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How to Ship Furniture

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How do you ship your furniture?” It has gotten to the point that I have a notepad document saved with the information on how to ship furniture because I get asked so frequently. Then it dawned on me to put all the information in a blog post so that everyone can access it whenever they like. {head smack} This is not meant to be a pretty post, but the intention is to answer those basic questions.

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

My husband and I have been in the shipping industry in various facets for over 18 years. We’ve worked in toy factories, like Step 2 and Hedstrom (those big bins of play balls in super stores), as well as during our college years, my husband was the shipping clerk at Osborne Wood Products and I was the secretary of Purchasing/Receiving while a student at our college.  He currently is a shipping/receiving manager at his workplace, which is where all our fun begins. All of our experience has helped us to implement those skills into our current business.

I have one word for you who wish to pursue this venue: Connections.  It’s all about connecting with someone who can assist you in shipping those furniture pieces you work so hard on, and lack the local market to make a go of it.  We live in small rural city and our larger markets are over an hour in each direction. Because of that, Craigslist is our best bet when seeking out the local market. That wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to broaden my scope of clients in my shop.

When I was looking into how people ship their large pieces, most everyone said they use Greyhound quite successfully. For us though, the terminal is about a half hour away (one hour round trip), and would be more fuss than it was worth. Plus you have to add insurance fees into your cost. I will say, however, that the rates are reasonable if you have access to that option in your area.

Other shops said they found a local mom & pop type business with freight shipping/receiving capabilities (like a dock and turret truck) and offered to pay a percentage so that they could come in and ship using their services. That’s when I thought utilizing my husband’s workplace would be perfect.  We are so profoundly blessed because not only are we able to bring my furniture in, but we also are allowed to use their supplies, AND also get the benefit of their near half discount.  We’re talking instead of having to charge close to $300, our typical rate is around $120 for basic freight delivery, complete insurance coverage included.  Woot! 

For smaller furniture like tables, and the vintage items, we use UPS through his workplace, which again, we receive their discount and is a huge bonus for us and our clients.  If not for that, I have set up a business account with UPS that offers a discount which is less than we receive through my hubby’s employer, but a discount nonetheless.

Outside of that, another company called Shippi, has contacted me to try their services. They got my attention for sure because they will come straight to your residence to pick up a freighted pallet.  Say whaaat?? When I looked into their upfront rates, they were very comparable to our discount through my husband’s workplace.  The only thing to consider when using them for myself, would be having to maintain the supplies, like pallets, packing materials, binding equipment, cardboard, etc.  I am not at the point yet to be able to store those materials, but am considering them if something should change through my husband’s workplace. They also have an online market where you can list your goods for sale.  All you need in one place – definitely worth checking into to.

Now, I want to take you through our process of preparing furniture for shipment, so you can get a better idea of all that’s involved.

One of the other blessings we have is that we get ALL our packing supplies for FREE. We recycle paper, bubble wrap, air pillows, plastic shrink wrap from unpacked pallets, etc. for packing smaller items. The best resource by far for us is a local furniture store that is more than happy to let us come clean out their stock room and relieve them of all that glorious foam and large boxes.  I never thought I’d be excited about having a huge stash of foam.  ha!

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

Sometimes a small table, for instance, can be of awkward dimensions and we build a box for it using the cardboard sheets we can get from my husband’s workplace or by taking a really large box and cutting it down.  It takes a little practice, but we’ve perfected the process over the years.  We use paperboard corners to reinforce, and pack it so that when you shake it, it doesn’t move. Paper is our preferred stuffer because it doesn’t shift during shipment whereas air pillows can deflate.  We also recycle the shrink wrap that comes off of previously shipped pallets as seen here.

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

We’ve received rave reviews on our packaging and we’re proud of it!

As for your large pieces, like dressers, desks, etc., we ship by freight and that requires a pallet.  Your standard pallet measures 40″ x 48″ and will hold most pieces, but your credenzas, buffets, and dressers that are over 56″ long need a bigger pallet. Out of the two years we’ve been shipping we’ve only run into two instances where we couldn’t locate an extra long pallet in my husband’s workplace, just like this dresser we’re using as an example. When that happens we just attach two smaller pallets together using two 2″ x 4″s cut to length and placed underneath. Then attach them with 3″ screws.

