Avoid back injury (and mashed toes!) when moving flagstones, stone steps and other heavy materials. A landscaping pro shows you five ways to move stone slabs and blocks safely and more easily by using a dolly, plastic pipe and special lifting techniques.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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An hour or less
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How to Move Large Rocks Tip 1: Dolly it!
Put stone on wheels
Avoid the heavy lifting by sliding stone onto the dolly and rolling it to the job site.
Pull the dolly up stairs
Pull the dolly up stairs to retain good control.
The nice thing about a dolly is that you don’t have to hoist a heavy object as high as you would with a wheelbarrow. And with the dolly’s two wheels and lower center of gravity, the load is much more stable. We used a dolly for moving a 250-lb. plate compactor from the truck to the excavation, for transporting large flagstones across lawns, and for hauling stacks of brick and block to their destination.
For heavy outdoor uses like these, rent a dolly that has large pneumatic tires. They roll more easily over surfaces that are rough or soft (grass). Make sure the tires are correctly inflated or you’ll get a flat!
Walk backward and pull the loaded dolly up a hill or stairs (Photo 2).You’ll have more leverage and better control. And rest the handle on your thigh to support the weight when you have to take a quick break. That way you won’t need to tip the dolly upright and then tip the load down again.
Use Your Head Before Your Back
As a landscape contractor, I move a lot of stone, brick and concrete blocks by hand. I have one basic rule: Use your head before your back. Whenever you face a heavy rock, timber or pile of bricks, stop and consider the various options you have for moving it.
Reject any technique that might cause a serious strain, especially to your back. The safe method may require you to make more trips, rent better equipment, ruin more of the lawn or spend a bit more, but don’t take chances with your health.
You’d be amazed how easy it is to move heavy, awkward objects with three pieces of PVC pipe. I’ve moved playhouses, yard sheds, empty hot tubs and rocks weighing well over a ton with this trick. Use 4-in. dia. “Schedule 40” PVC, which is available from home centers in 10-ft. lengths.
Here’s how to do it:
Lift the front edge of the stone with a pry bar and slip two pipes underneath. Place one near the front and one about midway so the stone rests on the pipes.
Position the third pipe a foot or two in front of the stone.
Roll the stone forward onto the third pipe until the rear pipe comes free. Then move the rear pipe to the front and repeat.
This technique works best on relatively flat ground. On mild slopes, you’ll need a helper to shift pipes while you stabilize the load. Don’t use this method on steeper slopes.
How to Move Large Walks Tip 3: Lift it!
Position your body
Lay the stone against your thighs, knees bent, and grip it low.
Hoist the stone
Lean back and stand upright, supporting most of the weight with your legs.
Sometimes you have no choice but to lift and carry something heavy, like a stone, a sack of concrete or a bundle of shingles. If so, keep the strain to a minimum. Rest the stone against your upper thighs as shown, so you won’t have to lift the full weight with your arms (Photo 1).
Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible. As you stand, lean back slightly so that your legs do the lifting, not your back (Photo 2).As you walk with the load, watch your footing. If you stumble, be prepared to release the load, pushing it away with your thighs so it doesn’t drop on your toes!
How to Move Large Rocks: Tip 4: Walk it!
Tip the stone up
Tip the stone on one edge and tilt it to one side.
Start the walk
Pivot the stone on one corner, then tilt it toward the other corner.
Walk it along
Continue to tilt the stone from side to side as you walk it forward, a small step each time.
There’s no need to pick up every heavy stone on the job site. If you’re only moving flat, heavy stones short distances, tip them up and walk them forward (photos above). Simply rotate it from corner to corner. This works best on a surface you don’t mind tearing up a bit, like grass or dirt. However, use caution on hard surfaces. The edges of heavy stones may chip, or they may grind scratch marks into concrete or asphalt
How to Move Large Rocks Tip 5: Flip it!
Three step flip
Get low, lift one edge of the stone and flip it over.
When I have to move a really big stone slab by hand—one that won’t fit on a dolly—I usually flip it. Keep in mind that this only works if you’re moving across grass, dirt or some other soft surface and the stone or other heavy object is nearly impossible to break. Wear heavy gloves.
Even lifting the one edge can be a strain, so get low and lift with your legs and arms, not your back. Stay behind the stone and keep your hands clear when you drop it forward. This is an especially safe technique for moving heavy stuff uphill. However, it’s slow and best for short distances. Check out these cheap landscaping ideas that make a big difference.
Required Tools for this how to move large rocks project
A dolly is a great landscaping tool and leather gloves are a must.
Required Materials for this how to move large rocks project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.