I know there are a lot of hometalkers who upcycle furniture for resale, create awesome handmade large items, and/or folks who want to sell used furniture to put a few bucks in their pocket - especially during these times. So, I decided to write this post to help folks more efficiently ship items across the country or maybe remove the intimidation of shipping handmade items. In this HT post, I show you how I pack and ship my large handmade items (such as furniture) as well as tips to save you money & time.
How to Ship (& Pack) Handmade Furniture
How do I know how to ship small & large handmade items? Well, I ship my custom made tables, wall art, and other various items to my customers all over these great United States of America.
As a result, it is very important for my items to arrive safely and on-time. If not, I lose money & my daughter can't take dance lesson or my son can't play baseball. Just kidding.. But seriously, it eats into my profit margin.
Most importantly, shipping mishaps produce unhappy customers.
Over the years, I've learned lessons the hard way when shipping furniture. **Gosh, I wish I could just learn things the easy way**. What can I say, I'm a guy so it's sort of built into my DNA to do things the hard way by not listening and/or refusing to read instructions.
Ok - enough with my blabbering. What I'm trying to say is this: I have perfected (or so I think I have) shipping large handmade items and I want to show you my 3 best shipping methods along with packing tips for each.
As a general rule of thumb, I organize my custom furniture into 3 categories for shipping:
- Table tops up to 80″ x 45″ x 2″ (Length x Width x Thickness) and under 100 pounds.
- Large pieces of furniture with multiple pieces.
- High value, delicate items destined for a location within 400 miles of my workshop.
Lets face it - accidents happen. Especially when some shipping carriers toss around packages like the New Orleans Saints toss around the Atlanta Falcons on Sundays. Sorry, Falcons fans - I couldn't help myself.
Tip 1: Video Record the Packing Process & Buy Insurance
As you can see from the picture, Fedex damaged one of my custom made desks I made for a customer in California.
So, I filled out the insurance claim form online and Fedex immediately asked for before/after pictures.
Once I sent them the video, I received a check in the mail 2 weeks later.
I prefer video over pictures b/c still shots (pictures) can be extracted from a video if needed.
Also, the video lets the claims agent know I am organized and have plenty documentation to support my claim. If they want to go to war about the insurance claim, I tell them to bring it b/c I'm ready.
Once they realize I have my ducks in a row, my claims get processed quicker.
Tip 2: Charge for Your Time
My time is valuable – it is my product and it is finite. Consequently, I charge for my time when packing and shipping my items.
The time I spend packing an item could be spent with my family or writing an article on Hometalk for you lovely folks.
If my customer thinks the shipping price is too high, I politely encourage them to arrange for pickup, packing, and shipping themselves. In fact, I’m happy to offload this part of the project.
Ultimately, I add shipping material and the time I spent packing and planning into the price of the item.
I use fedex and UPS to ship my small to medium size table tops and wall art.
I ship furniture with Fedex or UPS when the item meets the following criteria:
- Less than or Equal to 80″ x 45″ x 2″ (Length x Width x Thickness).
- Under 100 pounds.
- Moderate value.
- Not a family heirloom or an item which cannot be replaced easily.
So, I'll let you in on one of my money saving secrets. Home Depot and Amazon sell adjustable boxes specifically for flat screen TVs. These boxes work fabulously well for shipping table tops, wall art, or anything that is a square or rectangle.
And, the boxes are inexpensive - It's under 25 dollars for the Large size box.
Flat screen TV boxes work really well to ship table tops for 3 reasons:
- Carriers are more careful with a TV box.
- If the box protects flat screen TVs, it can certainly protect a piece of furniture.
- Easier to predict shipping charges.
The TV box comes in 3 size options: Medium, Large, and Extra Large. Additionally, each box has an adjustable size range. This flexibility allows extra padding or additional room for table legs to be added.
I pack the item with 3 layers of protection.
First, I place the item in a mattress pad to keep dirt/dust away.
Then, I wrap it with foam or bubble wrap.
For the last layer, I put it in a foam bag which comes with most TV boxes.
Most TV boxes include corner pads. If not, I purchase them separately as they are very important for protection.
The corner pads protect the item most, so I secure them in place with a piece of tape as well.
Once I finish packing the furniture, I place the item in the inner portion of the box and put the outer portion over it
I tape the seams and wrap it a few times with tape horizontally and vertically.
Remember, this box is adjustable so it comes in two parts that slide over one another.
Once the item is completely packed, I use a scale to get the weight of the item in order to get the final shipping costs.
Shhhhh - don't tell my wife I use her scale to weight boxes.
This package weighed 80 pounds and the box dimensions were 51″x41″x9″. The total cost was $239.41 to ship this package from Destin, Florida to Monterey, California.
