How to pack heavy items for moving

It's important to pack heavy items the right way.More about Ethan Greenfield

Packing for moving is well-known to be a task of Herculean proportions – endless hours of laborious, exhausting, backbreaking (quite literally) work. Yet, the statement rings especially true when it comes to packing heavy items. There is little doubt, after all, that packing garage tools and garden equipment requires much greater effort than packing clothes and shoes, for example. And it is just as certain that carrying boxes full of books is much more tiresome than carrying boxes full of holiday decorations or children’s toys. Not to mention how difficult it is to prepare large furniture and bulky appliances for shipment. Or what a challenge specialty items, like grand pianos or home safes, pose to home movers.

Not only are heavy household items difficult to handle during a house move, they also present a number of considerable risks:

  • to the safety of the people who are packing and carrying them;
  • to the property they are being taken in or out of;
  • to their own good condition.

Needless to say, they greatly increase the final moving cost as well – it is based on the weight of the shipment for long distance moves (heavy items weigh A LOT) or the time it takes to perform the relocation for local moves (heavy items are more difficult to maneuver and take longer to load and unload) and the complexity of the job (heavy items often require additional moving services).

Yet, you can’t just leave your weighty belongings behind when moving house, can you? What you can do, however, is pack them properly – this will considerably reduce the above-mentioned risks and will make your relocation endeavor a little easier.

So, how to pack heavy items for moving? How to ensure their safety, protect your property, and prevent personal injury? Here are a few insider tips for packing heavy items you may find quite helpful:

Use appropriate packing materials

Packing materials are designed for two main purposes:

  1. provide protection to the items being shipped;
  2. make them easier to carry around and arrange in the shipping trucks/containers.

So, the right type of packing supplies can help you ensure the safety of your heavy items and prevent accidents and injuries during the relocation process. You just need to make sure you use appropriate packing materials:

  • Stronger boxes – Get hold of heavy duty shipping boxes and double-ply cardboard boxes that will be strong enough to withstand the weight of your heavy items. Consider buying specialty boxes (book boxes, dish boxes, bottle boxes, picture boxes, etc.) for your more delicate and more valuable weighty belongings. It may even be a good idea to rent/buy plastic crates instead of cardboard boxes. Wooden crates are your best option for heavy artwork and other expensive, oddly-shaped, fragile, heavy items;
  • Thicker wrapping – The thicker the wrapping, the smaller the risk of damage to the item and to the floor, in case a weighty object is dropped while being carried around. Thicker wrapping will also provide better protection if the items bump against each other or topple over during transportation. So, make sure you have plenty of bubble wrap (to be able to make several layers of wrapping around an object), foam padding, moving blankets, etc.;
  • Sturdier cushioning – Crumpled paper won’t do when you need to cushion heavy items in a box – it will compress flat under their weight and won’t provide adequate protection. You should use large size bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, packing peanuts, or foam padding instead;
  • High quality packing tape – Thin masking tape won’t hold greater weight, so you need heavy duty packing tape when packing heavy items – to reinforce the boxes, keep the wrappings in place, etc.

 Good to remember:

  1. Never use old boxes or boxes that are not especially designed for moving for packing heavy items – they will be too weak to withhold the greater weight or may be already compromised from previous uses;
  2. Do not skimp on packing materials when preparing heavy household items for shipment – you can save some money by using improvised packing and wrapping materials (suitcases, bags, baskets, old clothes, sheets, towels, etc.) instead of professional packing supplies, but they won’t provide adequate protection to your weighty belongings and you may end up spending much more on repairing or replacing your damaged possessions. The risk is not worth it – it is very important to use proper packing materials when moving heavy items.

Prepare the boxes

Not all of your heavy household items can go in boxes, of course, but those that can will be better protected if you take the time to properly prepare the moving containers. Make sure you:

  • Use small moving boxes for packing heavy items – larger boxes will weigh too much if they’re full of heavy objects, will be very difficult to lift and carry, and may easily break under the weight of their contents;
  • Reinforce the boxes with heavy duty packing tape to reduce the risk of them falling apart when lifted and carried around;
  • Line the bottoms of the boxes with large size bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or corrugated cardboard for added safety.

