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AU Tall tales and moving storeys

Property Here - Wednesday, May 22, 2013

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OOOPS. Your favourite piece of furniture won't fit through the door. What now?

Once it was pianos and billiard tables that caused headaches at moving time; now it's everyday items such as dining tables, bedheads and even barbecues.

Changes to occupational health and safety laws means awkward and bulky furniture can no longer be hoisted over the side of a balcony by mates with a rope and a prayer.

Moving today can be a strategic operation requiring a crane and even street closures. And it's not just the rich who need to call in the professionals.

Removal companies say shifting large items is a growing problem, whether it's empty nesters downsizing to units or those trying to squeeze modern furniture into tiny terrace homes. Then there are those who order new furniture only to find it won't fit.

Adding to the dilemma is that many new blocks have narrow stairwells and small lifts.


Wridgways marketing director Jane Riley says Sydney's high-density, multi-storey living and hilly landscape accounts for a third of the firm's most challenging jobs.

Complex moves can take days to plan and include an inspection and access check.

"Thirty years ago a lounge suite would be a three-seater and two arm chairs but these days it could be modular or recliners,'' she says. ``We ask many questions to ascertain the best way to move these items.''

Lounges, particularly those longer than 2.2m, safes and spa baths are among the most difficult items to move.
Balmain Removals says a client in Edgecliff ordered a $15,000 lounge and waited four months for it, only to find it wouldn't fit into the block. It cost $1800 more for a crane to lift it to the balcony.


The good news is that lifting heavy goods has become a day-to-day business for most major removal companies. An electronic hoist takes minutes to do difficult jobs that were once a nightmare.

Joe Schubert, owner of Always Moving Stuff, has delivered furniture off barges because of tricky terrain around the harbour foreshore and will hoist bulky items over balconies if there is access.

The job requires a minimum of four trained men: three on the top and one below. The piece is fully wrapped in a blanket and tied with ropes to ensure it is protected. This is a cheaper option costing $500 to $1000 but can't be done if the balcony has a glass panel because of safety. They will often dismantle lounges, take off the arms and reassemble them once inside.

"People spend a fortune getting a crane in to move furniture at a cost of $2000 to $3000 and the furniture may not be worth anything near that, but they still want to do it,'' Joe says.

"If the item can't be hoisted up it will be stored until the owner moves again, but we have had some pieces such as wall units or lounges given away to a charity or auction because it just wouldn't fit.''

One of his most challenging moves was an seight-seater spa to a Bellevue Hill property with limited side access and low power lines.

"The rear garden had been landscaped with a hole in the concrete to fit the spa so it had to get in there,'' Joe says.

"It took about eight of us to lift it over the garage roof, carry it flat through the lounge room and then wiggle it through the bifold doors at the back. It was extremely heavy.''


Flat-pack furniture can also be tricky because many pieces are assembled inside and can't be carried out the door. Most removal staff are a whiz at pulling these pieces apart and putting them back together again.

"If it's got in there, then they can get it out,'' says Craig Page from Crown Relocations.

"It is only in very rare situations you may come across something that has been built within the property and can't be moved.''

Insisting on a inspection can ultimately save time and money.

Wridgways received a call from a woman left stranded by another company that was unable to manoeuvre larger items of furniture out of the home.

"She had a buffet sideboard and king-sized bed which had been assembled inside the room but the company she hired didn't have any tools to disassemble them so they just left. She called us in tears, '' Jane Riley says.

Other complicated moves include marble outdoor furniture, cubby houses, TV aerials, double-door fridges and slate pool tables.

"A surprisingly common problem is people wanting to move something that is actually fitted to the property,'' Jane says.

"We had one customer who insisted their wall unit go with them, but it was built into the wall. They forgot that it was there when they moved in.''

Migrants, particularly from Europe, tend to pack up the entire contents when moving -- including the kitchen sink.

"They take light fittings, rolls of carpets and often a dismantled kitchen so when we open their container everything is in there,'' Jane says.

"They end up having to sell them as they don't realise the kitchen comes with the home.'


You've moved into your dream home, apartment, terrace or townhouse. The trouble is, your beautiful couch (or desk, bookcase or bedhead) won't fit up the stairs. What to do? It's conundrum more common than you might think, Access Removals proprietor (and "head muscle'') Chris Papaspyru says.

"A lot of the time people buy a lounge and don't consider how it's going to get up to their apartment,'' he says.

Papaspyru's company specialises in hoisting furniture over balconies into apartments or, in my case, into the second floor of old terraces.

For us the problem was a very comfy, but unwieldy, sofa-bed and a beautiful, but equally awkward, desk. Our removalists had no idea and so the furniture sat in our new lounge until we chanced upon Access Removals.

Using straps and old-fashioned muscle, the highest they'll go is four storeys. Rival service King Hoists, though, can go up to 28m using a small crane, albeit for a larger fee.

Papaspyru charges $160 for three men to come out to haul one item, with the price increasing incrementally with each additional lift. Our lift was $180 for two items up one storey, but a huge saving in terms of replacement costs and all-round irritation.

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