Shoeboxes and Straps: An Overview of Moving Terminology Part 2

Posted by Equus Long Distance

If you’ve ever been involved in any kind of move, you’ve likely heard a number of different words thrown around. The movers call it something, your father-in-law calls it another, your neighbor says something else – and they might all be referring to the same thing! In part one of this article we learned about terms associated with the industry and the various entities involved. In part two we’ll continue to explore the jargon of the moving and transportation industry, and the different names and acronyms that they use for products and services provided. This will shed light on words and phrases you might hear as you move, and help you understand how your goods are being protected throughout the process.

Types of Moving Services

Packing, loading – what’s the difference? Some people use these terms interchangeably, but generally moving companies define moving services as the following:

  • Packing – the act of putting items in boxes or other containers. Equipment involved includes boxes, packing material, tape, utility knives, markers, and labels.
  • Wrapping – preparing furniture and other unboxable items for loading into a truck. Equipment involved includes furniture pads, corrugate, paper pads and plastic wrap.
  • Loading – putting items into a truck, trailer or container from a residence, business or storage. Equipment involved includes furniture pads, dollies, tie-downs/rope, home and floor protection, and corrugate.
  • Unloading – taking items out of a truck, trailer or container, and placing them in a residence, business or storage. Equipment involved includes furniture pads, dollies, and home and floor protection. Usually optional or on-request.

Types of Boxes

Boxes serve many purposes in moving and transportation, from organization and structure, to storage and protection. Here are some of the many types of boxes available, and some of the ways they are used.

Standard boxes.

  • BoxesSmall to Extra Large – these boxes are standardized by volume, starting at 1.5 cubic feet (40 liters) in the small box, and going up in 1.5 cubic foot increments to 6 cubic feet (170 liters) in the extra large box. Standard boxes also come in extra-strength varieties for use with extra heavy or fragile items.

Nonstandard boxes. In addition to standard sizes, a number of other boxes are also available in different sizes and layouts:

  • Wardrobe box – very large boxes designed for placing a horizontal metal bar near the top for holding clothes on hangers. Various sizes include shorty wardrobe, standard, and wide.
  • Book box – small boxes with extra reinforcement designed for protecting books from damage during moves. Book boxes are also the proper size for their weight, since books tend to be very heavy, and other boxes don’t hold up well to their weight over time and distance.
  • TV/Picture box – large flat boxes designed to hold pictures, electronic displays, and other vertical, flat objects. Often come in multiple sizes, or with two to four parts that allow you to adjust the size of the box. Should always be used with other packing materials to cushion the objects inside. Often these packing materials are included with the box. Sometimes these boxes need to be folded in a special way to create handles or extra strength for the box.
  • Electronics box – boxes designed for the size and shape of heavy consumer or commercial electronics such as large stereos, phonographs, computers, and large speakers. Often they are reinforced for extra strength.
  • Lamp box – tall boxes designed to hold tall lamps. These boxes can also work well for other long, skinny objects.
  • Totes and cargo containers – plastic containers valued for the durability and versatility. While these containers are widely used by consumers, they are brittle and tend to break often on moves, especially in situations where they are exposed to prolonged cold temperatures.

Custom boxes. Boxes also exist for custom applications, including the following:

  • Mattress box – giant boxes designed to hold entire mattresses or box springs. Often these boxes require reinforcement from ribs or splines attached or built into the box, either made from wood or plastic.
  • Shoe box – boxes that hold shoes specifically and protect them from losing their shape or getting damaged. Come in various sizes and materials; some have separate compartments for each pair of shoes, while others are just the right size for a layer of shoes to fit inside.
  • Hat box – boxes that are wide and flat, for holding and keeping one or more hats from getting flattened or squished during a move.
  • File box – small boxes designed to hold file folders, either hanging or traditional. Some are designed to hold a label, and be reused or stored for long periods of time. Can be either plastic or cardboard.
  • Tubes made from cardboard or plastic are sometimes used to store very thin, long pieces, like fishing poles or billiards sticks.

Types of Padding and Protection

Furniture and large items, as well as delicate or fragile pieces, need to be carefully protected, not just boxed and loaded. Here are some of the common materials used for protecting your items while preparing for transport.

Protecting your goods. The following items serve to protect your items in transit:

  • Furniture pads – blankets usually at least 1/4″ (6-7mm) thick, and around 5×8 ft (2×3 meters) in size. They are made from durable materials, and used to cover furniture to protect it from rubbing and scratching during transportation.
  • Paper pads – 3-5 ply (layers) paper pads that are more customizable and less expensive than furniture pads, though they need to be applied more carefully in order to protect as well as furniture pads. Tape can serve as a reinforcement to strengthen the paper pads.
  • Corrugate – cardboard used to add strength and protection to objects. Cardboard comes in various strengths and thicknesses, and is excellent for protecting furniture, particularly in conjunction with paper pads.
  • Plastic wrap – shrink wrap of various thicknesses and widths for holding items together, keeping furniture doors or drawers closed, and keeping furniture pads attached to furniture. Less useful for protecting furniture from damage.
  • Bubble wrap – like shrink wrap, but with small air pockets for padding. Bubble wrap is used to protect fragile or delicate items during packing. Includes regular, recycled, foam, cell and anti-static varieties. Also available in pre-made bags, which are good for dishes, small delicates, and sensitive electronics.
  • Mattress bags – large bags for covering mattresses and box springs during a move. Used to protect from weather, water, dust and dirt.
  • Furniture covers – large plastic covers that are tailored to the shape of the furniture, including couch, love seat and sofa chair covers. May need to be taped to prevent the cover from sliding off.
  • Packing paper – blank paper (often blank newspaper) that is crumpled and used as packing material when packing boxes. Very inexpensive and effective when used properly.
  • Packing material (peanuts) – small pieces of foam or plastic used to pack and protect items inside boxes.
  • Tape – usually plastic with a pressure-sensitive adhesive attached to one side, such as common clear or brown packing tapes. Good packing tape doesn’t leave sticky residue, like duct tape, and can’t be easily removed from cardboard. Tape can also be used to reinforce paper pads in order to make them more effective and less likely to rip or tear.
  • Utility knife – retractable knife with an adjustable, replaceable blade. Utility knives are preferable for cutting cardboard and tape, as they won’t cut into boxes and damage the items inside.
  • Labels and markers – Used to mark boxes with information about the contents. Besides marking the destination of the box, you should also give some idea of the contents inside, and mark it fragile and which direction is up if applicable.
  • Thermal insulation – temperature protection that can be added to containers to help keep items protected from changes in temperature. Usually some type of foam, insulation comes in boxes, pads, and pouches, and can also be found pre-attached to the interior of boxes for extra temperature control.

