how to jack up a piano

How to Lift or Tip a Piano up onto a Dolly

This is the first and easiest part of piano moving, but it can still be tricky and dangerous.

Remember, you are lifting a delicate mechanism that weighs 300-900 lbs.
approximately eight inches up off the ground and gravity is going to be working against you as you do it.

Pianos should always be placed on top of a special 4-wheel piano dolly either on their feet (the piano’s bottom) or on one of their sides.

When the piano is balanced properly upon this dolly, its weight is distributed in such a way that the piano becomes very easy to maneuver and almost weightless for moving on level surfaces.https://www.xpressmovers.com/content/scripts/quote-state-selector-external-steps-home.php

With a 4-wheel piano dolly, a piano can be very easily transported on level surfaces from its origin to the truck or from the truck to its final destination.

The majority of the distance being covered as the piano is being moved to or from the truck is normally on level surfaces (unless you live in an area like San Francisco) so it is most easily done by the movers by just using the humpstrap to pull it along on the dolly. Unless the piano is sitting on the truck or being carried or cheated up or down stairs, the piano is always covering distances by being almost effortlessly pulled along on the dolly.

If you have a ramp truck, the piano can be pushed up onto it or rolled down from it while on the dolly but you’ll always need 2 or 3 people on the bottom to control its weight. As a piano, which on a level surface is almost weightless upon a dolly, moves onto an incline – it gains weight at its lower end and then requires some muscle to control its ascent/descent.

The dolly is the best possible means for the piano to be moved with the minimum amount of muscle power. You want to do as much of the piano moving as possible on the dolly so be constantly looking for ways to use it and save your back.

You will need to know how to LIFT or TIP your upright piano up onto the dolly on its feet and also how to TIP it up onto the dolly on its side because you may have to do this a number of times in order to traverse any steps that you may encounter in your move paths. This will be explained again in more detail as you proceed through our instruction.

Lifting a Piano for Moving

First, remove the piano’s music rack and save it and its screws for replacement when the piano move is fully accomplished.

If the piano’s front decorative legs will unscrew, then take them off now as a precaution against breaking or damaging them during the move. When the move is totally completed, put them back on.

To elevate the piano up onto the dolly, begin with one man on each side of the piano to lift it and one man in front ready to rapidly slip the dolly into place under it, as is pictured below. Each of the side men grips one of the piano’s handles in back and also grabs under the keyboard in front in order to lift it.

In unison they will straddle lift it parallel to the floor up about 8″ – 12″ while the front person slides the dolly under the center of it.

This technique requires quite a bit of strength on the part of two men lifting because even this small piano weighs over 400 pounds. The trick to making this technique easy is for them to scoot in tight to each of their sides of the piano, bend their legs, keep their upper body in an upright posture, keep their arms straight, and lift it with only their legs. This puts all of the piano’s weight on their strong hip and leg muscles and spares bending and straining their backs.

Once the piano is elevated about one foot off the floor to make room for the dolly to slide underneath, the third man quickly slips it into place from the front side as shown in the picture below. The dolly can also be scooted in from the backside (not shown).

The dolly has to end up being positioned under the piano so that the back of the rubber grips are flush with the back of the piano and the front of the dolly is protruding a few inches.

Those lifting the piano can then lower it gently onto dolly’s rubber caps which are to be positioned under the base of the piano and its wooden arms are to be parallel with the length of the piano (as shown from the side view in the picture below).

The rubber on both of the dolly grips should be securely in contact with the bottom of the pianoto hold it in place so that the piano will not slip off of the dolly unexpectedly and cause personal injury and/or damage.

When the dolly is properly placed under the piano, both of its rubber caps will be securely gripping the bottom of the piano, and the back edge of the piano will be flush with the edges of the dolly’s rubber caps. This will cause the front beveled arm of the dolly and its rubber caps ends to stick out slightly from the front edge of the piano. Also, the piano’s pedals will be centered over the beveled front arm of the dolly.

