Moving Paintings Long-distance

Q. I’m moving cross-country and I have to transport an oil triptych. This is a military-sponsored move, and weight limitations are strict. How can I make these three paintings (3×6 feet each) safely transportable?

A. Your objectives are to cushion the paintings against bumps and rough handling and to shield their surfaces from damage, dust and dirt. First, wrap the paintings, including the frames if applicable, with brown kraft paper. It comes in rolls of varying widths—I’d suggest a 4-foot-wide roll. Wrap each painting completely, front and back, and secure the package with masking tape.

Then shield the front of the painting with a stiff piece of corrugated cardboard. You can buy cardboard in large sheets, up to about 4×8 feet, or you can scrounge at appliance stores or home centers for refrigerator cartons to cut up. Tape the cardboard to the wrapped pictures. Buy enough bubble wrap to cover each painting, and cut the wrap into sheets and strips to avoid too much bulkiness at the edges and corners. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation by not completely sealing all the seams—you don’t want moisture to condense inside the packages.

At this point, you have a couple of options. The safest solution is to build a wooden crate out of plywood for each painting, or a wooden crate with separate slots to hold all three paintings. The pictures should fit tightly into the crate to minimize movement. This is an expensive prospect and may be too heavy given your weight limitations, but it’s the best way to go.

Alternatively, you can use large sheets of cardboard to fabricate a shipping box for each painting. Cut and tape the cardboard into a reasonable facsimile of a wooden crate, making sure that each painting fits tightly into its respective box. Tape the boxes closed. The least expensive option is to wrap the paintings well in thick, quilted moving blankets. (You’ll have to put some faith in your movers for this one.)

In all cases, be sure the paintings are loaded into the van so that they’re not lying flat. They should be placed standing on the long edge of the painting, along a side wall of the van, and shielded from unwrapped furniture and other bulky items with hard edges—perhaps by a wall of wardrobe and book boxes. Of course, nothing should be placed on top of the pictures.

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