Heavy LiftingUpdated: Dec. 16, 2019
Lift heavy stuff without breaking your back
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Use the muscles in your head, not in your back
Get adjustable moving straps
Moving and lifting straps (“hump straps”) make lifting heavy objects easier on your back by relying on stronger muscle groups like your legs and shoulders. They also leave your hands free to maneuver awkward items like mattresses. However, they can be tricky to use on stairs because the weight shifts completely to the downhill mover.
Look for moving straps that can be adjusted for different length objects as well as for different-sized movers. Be careful not to trip on any slack from the straps. Since these straps are rarely padded, they can leave your shoulders sore (but that’s better than your back!). The Forearm Forklift, Teamstrap Shoulder Dolly and others are available at home centers and online retailers.
Need to move a boulder? Or maybe wrestle a refrigerator down a flight of stairs? Brute strength may have served you well back in high school. But growing older means using your mind more than your muscles when it comes to moving heavy or awkward things. Otherwise, you risk wrecking your back, your house and the item you’re moving.
We asked veteran movers and our Field Editors for their top moving tips. Their brains can make your next move faster and easier, even if you don’t have the brawn of a high school he-man.
Take the back off a recliner
Look for locking levers
To move big recliners with ease, find the back brackets on the outside or inside of the back frame. Lift the locking levers on both sides (you may need to use long-nose pliers) and slide the back straight up to remove it from the recliner. Always lift a recliner from the sides, not by the back or footrest. Tie the footrest in place so it doesn’t spring open.
Be a sofa magician
“I thought my large sofa could make it around the 90-degree angle of the basement stairs. Needless to say, I got the sofa wedged in the stairwell and had to climb under it just to escape. So I took out my trusty handsaw and sawed the thing in half! Once it was downstairs, I was able to quickly fasten it back together with some screws and scraps of wood. Because the rips in the fabric were at the back and bottom, nobody was the wiser.” – Chris Bannister
Take apart what you can
Break heavy things into smaller pieces
Remove your door stop molding
Ramp it up (and down)
Use simple machines
Use lumber, scaffold planks and blocks to create ramps to maneuver items.
“To load my wheeled generator into the back of my SUV, I built ramps using supported lengths of 2×6 and attached a come-along tool to the parking brake handle in the front seat. I was able to move the ratcheting lever with one hand and steer the generator up the ramps with the other.” – Jim Boyle
Carry mirrors and glass with suction cups
Great tool for glass
Available in single and double versions, these FastCap Handle on Demand suction cups can be attached to any nonporous surface. They’re not for unfinished wood surfaces. A single pad can support 100 lbs. and the double pad twice that.
Two ways to budge a boulder
Bury it: Dig a slightly deeper hole next to it and roll it in.
Heat it: “When I was little, my father had to remove a large boulder about the size of a filing cabinet laid sideways. He cleared the grass from around it and built a fire all around it. After a few hours he put bags of ice on top of the boulder and it cracked into pieces.” – Marc M.
Dragging a heavy log…can be a drag
Use rollers for big loads
Use plastic wrap, not tape, to secure items
Slippery pads really work
Lift plants the smart way
Great tool for big pots
PotLifter plant straps let you tote up to 200 lbs. without straining.
Use chains, not your back
“I love my chain hoist (available from harborfreight.com). It lets me load just about anything into my pickup without breaking a sweat. Here’s how: I beefed up one of my garage roof trusses by screwing and gluing 3/4-in. plywood to both sides. Then I hung my chain hoist from the truss. Now I can lift any load a few feet off the floor, back my pickup in under it and lower the load into the bed.” – Gary Wentz
Buy moving blankets-don’t rent them
Moving blankets are invaluable for protecting items as well as your house. Sure, renting them is cheap, but you can get one for just a few dollars more at home centers or uhaul.com and have it on hand. The blankets work great for sliding appliances and furniture over hard floors and hauling lumber home on your car roof.
Bring in the heavy lifting gear (and cut a hole in your house)
“After measuring carefully, I thought I could get a fiberglass one-piece tub/shower up the steps into a remodeled bath. After an hour of scratching the hardwood steps, the walls and ceiling and destroying custom-fit curved crown molding, I realized it would not fit. Plan B: Cut a hole in the second-floor exterior wall (it was coming out anyway) and use the excavator’s backhoe as a crane and lift it to the second floor. Plan B took 15 minutes. It should have been Plan A.” – Brian Zoeller
Move it on ice
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Needle-nose pliers
- Pry bar
- Safety glasses
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- 2 x 4s
- Furniture sliders
- Ice cubes
- Pipes (for rollers)
- Planks and lumber for ramp
- Plastic wrap