The moving dolly: What is a dolly and how to use it?

Having the right tools for a job makes it easier, safer, and more efficient – however difficult, complicated, or risky a task may be, using appropriate equipment will save you plenty of time and effort, help you avoid accidents and injuries, and guarantee you success.

So, when moving house (quite an arduous undertaking), you will definitely want to have the right equipment for the job – essential moving tools and supplies that will help you perform your relocation in a safe and effective manner. And while every piece of moving equipment has its own role and purpose and will undoubtedly make your move much smoother, the moving dolly is arguably the most important of all – especially on moving day.

Dollies are indispensable when it comes to taking heavy items (furniture, appliances, large boxes, etc.) between your home and the moving truck. They eliminate the risk of accidentally dropping (and breaking) a heavy piece, make your move go quicker, and help reduce the strain on your body.

What is a dolly?

Essentially, a dolly is a platform on wheels. It is great for moving large and heavy items – all you need to do is lift the piece on the platform, secure it in place, and steer it to wherever you want it to go.

There are different types of dollies that serve different purposes and have different advantages. Which one will be right for you will depend on the type of items you have for moving and the peculiarities of your pick-up and delivery locations:

Utility dolly

The upright utility dolly – also known as a hand truck – is an L-shaped platform with two wheels and a handle (either two ergonomic handles or a handlebar that runs across the back). It is small, versatile, and extremely convenient – the lower shelf portion of the truck can be easily slid under an item, then the whole dolly can be tilted backwards, making it a child’s play to lift and move the piece around.

This is an all-purpose dolly, ideal for moving anything from boxes to small furniture and appliances – it allows you to stack and move several boxes at once, transport tall, lightweight furniture pieces like bookcases and filing cabinets, climb up and down stairs, and easily maneuver your load along narrow hallways and around sharp corners.

The carrying capacity of a hand cart dolly is about 600 pounds. It has large, rubber (pneumatic) tires that leave no marks on the floors and elastic straps for securing the load to the frame of the dolly.

What’s more, the utility dolly is very easy to use on ramps and has been estimated to cut loading/unloading time by 50%.

Appliance dolly

Similar to the utility dolly in structure and form, the appliance dolly is specifically designed for moving big, heavy appliances, such as refrigerators, washers, and stoves. It has strong, nylon straps to secure the appliance in place and rub rails to protect its finish. Some models even include a locking auto-recoil mechanism or a special tightening handle for increased safety.

The heavy duty, 2-wheel appliance dolly provides the leverage you need to move a large household item. It has a weight capacity of about 700 lbs. and easily rolls up and down stairs, allowing you to take your appliance to the place where it needs to go in a safe and convenient manner.

Furniture dolly

The furniture dolly is a flat dolly with four swivel wheels and a wide base made of wood or steel. It looks quite simple – without any handles or straps – but can handle up to a thousand pounds, allowing you to easily move and manoeuver any large furniture pieces or other bulky items. All you need to do is load the piece on and give it a push.

This heavy duty, four wheel dolly is your best choice for moving dressers, desks, wall units, couches, and even pianos. It has padded edges to protect your cherished belongings and large, soft non-mar tires to protect your floors. What’s more, it has a tight turning radius, so you can easily navigate in tight places, elevators, etc.

The only disadvantage of a furniture dolly is that it cannot be used on stairs.

Dollies come in different shapes and sizes (you can get a small dolly cart, a large dolly, a collapsible dolly, a 4 wheel cart dolly, etc.), but they all work great for moving heavy objects. Pick whichever one suits your needs best or use two or three different types if necessary – either way your moving job will become much safer and easier. Just make sure you know how to use a dolly the right way.

How to use a dolly to move boxes

A moving dolly is safe and easy to use – as long as you don’t make some rookie mistakes that may ruin your moving experience:

  1. Ensure a clear path (remove any obstacles from the way) between your starting point and destination point;
  2. Put the largest and heaviest box you want to transport on the base of the hand truck, place a second one on top of it, and keep stacking the boxes until you reach the top of the vertical part of the dolly (make sure the top box is at least partially resting on the back of the hand truck – otherwise it will slide off when the dolly starts rolling);
  3. Create a straight and balanced stack (make sure the boxes are perfectly aligned) so that the boxes don’t topple over when the dolly is rolling;
  4. Avoid topping the stack with a large box that blocks your view – you need to be able to see where you are going;
  5. To get a stack of boxes onto your hand truck, tip it forward to slip the dolly’s bottom plate underneath the boxes. Then carefully tilt the hand truck back onto its wheels, holding the front of the cargo with your hand to make sure it tips backward with the dolly;
  6. When tilting a stack of boxes backward onto the moving dolly, put a foot on the bar in between the truck’s wheels to prevent the dolly from rolling back;
  7. Pull the loaded utility dolly slowly and carefully to your destination. Use one hand to hold the top of the cargo while steering the dolly with the other;
  8. Roll straight over bumps, thresholds, and stairs – if you go at them at an angle the dolly will tip and so will the boxes;
  9. When going down stairs, roll the dolly very carefully down each step to keep the boxes from bouncing off the dolly. Avoid tilting your hand truck too far backwards – if there is too much of a tilt, the wheels might pass over the next step and create some sudden momentum that can cause the boxes to fall from the dolly or make you lose your hold on the hand truck.

