There’s a reason that most museums aren’t hands-on: the surest way to prevent things from being damaged is to keep them out of harm’s way.
But how can you do that if you have to move your items to a new home?
Preventing damage during your move might be foremost in your mind, but it doesn’t have to immobilize you. We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to keeping your home, your stuff, and your body safe from harm during your next house move.
Preventing Damage Before You Move
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
But even though it’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time to avoid damage during your move, there may be some forms of breakage that you just can’t avoid.
Before you move, make sure you’ve built yourself a “safety net” to protect you in case something goes wrong. If you’re worried about smashing your priceless antiques or staining that Herman Miller chair, these next few tips will provide you with a little extra piece of mind.
Tip #1: Get Moving Insurance
While a comprehensive homeowners insurance policy offers excellent protection of your possessions, it might not fully cover moving damage.
Check your existing homeowner’s policy to see what’s covered. If yours is lacking somewhere (some policies will cover theft, but not breakage, for instance), see if your moving company offers insurance. If you aren’t using professional movers—or you just want some additional protection—consider purchasing a separate moving insurance policy.
Tip #2: Make a Detailed Inventory Sheet
Without an inventory sheet, it can be almost impossible to prove that an item has been lost or damaged.
While you’re packing, make a note of each item as well as its condition (pictures are even better). If your moving company creates their own inventory list, double-check it against your own (make sure you understand any acronyms and abbreviations they use to denote the item’s condition).
This written documentation will act as an unbiased third party. In the event that something is damaged, it will be much easier to figure out who is responsible for repairing, cleaning, or replacing the item in question.
Tip #3: Measure Twice, Move Once
While it might be tempting to move out as quickly as you can, this type of thinking can lead to irreparable damage.
The time to remove chair legs and take bed frames apart is before you smash the door frame, not after.
Before you lift a single item, measure large pieces of furniture to make sure they will fit through all the door frames (and measure the door frames, too). If you end up needing to take items apart, keep all the screws and bolts in a zip-top plastic bag taped to the furniture. Label the baggie as well so you’ll still know where it goes if the tape comes undone.
Tip #4: Hire Professional Movers and/or Packers
Once you factor in the differences between hiring a moving company and moving yourself, a professional moving company is often the more preferred option.
Professional movers make a living packing boxes and lifting couches, so they’re less likely to make a mistake or take a shortcut. Your friends and family on the other hand? They want to get the job done as quickly as possible (that is, not carefully) so they can get that pizza you promised them.
A professional moving crew can complete an entire move more quickly and safely than you can organize yourself. And, at the end of a long moving day, isn’t that far more valuable?
Preventing Damage While Packing
Now that you’ve set your move up for success, the key to preventing damage during your move lies in how you pack your things for transport.
The majority of moving damage stems from packing your belongings incorrectly. But following these next tips can prevent damage from derailing your move.
Tip #5: Use Plenty of Padding
The best way to avoid damage during your move is to use plenty of padding while packing. You don’t have to pad everything (after all, your t-shirts can’t “break” during transit), but you shouldn’t skimp on the bubble wrap, either. For fragile items, special mementos, and electronics, it’s worth the extra time and expense to properly pad them to protect against damage.
Use crumpled newsprint, packing peanuts, towels, blankets, and/or bubble wrap to cushion your valuables before they go in the box, then fill any gaps (including the space between the box’s contents and the lid) with more packing material. This will keep everything in place during the drive so a sharp turn won’t turn your crystal vase into a pile of shards.
And don’t forget to think outside the box (literally). Furniture should be well-padded, too, especially if it has sharp corners, hard edges, or glass features.
Tip #6: Use the Right Type of Padding
The Sunday paper might be fine for filling gaps in your boxes, but you can’t rely on the funny pages alone to get you through your next move; the ink can easily rub off onto lampshades and other delicate surfaces. Purchase plain newsprint paper through a local moving supply store instead.
Upholstered furniture should be wrapped with plastic wrap or moving blankets to prevent tears, scrapes, and staining. Glass table tops and doors should be wrapped with foam sheeting, bubble wrap, or thick blankets. And any sharp corners or edges should be padded so they don’t cause breakage if they come into contact with something fragile.
Tip #7: Tape It Up
Of course, all that padding is no good if it doesn’t stay put.
Wrap fragile items so they’re entirely covered in newsprint or bubble wrap and tape the padding securely so that it can’t unravel or slip off. Also, don’t let the sticky tape come into contact with the item you’re wrapping up. The adhesive could remove paint or leave a stubborn residue behind.