The majority of the piano’s weight comes from the cast iron harp within the piano’s case so the case must be centered on the dolly in both directions in order to evenly distribute most of the piano’s weight width-wise. Yet, the keyboard has some weight too, although not nearly as much. So the protrusion of the dolly under the front of the piano allows for the keyboard’s weight to overhang it, balancing the piano depth-wise.

If the bottom of the piano’s case was centered on the rubber caps (instead of flush to the back of them) with no dolly protrusion in front, the piano would be out of balance depth-wise. Therefore, the dolly’s rubber caps should never be sticking out behind the piano.

The piano’s base should never be mounted upon the dolly’s wooden arms either, only on its rubber caps.

In the following two pictures, carefully observe the front and back views of a piano properly situated on its feet on the dolly with the dolly protruding in front.

When the piano is properly mounted upon the dolly, the dolly is centered under the piano’s pedals and the dolly’s rubber caps are flush with its back.

Notice that no one needs to hold this properly mounted piano because it is so well balanced!

Tipping a Piano for Moving

First, remove the pianos music rack and save it and its screws for replacement when the piano move is fully accomplished.

If the piano’s front decorative legs will unscrew then take them off now as a precaution against breaking or damaging them during the move. When the move is totally completed – put them back on.

Start this technique by first placing a pad under one side of the piano (if the floor is carpeted no pad is needed – so skip to the next paragraph).

To put the pad under the piano, one or two people need to lift one side of it only about an inch (no more than that otherwise the piano’s bottom edge on the other side and/or the hardwood floor under it might get chipped or scratched).

Then the third person slides a doubled pad or a folded blanket under the slightly lifted piano.

Once the pad is well under the edge of the piano, let it down onto it. Be very careful not to set it on the padder’s hand or fingers.

This padding will protect that edge of the piano and the floor under it from chipping or scratching as the piano is being tipped up onto it from the other side to make room for the dolly.

Now have one person on the padded end place their foot against the side of the piano (on top of the pad or on the carpet) to keep it from sliding as the piano is being tipped up (in the moving industry this is called bucking the piano).

The picture below is of a mover bucking a padded buffet which illustrates the piano bucking idea for you.

Then, on the other end of the piano, 1 or 2 people can tip it up. This is done by gripping the handle in back of the piano and at the same time grabbing under the keyboard in front and lifting it up while the man bucking the other end keeps it from sliding on the pad or on the carpet.

If the decorative legs have not been removed, then the men should somewhat tip the piano towards its back just a bit, so that no weight is put upon the leg (which could easily break).  Do this maneuver anytime a decorative leg touches any thing that would put weight upon it.

When the piano is tilted high enough (to its balance point), it becomes almost weightless and easy for one man to hold up.

Tipping the Piano on its Feet

If you want to know how to tip the Tip the Piano up onto the Dolly on the Piano’s Side, scroll down to the next title to see that technique.

Another person wedges the dolly under it (at a matching angle) so that both of its rubber caps are in contact with the bottom of the piano. To do this, the person wedging the dolly under the piano needs to lift one end of the dolly so that its angle matches the tilt of the piano.

Now, as the lift person lowers their end of the piano, the two rubber grips on the dolly are always in contact with the bottom of the piano and it easily pops up on to the dolly on level ground or even on stairs as shown in the picture above. In this manner the dolly won’t slide away or slam up unexpectedly hard as the lifted end of the piano is being lowered. It will be properly wedged and cause the lowering piano to easily (and amazingly the first time you see it happen) pop right up onto the dolly.

If the dolly is left flat on the floor (as in the picture on the left), when the lifted end of the piano is lowered the dolly does not get enough grip on the piano’s bottom, so it will just scoot out before the piano can pop up onto it. So be sure to place the dolly parallel to piano’s bottom and let the piano down onto it.