When I have very large furniture or items which need special care, I use Uship.
Sometimes, the item I make is simply too large and too valuable to put in the hands of Fedex/UPS. It takes me over a month to build a table like the one in this picture and it would be painful to see it not get the special care it needs.
Uship makes it easy to ship furniture across the country by providing flexible options.
Ultimately, Uship carriers specialize in shipping furniture and other large items such as appliances.
In fact, Uship offers boxing services and some of them don't require you to build a box. However, I choose to build a box b/c I just feel I can protect the items I build better than the carrier.
How Does Uship Work?
Uship is sort of like the eBay of shipping. To start the shipment process, I enter the shipment details (source address, destination address, item details, etc.) into their system.
Next, uship provides a price range including the lowest paid, average paid, and highest paid.
This picture is the price of the smaller table I shipped with Fedex in the previous section. I show you the price of the large, Walnut slab table is in the next section.
When I enter the details, I begin receiving bids from independent carriers who specialize in shipping furniture.
As they compete for my business, I can ask questions, read reviews, and get a feel for the driver.
Each carrier has a profile with safety records, customer feedback, photos of their vehicles, and cargo insurance. Additionally, Uship offers cargo insurance.
Once I choose a carrier, I contact them or they contact me to discuss the details of the shipment.
At this point in the process, Uship charges my credit card for the shipment.
Then, the carrier picks up my item, delivers it, and I approve the delivery in order to release the payment from Uship to the carrier.
So far, this service has worked well for me each time I used it.
In fact, I became friends with a carrier and book with him directly for all of my shipments to the east coast.
Uship’s furniture shipping costs vary depending on the destination distance, size of the item, and your location.
If you live close to a large city or near an Interstate, I suspect you will get more bids on your shipment.
More bids equates to more competition which leads to competitive pricing. However, a person in a remote location in Montana may not receive many bids.
For example, I shipped a large walnut dining table from Florida to Virginia for 619.58.
I build custom boxes to pack large furniture when shipping with uship or personal delivery. In other words, I use the same process I cover in for shipping method 2 as I do for the last shipping option.
I build each shipping crate based on the size of the item. Most of the time, I design the box before I build it.
There is not an exact science to building shipping crates. In fact, Uship offers boxing services and some of them don't require you to build a box. However, I choose to build a box b/c I just feel I can protect the items I build better than the carrier.
For the walnut dining table, I glued foam to the interior of particle board to create a little cushion.
Then, I cut the top, bottom, sides and ends for the box.
I design my large furniture to disassemble & reassemble easily, which makes it easier to ship.
Also, it makes it easy for my customer to move the furniture from room to room or from house to house.
I carefully wrapped each piece of the table with bubble wrap and place them on the bottom of the box. Also, I placed corner pads on the table top.
As a final step, I wrap the items together with stretch wrap to prevent them from shifting and moving around.
I don’t have a massive scale, so I weigh each part of the box as well as each piece of the furniture.
These numbers add up to the approximate final weight.
The driver I used for this project had a truck with a long bed and a truck cap.
He showed up on time and we loaded the large box into the bed of his truck. The driver left headed with his truck loaded down with furniture.
Less than 24 hours later he delivered the table to my customer in perfect condition.
I know you heard the old saying of, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Well, this applies to shipping furniture and it’s the final furniture shipping method on my list.
When do I choose to deliver furniture rather than ship it?
- Make the delivery and back home in 12 hours.
- Pocket shipping costs
- For my daughter's dance lessons. :)
- Meet my customer
- I like to meet other people as I find people interesting.
- Perform installation
Most of my best ideas come to me while I drive.
I like this method best as I get to meet and chat with my customer, which helps with future business.
And, I get to install the item I delivered myself.
Hauling large items in my truck presents unique challenges such as keeping the item out of the weather and the length.
However, I added 2 things to my Toyota Tundra that solve both problems. These additions have been worth their weight in gold.
Truck Bed Cap
First, I added a truck bed cap to protect the items in my truck.
This addition not only protects the things I haul, but it also makes my truck more economical for family trips than a SUV.
While the bed cap protects items in the bed of my truck, the short bed doesn’t fit most long items such as a 12’ epoxy bar top.
Hitch Mount Truck Bed Extender
I purchased a truck bed extender about 5 years ago for less than 100 dollars and it is the tool I use most in my shop.
Seriously folks, you need one of these if you own a short bed truck.
The bed extender attaches to my trailer hitch and extends my truck bed.
It has an adjustable piece that can be raised or lowered to stay aligned with my truck bed floor.
In addition to shipping furniture, I use it to haul large wood slabs & lumber.
I hope this post removes the intimidation of shipping furniture or large items over long distances. In addition, I hope this opens up new ways for you to sell your handmade items or sell your existing furniture or large items.