Tip #8: Use the Right Container
It’s not just good marketing, those specialized boxes at the moving supply store are specifically designed with certain contents in mind. When packing drinking glasses, flat-screen TVs, or other easily damaged items, consider purchasing specialty moving boxes.
For the rest of your belongings, choose boxes that aren’t likely to collapse. (Used cardboard boxes might not be up to the task.) Sturdy cardboard boxes, plastic totes, and suitcases are all good options for preventing damage during your move. Don’t want to purchase new boxes? Renting plastic moving boxes is usually cheaper than buying disposable.
Of course, write “Fragile” and “This End Up” on your boxes whenever applicable, so your moving crew will know to take a little extra care.
Tip #9: Go Sideways
You’ve got the insurance, hefty boxes, and lots of bubble wrap. Time to start throwing stuff in boxes, right?
Not so fast.
The way you pack your things can do a lot towards preventing damage during your move. Pack books upright within the box, just as if you were placing them on a shelf. The same goes for DVDs and CDs in jewel cases; packing them flat can put too much strain on the cases.
Vertical packing is the safest way to pack china plates as well. After wrapping the plates well with bubble wrap or newspaper (or both), stand them on their edges in a strong box.
In all of these instances, put down a layer of crumpled newspaper on the bottom of the box as an extra cushion.
Tip #10: Less is More
When filling your moving boxes, resist the temptation to cram as much as possible into a single box. Packing boxes too tightly can cause delicate items to be crushed, even if they’re well-padded.
While it’s natural to think “big item = big box,” it’s smarter to pack your boxes according to weight, not size. A large box filled with heavy china will need more than one person to lift and they’ll be more likely to drop it. Heavier items should go into smaller boxes, while bigger boxes should be saved for lighter things.
Tip #11: Disassemble First
There’s a few reasons why certain pieces of furniture come pre-assembled: space and damage. Disassembled furniture can be padded more securely, carried more easily, and transported more safely than it can when put together.
Taking your furniture apart makes it lighter and more portable, so you’ll be less likely to drop it or scuff the walls trying to get it out the door. Removing headboards, cabinet doors, and legs make these obtrusive parts easier to wrap up and tuck away, so they don’t damage other items on the truck.
When moving storage pieces (like dressers, armoires, and entertainment centers), remove any drawers or doors and pack them separately. The item will be lighter and you’ll have an easier time transporting it.
But disassembly doesn’t have to be limited to just furniture. Consider taking apart your photos before you move them as well. Remove photos from their frames and store them in separate boxes; if your photo frame is damaged, the broken glass could scratch the photo. Wrap the frame’s glass in plenty of padding and throw some anti-dessicant packs in with the photos if you’re moving in a humid climate.
Protecting Damage To Your Home
Most people are concerned about breaking Great Aunt May’s hand-painted china, but damaging your home (either your old one or your new one) could have serious consequences.
If you’re renting, damage can mean losing your deposit. If you own, scratches in the floor or dents in the wall could leave you on bad terms with the buyers (not to mention on the hook for repairs and replacements if they sue). And, of course, damaging your new place while moving everything in will leave you with (at best) unsightly scuffs or (at worst) a hefty repair bill.
Tip #12: Cover the Floor
People will be coming in and out all day, often over the same areas, so protect your floors from nicks, scrapes, or dirt by laying down flattened cardboard, plastic sheeting, or specialized floor covers such as Ram Board. Tape your floor covers down well to prevent tripping anyone.
If there are any trouble areas (like an unexpected step or a tricky board), mark your floor cover with brightly colored tape so that your moving day crew will know to be extra careful or avoid them.
Tip #13: Lift, Don’t Slide
If you need to move a heavy piece of furniture, don’t slide it across the floor. Heavy furniture can rip or shift even the most sturdy floor coverings and ruin your floor.
Lift or tilt heavy pieces (use plenty of spotters) to set them on dollies or moving pads, then roll or slide the item out to the truck. If you have them, use furniture moving straps. And if you have to slide something large and heavy, use moving pads or furniture blankets.
Tip #14: Padded Walls
No, not that kind.
Take note of any tight corners, intrusive columns, railings, and door frames that a mover might potentially knock against. Pad these spots with moving blankets, cardboard, or even pool noodles that have been cut in half to prevent any scrapes or scuffs.
You can’t pad all of your walls, however, so create an extra layer of protection by padding any sharp edges and corners on your furniture. If you accidentally brush up against a flat expanse of wall, you won’t have to worry.