The rubber on both of the dolly grips should be securely in contact with the bottom of the pianoonce it is up on the dolly. This will hold it in place so that the piano will not slip off unexpectedly and cause damage or injury.

When the dolly is properly placed under the piano, both its rubber caps are gripping the bottom of the piano, and their back edges will be flush with the back of the piano. This will cause the rubber cap’s other ends and the dolly’s front beveled arm to stick out a bit from the front edge of the piano with the piano’s pedals centered on it as shown in the picture on the right.

The majority of the piano’s weight comes from the cast iron harp within the piano’s case so the case must be placed centered on the dolly in both directions. Yet the keyboard has some weight too, although not nearly as much as the harp. So the protrusion of the dolly under the front of the piano allows for the keyboard’s weight to overhang it, in order to balance the piano depth-wise.

If the bottom of the piano’s case was centered on the rubber caps (instead of flush to the back of them) with no dolly protrusion in front, the piano would be out of balance depth-wise.

The rubber caps should never protrude from the back of the piano. The piano’s base should never be mounted upon the dolly’s wooden arms either.

In the following two pictures, carefully observe the front and back views of a piano properly balanced on a dolly.

When the piano is properly mounted, the dolly is centered under the piano’s pedals with the dolly protruding in front but flush in back.

Notice in these 2 pictures that no one is holding it because it is so well balanced!!

This same technique works with an 800 – 900 lb. piano.

A well balanced piano will make all elements of the movers’ job much easier.

In effect the piano becomes almost weightless when properly mounted on a 4 wheel dolly for level surface moving!!!

You have just successfully elevated and balanced your piano by properly placing it upon the dolly in a relatively easy fashion with very little risk of bodily injury and/or of damage to the piano.

Tipping the Piano on its Side

Another person places the dolly flush to its side so that both of its rubber caps are in contact with the side of the piano. The dolly’s bottom edge should also be touching the pad or carpet as shown in the picture below.

Now, continue to tip the piano up and over and onto the dolly. You’ll need to keep bucking it to keep it wedged under the side of the piano as the tip continues until it pops up onto the dolly. The man on the high side has to be tipping the piano in such a way as to keep weight off of the decorative leg so that it doesn’t break.

When one man handles the low side, they have to be very adept at bucking and at the same time wedging the dolly as this man is in the picture below. For amateurs, it’s best to have one man bucking and one man wedging the dolly.

Notice in the picture below how the two front wheels of the dolly are being faced forward by this highly experienced mover so that as the dolly grabs the piano, one or both wheels won’t bump and shake the piano. It will just pop up smoothly with the wheels properly in position.

And there you have it, an upright piano up on its side on the dolly ready to be moved.

Notice in the picture below how the piano is centered on the dolly and its rubber caps are flush to the back of the piano.

Here is a view of the correct dolly mount from the bottom of the piano.

upright-onto-dolly

And another one from a bit higher angle. Notice the overhang of the keyboard of a properly balanced upright piano.

When the piano is mounted on its side on the dolly, then the piano and the dolly need to be securely lashed together with a locking piano belt. This will keep the dolly from slipping out from underneath the piano all during the moving process. The secret to best moving pianos is to always keep the dolly between the piano and the ground/ramp/stairs because it absorbs scuffing/scratching/chipping and it spreads the piano’s weight nicely on an easy to propel device.

Notice carefully each picture in the sequence below so that you will belt off your piano correctly.

One thing to be aware of about this particular sequence is that the belt is being tightened from the bottom up. Some piano movers prefer to tighten it from the top and pull down because they feel that pulling down makes the belt tighter. To do it the other way just bring the belt buckle down from the top of the piano, flip the rest of the belt under the bottom of the piano and then follow the instructions in the sequence.

Lifting and tipping a piano during the piano moving process can be rather dangerous due to the enormous weight of the musical instrument. If you have your doubts that you can safely pull off that challenging task, then do the sensible thing and hire professional piano movers.

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