Cassidy's Moving and Storage
How to Pack Artwork for Moving
If you happen to be an art lover and the day to move your house has come, you will definitely need to take special care of the important artworks that give character to your home. For some people, ensuring that valuable pieces arrive intact is just as important as moving all the other furniture.
All of your paintings, prints, statues and even mirrors can be packed in what’s called a mirror box or an artwork box. For larger, heavy items you may need a wooden crate, as you’ll see below. The smaller items can be packed in China carton. They have two layers of cardboard to keep your artwork safe.
In principle there are two basic stages to packing artwork: protecting the piece, and padding the box you’ll be placing it in.
Moving Framed Artwork and Prints
Investing in flat picture box will help keep your paintings and prints safe. They will cost more but are worth it. Try to find one that is larger than your artwork by about 3 or 4 inches on each side. If it’s larger you’ll have to use more padding materials, and if it’s smaller you won’t have enough room for padding and you run the risk of damage.
Now it’s time to protect your artwork and pack it.
- Mark an ‘X’. If your painting or print has a glass cover, take some masking tape and place an X across the glass. This will prevent the glass from moving around as much if it gets broken. Naturally, if your painting doesn’t have glass you’ll skip this step.
- Plastic or palette wrap. If your picture isn’t covered in glass it is critical to protect the painted face. A great option is to wrap the painting in several layers of plastic wrap from your kitchen. You can also buy sheets of palette wrap, which is basically the same thing. The wrap will stay put and prevent friction damage if the artwork moves a bit inside the box. This is also a great option for glass-covered watercolours and prints.
- Cardboard corners. If the frame of the painting is valuable or unique, you may want to purchase or make cardboard corner protectors for your piece. This will go over the cling wrap if you do this step.
- Bubble wrap. The next step is to provide padding. Several layers of bubble wrap will work. Be generous, cover both horizontal and vertical dimensions, and seal the bubble wrap with tape.
- Prepare the bottom of the box. Place wadded newsprint on the bottom of your box. You can then put the artwork in the box and can work on filling the sides and the top.
- Test. Close the box but don’t seal it. Gently move the box back and forth and see if you feel anything shifting. If you do, you need to open the box and add more padding until everything stays put.
- Seal and label. Once that is done, you can tape the boxes shut and mark them as “fragile items” and “artwork” so the movers will know to take extra care.
If your artworks are valuable, you may want to pack one to a box. If it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they were damaged, you can try fitting a few in the box. If you do this ensure there is extra bubble wrap between the paintings.
The challenge with any sculpture large or small is that any parts that extend or holes are vulnerable. If you imagine a sculpture of a swan, for example, the neck and head are vulnerable to being snapped off.
- To fix this, you’ll need to first cover the sculpture in cling wrap to protect the finish. Use smaller pieces and get in and around all the nooks and crannies to provide support.
- Then you’ll be rolling up strips of bubble wrap and wrapping them around the vulnerable parts of the sculpture.
- Once you’ve build up the fragile areas, use more bubble wrap to wrap the entire sculpture. You should end up with a sphere or egg shape that you can place inside a box, and brace with padding.
As with paintings, you’ll need to pad the box and test it, as outlined above.
If you have a sculpture that is a few feet tall and has the weight to match, you have a bigger challenge on your hands.
Figure out the approximate weight of the item will help you determine how to handle this, and whether you need a wooden crate or if a cardboard box will do. Most single-walled boxes will be able to hold up to 40 pounds or so during moving, so if your weight exceeds that you will need a wood crate instead.
A lot of modern sculptures are made from plaster molds, which means they’re hollow and their weight is not all that bad. If that is the case, you can work with a single good-sized cardboard box with sufficient padding, but you need to be sure about its strength during moving.
The safest and sturdiest way you can take care of larger items is to use wood crates. You can buy these online or even at a shipping suppliers.
Wood crates are not only a heavy duty solution for shipping valuable items, they’re very noticeable in a sea of cardboard boxes. That means they’re less likely to get dropped, flipped or damaged. If they get mishandled, they will also be a lot more likely to survive the moving process as well.
If your artwork is very valuable, ask your mover about extra insurance. Make sure it’s on a value basis and not with the usual weight-based insurance.
Make no mistake, packing artwork is a delicate and important job. If you care about your art and are unable to take appropriate care, it’s best left to professional movers who have experience with artwork.
Natalie Miller is an art enthusiast, who greatly values beautiful displays of artwork. She’s proficient in preserving valuable paintings and statues during hard to manage removal operations. She loves sharing tips and tricks on keeping items safe during house moves.
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