Whenever possible we always bring our kids along – yes, all 6 of them.  It’s a wonderful learning experience because they have been there when my furniture has found its way home in the back of our truck, and helped so I can get work done.  So for them to see the completed process from beginning to end is something you can’t find in a school book.  It can take about an hour or so to get a piece prepared and to keep them from getting unruly, I create games for them like this: toss the tube – using a cardboard tube to toss into the plastic pallet for points.  Fun!

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

Once the pallet has been built, we lay down a foundation of cardboard for added protection from the rough pallet wood.  Most often, when a piece has legs, we like to lay it on it’s back to keep the weight of the dresser from beating them up.  We could just remove the legs, but that isn’t always possible.  When it’s on it’s back, it keeps the drawers from banging around as well.

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

Like I mentioned before, we get our packing supplies from a furniture store, which includes thin foam and board foam in various shapes and densities.  We even can get these super huge bags that were used to package sofas.  They’re perfect for wrapping up a dresser in one easy step.

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

When a mirror is involved, we remove it and cover it in thin foam wrapping, place a cut piece of board foam, then create a cardboard carton.

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

The next layer for the dresser is foam board.  By using the large sheets and corner pieces we acquire from that local furniture store I mentioned, we piece together a puzzle to protect the dresser.

Now that we’ve got it packaged, we need to get the mirror secured during shipment with strapping.  This step needs a little planning because when you use strapping, it will need to be snug and tight, and you don’t want the furniture to get dented or rubbed while in shipment.  

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

To make the strapping pressure distributed evenly, we use paperboard corners paired with foam corner pieces (those are from past shipments as well).

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

 

Otherwise, if there wasn’t a mirror, we would use shrink wrap to keep the cardboard in place. Using only packaging tape won’t suffice, because it can pop when the freight truck is shifting. And note that we do NOT lay the mirror flat.

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

The strapping is secured by a special tool that cuts the binding and another crimps a clip to fasten it together.

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

After that, the last layer is cardboard.  We use the sheets at my husband’s workplace that they recycle off of previously shipped pallets to encase the dresser.

So, now we’ve got the dresser and mirror secured to each other, but now we need to secure it to the pallet.  With that same strapping we go under the pallet and over the dresser, being sure to deflect pressure with paperboard corners.

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

Since your typical freight carrier has to get as much in their trailer as possible, they like to stack pallets if they can.  We don’t want them to do that, obviously, so we add signage that states, “Do Not Double Stack” and write “Fragile” clearly.  

How to Ship Furniture Like a Pro by Prodigal Pieces www.prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces

Thankfully, we have never had any damage done to any of our shipments.  We completely prefer freight carriers to your typical UPS carriers, who tend to rush things. ahem.

Your place of shipment will then have to weigh the pallet, assign a class, and set up a bill of lading for you according to those factors.  We have access to the software my husband’s employer uses, even at home, so we can get a rate quote to our clients.  We offer standard delivery – where the truck driver delivers the pallet, but the client has to remove the furniture and pallet from the truck themselves.  Or liftgate service – the truck driver uses a special liftgate to lower the furniture on the pallet to the ground for you.  On occasion we get requests to also provide inside delivery as well, and all that means is that for an extra fee, they will unpack and bring the item into the first floor of delivery.

Shipments typically take a week to go out to the West Coast (we are in Ohio), but more localized delivery can be accomplished in a little as one day. Amaaazing, isn’t it??

At this point, you may be thinking that it’s impossible for you to accomplish this yourself.  Don’t let all this keep you from making your aspirations to broaden your market come true.  Get out there and talk to your local business and create a relationship with them.  Have ready a list of what you expect them to provide as well as what you’re going to offer them.  Will you offer a percentage or a set fee?  How about a barter system, where you offer your services in return for use of facilities, etc.  Don’t be afraid to ask…the worst they can say is no.  Also, don’t hesitate to ask if they know of someone who would be open to your agreement.  Again, it’s all about connections.

I welcome your questions on how to ship furniture, so feel free to contact me.

