By Stephanie Hyland, Storage.com
Moving and storing a piano can seem like a daunting task when you’re transitioning between homes. Not only is a piano heavy and large, but it’s also a delicate instrument. Because of this, certain precautions need to be taken while it’s being moved and stored in order to prevent expensive or irreparable damage. Whether your piano was an investment for your children’s weekly lesson or is a family heirloom with sentimental value, self storage is the best option for protecting your piano while you’re moving.
To keep your piano safe from internal and external damage, hire a professional to move it, store it in a climate-controlled environment, and make sure to have it tuned immediately after it comes out of self storage.
Get a Professional To Move Your Piano
The value of a piano can vary depending on its make, model, and age. But no matter how much money you invested in its purchase, the only value that truly matters is how much you care about it.
By entrusting a professional piano moving company to move your piano out of your home and into a storage unit (and eventually into your new home), you will rest easy knowing that your piano is in good hands.
“Pianos can be difficult to move for multiple reasons,” says Kevin Patterson, owner of Kevin Patterson Piano Service, who has been servicing pianos in the Tampa Bay area since 1999. He’s also serviced pianos for The Florida Orchestra for four seasons. “For one, they weigh hundreds of pounds. The smallest upright can weigh around 300 pounds, and the large grands can be well over 500 pounds.”
Because of how delicate these giant instruments are, Patterson supports hiring a professional piano service to do the heavy lifting. “I would say the main reason to have a professional do the job would be peace of mind. Your piano could be the most valuable piece of furniture in your home.”
Patterson adds that, if you’re willing to pay a little more for “excellent service,” then you should contact a Steinway dealer in your area. “They usually have the most experience with handling and moving valuable pianos,” he says.
Dan Loibl, owner of Dan The Piano Man in Spokane Valley, Wash., agrees that hiring a professional moving company is a great idea, not only because of the weight of the piano, but because it’s also another way to protect the piano and your home’s floors.
“The wheels on a piano are designed to make the unit portable in the sense you can move it away from the wall for spring cleaning. Those small wheels will hold it, but they are typically always steel wheels and can really damage floors by denting or scratching the surface,” says Loibl. “Movers can use the piano dollies that don’t hurt the floors, and they have the strength and strong backs to do it.”
Invest in a Climate Controlled Unit For Your Piano
When preparing your piano for storage—whether it’s short-term or long-term storage—you want to make sure that every precaution is taken to ensure that your piano is in working order when it comes out of storage.
Piano experts stress the importance of storing your piano in a climate-controlled unit to protect the instrument from fluctuating temperatures that could have a negative effect on the strings, keys, and wood.
“Humidity is a piano’s worst enemy,” says Loibl. “With the average piano having approximately 15,000 glued joints, it isn’t glue anymore if the piano is stored in a humid climate. The strings are also not rust-proof by any means. If not stored in a climate-controlled unit, they can become rusted and corroded.”
Loibl, who has tuned pianos for famous pianists, such as Arthur Ferrante, John Ford Coley, and Vladimir Horowitz, adds that extreme temperatures can also wreak havoc on a piano’s tuning. If kept in an environment that’s too cold, the piano will go flat; in an environment that’s too hot, it will go sharp. Both will cost you to fix.
Sal Margaglione, president of Father & Son Moving and Storage in Wallingford, Conn., which has specialized in moving pianos since 1908, says storing a piano in an environment where it’s exposed to different weather elements can even change the shape of the instrument.
“A climate-controlled storage unit is important for a piano because it can affect the shape and condition of the instrument,” says Margaglione. “For example, if it is made of wood, the wood will expand or contract in either hot or cold weather.”
As for what temperature you should keep your climate-controlled storage unit, Patterson has a good rule of thumb: If you’re comfortable, your piano is, too.
“The humidity should be around 50%, and the ideal temperature between 65-78°F,” says Patterson. “If the piano is out of this ‘comfort range’ for extended periods of time, it could damage the thousands of wood and felt parts.”
Tune Your Piano After Storing It
“[A] piano should be tuned after it comes out of storage [when] you’re finished moving it,” says Margaglione, who doesn’t believe it’s necessary to tune a piano before it’s placed in storage.
Patterson agrees, saying that tuning your piano before putting it into storage isn’t required. However, he cautions piano owners to be aware that it could be more expensive to tune older pianos once they come out of storage since they’re more sensitive.
“Pianos will go out of tune whether or not they are being played,” says Patterson. “Time is typically the biggest factor…If it will be in storage for longer than one year, the cost of the tuning services could be higher because the piano tuner might need to spend more time increasing the tension on the strings to bring it to the correct pitch.”
Nevertheless, all three experts agree that a climate-controlled storage unit will lessen the tuning issues later.
By keeping this advice in mind during your moving process, you can be sure to have a successful self storage and relocation experience for your piano, and you can look forward to many more years of tickling the ivories.