawers with not-too-heavy items once inside the container, and you’re all set.
Packing the Small Furniture
Your smaller furniture pieces will help you secure bigger pieces when you move. That said, they deserve some love too.
Chairs – Recliners can be unwieldy but generally fare well when properly secured. It’s the smaller chairs that will fly around in a moving truck if you take a curb too quickly! Save yourself the headache: Stack, wrap, and bungee these down.
Side Tables – Like chairs, these usually have skinny legs and can fit in between larger items where there’s space. Side tables vary in size and shape, so use your best judgment. Watch out for pointy things like drawer handles and corners in case they rub against another piece of furniture. You may be able to load a side table by yourself depending on the size, but if it’s older (and especially wooden), take care not to handle it in such a way that a piece comes off!
Coffee Tables – For glass tops, it’s a good idea to put a masking tape X over it (like your mirrors). Bubble wrap will be your best friend here, too. Any drawers? See the dresser strategy. Use at least two people if you can. You got this.
Plan Your Move-In, Too
Maybe this goes without saying, but before you haul a piece of furniture, say, all the way across the country, make sure it fits first! This is especially true when downsizing to a smaller living space. Measure that chaise longue before loading it (hint: your new 600 sq. ft. apartment may not have quite enough space).
Moving furniture long distance takes planning. Finding the right moving or furniture shipping solution for your needs is key. Make sure to visualize both how the pieces will fit together along the way and inside your new home. Tie everything down as much as you can, and frequently check to see that it’s secure if you’re traveling with it. When unloading, immediately place your big pieces in their new spots in your new home. It’ll save you time and effort later. And don’t be afraid to hire professional packers and loaders! Good luck!