Tip #15: Use the Right Materials
Your floor and wall padding has to last all day against some heavy stuff and come up at the end of the day without causing more damage than it prevented.
You’ll want to tape it all securely in place using painter’s tape, which is designed to hold tightly and be removed easily. Don’t use duct tape (it’ll be impossible to remove cleanly) or Scotch tape (it’s not strong enough).
Tip #16: Be On the Lookout
It’s difficult to navigate a narrow doorway or a tricky staircase when you’re also carrying a seven-foot-tall armoire.
When you’re moving very large appliances, boxes, or pieces of furniture, use a spotter as a second (or third) pair of eyes to alert you to when you’re about to run into something.
Tip #17: Clean Up
When it comes to preventing damage during your move, think beyond scrapes and scratches. Cleaning up after yourself can protect your home as well.
Leave the doormat where it is for the crew to clean off their shoes before entering back in the house. While the heavily-trafficked areas have floor coverings, the individual rooms probably don’t, so protect the carpet in those areas before you even set foot in the place.
On moving day, have a cleaning kit ready in case anything does happen: some Magic Erasers for any scuffs, paper towels to sop up any spills, and a wood pen to disguise any scratches. Some damage gets worse the longer it sits (like stains!), so it’s best to take care of it as soon as possible.
If your old place is still on the market, there’s no better time to have it fully cleaned (or repainted) than when it’s completely empty. Most cleaning companies have a “move in/move out” package to sweep through (literally!) and get the dirt out of those nooks and crannies that are difficult to reach when there’s furniture in the way. (Bonus: a sparkling house looks much more appealing to potential buyers/renters.)
Preventing Injury During Your Move
“Damage” doesn’t just happen to material things.
Follow these next tips to keep you from injuring yourself during your next move. (Moving expenses are bad enough without hospital bills!)
Tip #18: Get Help
Hiring a moving crew is a smart choice, as you’ll be getting a team of people who can not only work hard, but work well together. Your local professional movers have day-to-day experience lifting things, maneuvering through doorways, and coordinating with each other for a seamless move.
If you decided not to hire a mover, gather a group of trusted friends and don’t be shy about delegating certain tasks. The move will go a lot more smoothly if everyone knows what they’re in charge of.
Of course, injuries can still happen when you’re surrounded by people, so make sure you still exercise caution. Don’t lift more than you can handle (25-50 lbs per person is a good rule of thumb), use a lifting partner if you need it, and use appropriate equipment (like dollies or furniture moving straps) to get things onto the truck.
Tip #19: Dress For the Occasion
You already know not to move wearing your Sunday best, but don’t just grab the first comfy outfit you see in your closet.
Your clothes should be neither too tight nor too loose. Tight clothes will restrict your movements, but baggy clothes can catch on furniture or box corners. Moving can be messy, so don’t wear anything you don’t mind getting dirty (or even torn).
Florida might be known for its casual beachwear, but this is no time for flip-flops. Opt for closed-toed shoes that lace up and provide good traction, such as running shoes.
Tip #20: Take a Break
Rushing through your move won’t get it over with any faster if you end up in the ER.
Moving is hard work, so give your body a rest when you need it. This goes for your moving crew as well (professional or otherwise). Tired movers make more mistakes, so encourage everyone to take a breather when they need to.
Set up a drinks and snack station in a central area so that everyone can stay hydrated and properly fed (a granola bar is not enough to sustain you all day). Whether you hired a professional moving company or not, you’ll probably want to keep lunch “on-site” to save time and keep morale up. A few delivery pizzas will lift anybody’s mood.
Tip #21: Find a Sitter
If your kids are old enough to help, you can have them carry lighter boxes or act as the spotter. But young children will have a difficult time stay safe amidst all the excitement. Call a friend, family member, or trusted babysitter to take the kids somewhere else for the day.
If that’s not possible, set up a safe, out-of-the-way spot for your kids to play or watch movies without getting in the way. A playpen or a room blocked off with a baby gate (remove all the furniture and boxes first!) will let them get some wiggles out without getting in the way.
If you can’t find a pet sitter for the day, restrict your furry friend to an empty room or crate with access to food, water, and toys. Just don’t forget to give them a few yard breaks throughout the day to relieve themselves and burn off some energy.
When it comes to preventing damage during your move, think outside the box. Your home and your body can get hurt during a move just as easily as your possessions.
By taking a few precautionary steps, most forms of damage can be avoided. Just make sure you use the right equipment, identify the most likely culprits, and—as always—use your common sense. Following these 21 tips will make sure that you, your valuables, and your home have the best chance of staying intact.