 

Comments

  1. kim says

    That was a great tutorial in shipping. You do a wonderful job.

    • Larissa says

      Thank you! It was a long overdue post, but sometimes hard to be there at the right time with our schedules. I’m so glad to help the small business!

  2. Doreen @ Hymns and Verses says

    Larissa – this was soooo informative! It’s awesome that your hubs can help in this way! I’m starting to make larger signs for my shop and you gave me a wonderful idea – my brother-in-law has a small printing company about a mile away and I’m sure he would let me ship my signs using their discount! Thanks sooooo much for sharing this with us!!!

    • Larissa says

      That’s fantastic, Doreen! Most all of us have resources we just haven’t thought of yet. So glad I could help! 😉

    • Larissa says

      You’re welcome, Marie. I’m so glad to be of help to anyone wanting to grow!

  3. Funky Junk Interiors says

    Excellent post, Larissa! I’ll be sharing it around! I don’t ship big stuff but now I know what to do if I decide to! 🙂

    • Larissa says

      Thank you, Donna! I have no doubt in my mind you’ll be moving on to bigger things, the sky’s the limit. 😉

  4. Tana says

    With discounts often being based on quantity or weight, smaller companies in particular would probably be appreciative in sharing their shipping discount. This would take some of the pressure off of them having to be sure to meet the required quantity or weight in order to maintain their discount!

    • Larissa says

      Yep, couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m sure there are even more ways working together can benefit everyone.

  5. Dapoppins says

    What an interesting post! I had no idea. And getting packing supplies for free from a furniture store is THE BEST IDEA ever!

    • Larissa says

      Thank you! It can be fun at times, and resources abound. It’s just a matter of finding them. 😉

  6. Vanessa says

    Larissa,

    Great post and after seeing all you do and the cost I am not going to ship big pieces. LOL, Great post and thank you for sharing this information.

    Vanessa

    • Larissa says

      Hahaha…I don’t blame you! You never know if you change your mind. 😉

  7. MJ says

    Great tute! Thanks for sharing your expertise. You make me wish I had saved all that packing foam!
    Maybe I’ll start small and work my way up to bigger pieces. Definitely need a pickup truck! And to get my grandsons to move closer to me…..So many parts to the puzzle!!!!! Thanks again for the guidebook…..

    • Larissa says

      Thanks! Yes, a truck is sooo nice to have…and the extra muscles. 🙂

  8. Wendi @ H2OBungalow says

    Wow! Thanks for sharing your expertise and information in shipping. I’ve not tackled shipping simply because it was a mystery to me. I’m pinning this for future reference and may just try yet! Thanks again Larissa:)

    • Larissa says

      You’re most welcome, Wendi. It can seemso daunting at first, but with persistence and networking we can all help each other. Thank YOU!

  9. Ashley says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I started an Etsy shop about a year ago and it has definitely been quite the learning curve trying to figure out how to ship large furniture items on my own. I’ve only used Greyhound so far and it’s worked pretty well, but I have had a couple issues with them. Overall their prices are pretty reasonable though. The hardest part for me has been figuring out how to pack things properly and all the logistics that come with shipping heavy furniture cross country. You are so lucky you have your husbands employer to use for all your shipping materials and pallet lifts, etc. What you suggested about creating relationships with local shipping companies was a great tip though. Now I just have to figure out who to ask! Thanks again for sharing, I wish more people wrote shipping posts like this because it always seems to be such a mystery when you are first starting out!

    • Larissa says

      Congratulations to you on your Etsy shop! There’s always something to learn, isn’t there? I had considered Greyhound, but when I found out that I had to add insurance that kinda turned me off. Our freight companies are 100% insured and we’ve never had a claim in almost 3 years. So glad this helped, Ashley!

  10. Cheryl says

    Thank you so much for the info you sent me, it’s very useful and lots of work! Glad to see your whole family involved, that is awesome to see! Thanks again!!

    • Larissa says

      You bet! Thank you for stopping by. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions. 🙂

  11. Moe says

    Such an insightful post, Larissa. Thank you so much for sharing!
    – Moe

    • Larissa says

      My pleasure! Let me know if you have any additional questions.

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