Prepare your heavy items for packing

Different types of items require different preparation but, generally, you’re recommended to:

  • Clean and empty the items (if applicable);
  • Remove any detachable parts from larger heavy items and pack them separately for better protection. You may want to disassemble furniture pieces and dismantle some kinds of equipment, household appliances, tools, etc.;
  • Provide extra protection to the most vulnerable parts of an item – glass elements, protruding elements, etc. Use packing paper, bubble wrap, foam sheets, or other appropriate materials to ensure their safety;
  • Pay special attention to heavy fragile items – wrap them individually in several layers of suitable protective materials to keep them safe and sound during the relocation.

Pack your heavy items the right way

Once your boxes and your heavy belongings are properly prepared, it won’t be so difficult to pack the weighty items for moving. Just follow the steps below:

1) Choose a sturdy, properly padded box that is slightly larger than the item(s) you’re about to pack;

2) Place the item(s) inside so that some space remains between them and the sides of the box;

3) Use pieces of cardboard, foam sheets, packing peanuts, or large size bubble wrap to fill the empty space in the box. If you put more than one item in a box, make sure there is sufficient cushioning between the articles as well. Keep in mind that it is very important to completely immobilize the items (especially fragile ones) inside the box;

4) Fill any extra space at the top of the box with more cushioning materials. The boxes should always have a firm top once closed or they may cave in when stacked one over the other in the moving truck. So, do not forget to test the top before sealing the box shut – if it feels like it might give way when you push down on it, reopen the box and add some more packing peanuts or foam sheets;

Bonus trick: If there is too much space left at the top of a box when you put a heavy item in it, you can use to pack some lighter articles inside the same carton. It won’t be a good idea, however, to have lightweight items on top of a box that is going to be stacked under another heavy box in the moving truck. In this case, it will be better to cut the box down to size – slice the vertical edges of the box, fold down the sides, overlap them, and seal tightly to create a smaller moving container. Depending on the items inside, you may want to turn the cut-down box upside-down – you will get a multi-layered bottom which can withstand much greater weight than a typical carton.

5) Seal the box and place it in another box, several inches larger than the already packed one. Put some cardboard pieces or other appropriate padding materials between the two boxes. Tape the second box shut. (Alternatively, you can wrap the packed box in several layers of bubble wrap and run packing tape around it to keep the wrapping in place.);

6) Label the boxes with their contents and write HANDLE WITH CARE or HEAVY on the cartons, so that the movers know that need to be cautious when carrying, loading, and unloading these boxes. Don’t forget to mark all boxes that contain fragile items as FRAGILE and THIS SIDE UP.

Keep the boxes no heavier than 50 pounds!

Now that you know the best way to pack heavy items in general, you may want to learn the specifics of packing different types of heavy items. Follow the links below for more detailed information:

How to pack books for moving; How to pack tools for moving; How to pack electronics for moving; How to move kitchen appliances; How to move heavy furniture; How to move specialty items – piano, safe, pool table, hot tub

One final piece of advice: Get proper moving insurance for your heavy items – just to be on the safe side.

Be careful when moving heavy items

However well packed your heavy household items may be, you still need to be extra careful when moving them to your new home:

  • Take appropriate measures to avoid property damage when taking heavy items out of your old home or into your new residence;
  • Use the right lifting techniques when moving heavy furniture and boxes;
  • Rent proper moving equipment if you’ll be moving your heavy items yourself;
  • Once the weighty items are loaded in the moving truck, secure them well to prevent shaking and jostling during transit;
  • Hire professional movers to save yourself plenty of time, effort, and headaches – the experts are not only highly experienced in moving heavy items, but also have the appropriate tools and professional know-how to ensure a safe and efficient relocation.

As a rule of thumb, items heavier than 50 lbs should be packed and moved by professionals.


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