Using the Dolly: How to Make Your Move Easier

Using the Dolly: How to Make Your Move Easier

A man moving boxes using a dolly

Before you move, you need to learn how to move with dollies. There are right and wrong ways to use one. We are all aware of it. Just like my little brother and I were aware using a dolly to ride down a neighborhood hill using hockey sticks to steer was definitely not the right way (but it was the fun way)!

If you are moving on your own with just you, some friends, and a box truck, you may be wondering how you will move some items to your new home. A dolly will help you move those awkward and heavy items without too much fuss.

There are many types of dollies so you shouldn’t have trouble finding one that suits your needs. And don’t stress, if you don’t own a dolly you can rent one from U-Haul or Home Depot in preparation for your move.

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Choosing Your Moving Dolly

We all grew up with the red metal dolly with Tonka Truck look-alike wheels sitting in the corner of our parent’s garage. However, did you know that is not the only type of dolly available? Or that certain types of dollies (also called hand trucks or furniture trolleys) can help move specific things such as large appliances or furniture.

Some key tips for picking out a dolly include picking one with tire-like rubber inflatable wheels. These types of wheels handle stairs and bumps in the sidewalk a lot easier than solid plastic wheels. Also, consider picking up a strap to keep larger and wider items secure to your hand truck during the move from truck to home.

The Types of Hand Trucks and Their Primary Uses

  • Utility Dolly – This is your typical all-purpose dolly. Useful for heavy boxes or small to mid-size appliances and can usually handle up to 600 lbs. These dollies can conquer stairs.
  • Appliance Dolly – This is your all-purpose dolly on steroids. It looks very similar to your basic hand truck with the addition of a second set of wheels, or a strap to help move large appliances. (And it is also a great ride down that neighborhood hill).
  • Furniture Dolly – This one has four wheels, is a solid square base, and has no handle. Simply put your furniture on and go. It can handle up to 1000 lbs but cannot tackle the stairs, so have a strong friend handy to pivot that couch up the stairwell.
  • Miscellaneous – There are more specialty dollies out there as well including those for refrigerators and even pianos. Check with your local Home Depot or U-Haul to see what of these dollies are available for your move.

How to Handle the Hand Truck

Man pushing a hand truck on the street

Let’s go over the basics of using an all-purpose dolly. When putting a box (or ottoman or energy-saving washing machine or…) on a dolly be sure to tilt it forward and slide the dolly’s plate under the machine or box. Then place a hand to balance the boxes or furniture as you tip the dolly back onto its wheels.

For extra stability remember to keep a foot on the low bar between the wheels to prevent the dolly from sliding out from underneath you. You are ready to go! Either push the dolly while balanced on its wheels or walk backward and pull it with you according to what you are most comfortable with. For the safety of your toes around heavy objects please wear close-toed shoes!

Moving Boxes with a Dolly

When moving boxes there are several checkboxes you want to cross off before attempting to move your teetering tower. First, put the heaviest box on the bottom. There’s no point in tempting fate…or gravity. Second, make sure your boxes are stacked straight and even on top of each other. This isn’t a game of Jenga you want to lose after all.

Finally, make sure you don’t have the boxes stacked so high you can’t see over them. You need to see any potential hazards as you walk, not to mention if the box has nothing to lean against on the dolly it may just lean harshly onto your face. At the end of the day, it’s safer for you and for your grandmother’s heirloom china to just take an extra trip or two.

Moving Appliances with a Dolly

Moving appliances can be intimidating. Appliances have a lot of small parts, fragile systems, and can cost thousands to repair or replace. So if you want to hire a moving service for the appliance move, we understand. However, if you think you want to give it a try here is how we suggest using your dolly to do it.

First of all, we suggest using an appliance dolly with its extra wheel and straps to give you a helping hand. Moving appliances is possible with a common utility dolly, but we recommend if using one getting a strap to use with it as well.

When moving appliances it’s important to remember no matter the appliance that all cords, tubing, etc. are secured to the appliance so it doesn’t get caught or harmed during the move. You can also use appliance moving wrap. This can be slippery so some only put it on once the appliance is on the moving truck to protect it on the drive.

Additionally, remember to unplug the appliance 24 hours before it’s to be moved. In the case of refrigerators and freezers let them defrost fully before moving.

Moving Furniture with a Dolly

When it comes to moving furniture it seems as though it is the true life’s purpose of a dolly. Move any heavy oak dresser or antique writing desk with as much ease as possible.

First, before moving furniture, particularly dressers or desks, remember to empty cabinets and drawers. Then using painter’s tape, tape the drawers and door closed so they don’t swing open or fall out while on the dolly.

Additionally, make sure to wrap your heavy furniture (especially wood furniture) before moving. This protects against the metal of the dolly so it doesn’t scrape or ding the furniture. The furniture dolly is great for moving heavy and awkwardly shaped furniture across flat surfaces. But an appliance dolly or utility dolly with a strap may be best when moving furniture up and down stairs.

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Stairs: You Can Do It!

Gif from "Friends" of Ross shouting "Pivot!"

When you picture moving furniture up and down stairs during your move, the classic scene from Friends where Ross is yelling PIVOT to Rachel and Chandler may come to mind. As well as their inevitable failure to get the couch up the stairs to Ross’ apartment. However, moving furniture doesn’t always have to be the unfortunate punchline to a sitcom. A dolly can help with this.

How to Use a Dolly on the Stairs

  • Slow and steady wins the race! Keep the dolly moving at a steady pace as you maneuver the stairs. Moving too fast or stopping and starting again can make moving the dolly and its cargo a lot harder on you. This also increases the chance of a mistake.
  • Just keep moving. When going over the stairs or other bumps and obstacles don’t let the dolly stop. It will be a lot harder to get it going again. A good dolly with inflatable rubber wheels is made to handle the stairs and uneven pavement.
  • When going down stairs avoid tipping the dolly too far back. This can cause the items on the dolly to slide forward and slam straight into you. Ouch!
  • Keep one hand on the top of the items on the dolly and steer with the other. This will help keep items from tumbling off.
  • Remember straps are your friend! They can ensure the only place those items are going is where you and your dolly are taking them.

Some Final Tips

Somebody's feet peeking out of a moving box

A few final tips before you can kick your feet up with a cold one at the end of your move. When moving unstable or off-balance items remember to keep one hand on the items to help them balance. Additionally, have a friend spot you to make sure you don’t injure yourself or break your furniture and household items.

Place cardboard on carpets and hardwood to make sure the dolly’s wheels or the steel plate don’t scratch up the floor of your home.

Keep your dolly nearby but also out of your way. Remember it’s a tool and made of metal so it can hinder as much as it can help you when you don’t pay attention to where you leave it.

And finally, make sure to get the dollies that make your move the easiest. That deserves some pizza and a cold drink at the end of a long day.

If you are looking to move along with a furry, scaly, or feathery friend check out our article on The Best Advice for Moving with Pets. Or perhaps you are still considering hiring movers, check out Is It Worth It For Me to Hire Movers?