Related: How to pack boxes for moving

How to use an appliance dolly

Using an appliance dolly is very similar to using a standard utility dolly, but you need to take some extra precautions in order to ensure the safety of your appliances:

  • Measure the doorways to see if they’re wide enough for your refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, or stove – you may need to remove some doors from their hinges to get your large appliances through;
  • Unplug your appliance (do not forget to defrost the fridge) and move it away from the wall;
  • Tie or tape electrical cords and hoses to the rear of the appliance;
  • Consider wrapping the appliance in moving blankets for better protection, but keep in mind that it may be difficult to get a good grip on a wrapped fridge or washing machine. You may want to keep the appliance unwrapped until you get it into the moving truck;
  • Move the appliance dolly to the edge of the item, have someone tilt the appliance away from the dolly, then slide the bottom plate of the dolly underneath the piece. Don’t try to load a large appliance on the dolly by yourself – it may fall on you or you can hurt yourself or damage the item when trying to lift it (See also: Proper lifting techniques for moving heavy items);
  • Make sure you load the appliance from the side – the sides have a smooth even surface that will rest snugly against the dolly rub rails and will allow you to strap the appliance more securely. Besides, you will avoid the risk of scratching the front of your appliance or damaging the mechanical components that are usually positioned on the back;
  • Position the appliance upright and stable on the bottom plate of the dolly and rest it against the rub rails;
  • Secure the appliance in place – bring the strap around the item, keeping it straight and positioned near the center of the appliance. Secure the strap with the “D-rings,” then tighten it around the appliance by using the auto-recoil mechanism (or turning the tightening handle left to right) to lock the strap into place;
  • When going up stairs or loading the appliance onto the moving truck, have someone push the item as you pull the dolly backwards up the stairs or up the ramp of the truck (if going down stairs, tilt the dolly very slightly, roll it slowly and carefully down each step, and have your moving buddy hold the appliance from the other end to keep it stable).

Related: How to move household appliances

How to use a dolly to move furniture

Moving furniture with a dolly is the safest way to take your pieces between your home and the moving truck:

  1. Plan the best route for your furniture in or out of the home – measure doorways and corridors to make sure the piece will get through, clear the path of obstacles, etc.;
  2. Empty the furniture and take out any drawers or other loose parts to make the pieces lighter and easier to maneuver;
  3. Secure the furniture doors with straps or rubber bands to prevent them from opening or falling out as the item is moved;
  4. Wrap the furniture in moving blankets to protect its finish from damage;
  5. Decide which side of a furniture piece you’re going to put downside – you’re advised to place your furniture on its most solid and flat surface (tall items like bookcases and armoires are best moved on their sides and flat-topped items like desks or horizontal dressers – upside down);
  6. Position the furniture dolly close to your furniture piece. Lift the side of the furniture opposite the dolly, put the dolly in place with your foot, and have someone help you raise the furniture onto the flat dolly base. Keep a firm hold on the piece to prevent it from toppling over or sliding back down until it is resting fully on the dolly and is perfectly balanced;
  7. To load a tall piece on its side, position the dolly close to the side of the furniture, then pull the top of the piece toward you. Lower it slowly and carefully until your tall furniture is sitting balanced and square on the dolly;
  8. Push gently from the back to roll your loaded dolly to its destination (have someone in front to steer the dolly and watch for obstacles). Take extra care around corners and make sure the item doesn’t tip.

Related: How to move heavy furniture by yourself

Using a dolly to move your heavy items makes the relocation process much easier. Yet, it’s a lot of hard work and it’s risky – a job better left to the professionals. Hiring experienced movers to take care of your furniture and other large household items is your best bet to ensure the safety of your belongings, the good condition of your property, the well-being of your back, and the success of your relocation (naturally, the pros will bring a dolly and will know how to use it properly).

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