Protecting your premises. The following are useful in keeping buildings safe while goods are being transported in or out:

  • Carpet protector – thick plastic with one sticky side that is designed to go over carpet to protect from foot traffic.
  • Hard floor protector – neoprene foam runners that roll over the floor and protect it from damage. One side is usually rubberized to cling to the surface and prevent sliding, while the walking surface is also covered to prevent slipping.
  • Doorstops – useful to hold doors open in the flow of traffic.
  • Door frame cover – a pad with flexible ribbing designed to be wrapped around a door frame and protect it from items being transported through the door.
  • Masonite – hardboard designed to protect surfaces. Can also be used to spread out the weight of extremely heavy items, such as safes or heavy machinery, so they don’t crack or damage the floor below. Masonite usually comes in large sheets, and can be useful to help carts roll better across surfaces.

Types of Equipment

For transporting, securing, and performing other related duties, moving and transportation companies use a variety of equipment.

Wheeled carts and dollies. Moving companies use a variety of small wheeled vehicles to effectively transport large equipment, appliances and furniture:

  • Handtruck – the most basic type of dolly, handtrucks have either inflatable or hard rubber wheels and handles on the top for controlling the load. Usually used for boxes and small furniture. Also come in folding, extensible, and dual-application/cart-convertible varieties.
  • Appliance dolly – a larger version of a handtruck, with a reinforced frame, rubber treads on the back and straps to help secure large appliances to the dolly. Appliance dollies usually have a high weight limit (500 lbs/225 kg or more) and are most often used for transporting their namesake – appliances.
  • Furniture dolly – a different kind of dolly, furniture dollies are flat and usually rectangular, with swivel wheels on the bottom in each corner. They’re designed to go underneath large, flat pieces of furniture like long dressers, desks, or upright pianos, and allow them to be wheeled around. Particularly useful for maneuvering around tight corners.
  • Cart – long, four-wheeled vehicles with a handle for pushing, carts are used for transporting items over long distances.

Other Carrying Equipment. Sometimes other equipment is required to carefully carry and load furniture:

  • Movers’ straps – also known as Forearm Forklifts, or shoulder dollies, movers’ straps are long bands that work in pairs: each end of each strap goes on the movers arm and the strap goes under the piece of furniture in order to make lifting easier.
  • Moving harness – similar to movers’ straps, moving harnesses are worn by movers, and a band is slipped under the furniture and hooked onto the harnesses in order to make lifting the furniture easier.
  • Movers’ elastics – larger elastic (e.g. rubber) bands used to hold dresser drawers or cupboard doors closed, and furniture pads to furniture while loading or unloading.
  • Furniture glides – small pads that are placed under furniture in order to push it around the floor. Felt glides are used on hard floors while hard plastic pads are used on carpeted surfaces.
  • Ramps are usually a necessary part of moving household goods. Long ramps are typical of many containers and trucks, and many come either attached or as a separate piece. For moving vans, special van ramps with a wide walking area are attached to the sides of van to allow easy access to multiple parts of the van at once.
  • Lift gates are powered, flat lifts on the back of some trucks that move up and down to allow heavy items to easily roll on and off. Usually only used in special applications.

Securing a Load. Once packed, items must be secured in order to avoid dangerous slipping and sliding inside the truck or container. These items serve to minimize movement during transport:

  • Ratchet straps (Tie-downs) – straps that can attached by hooks to two surfaces and tightened to hold objects in place.
  • Rope – long lengths of rope are good for all-purpose tying and load-securing.
  • Bungee cords and webbing – elastic cords that can be hooked onto loads to hold things in place. Webbing is several bungee cords arranged to form a net and secured together. Bungee cords and webbing are usually less useful than rope or tie-downs in securing a load.
  • T-Bars and tracks – long struts, usually of metal, that connect on tracks built into the opposing, long walls in trucks and containers. T-bars are very sturdy, and can be used both to secure loads, and together to form platforms higher in the truck where you can load more items.
  • Bulkhead – a wall or partition within the container. In trucks or vans where multiple loads may be used, bulkheads serve to separate shipments from each other.

Miscellaneous equipment. Other various items you might see on your move include:

  • Gloves – thin, mechanic-style gloves made of breathable material and with a rubberized grip are generally a mover’s glove of choice. Thicker gloves are also often used in colder, wet weather. Some movers, prefer to only use gloves occasionally, or not at all.
  • Ice melt – calcium chloride or other salts are used to increase traction in icy or snowy weather moves.
  • Wheel chocks – placed behind the wheels of vehicles to help prevent rolling or moving.
  • Locks – keep shipments secure and help to prevent theft.

If this is hard to keep track of, or straight in your head, that’s because it is! The moving industry has a very specific jargon that it speaks, and some of the definitions depend on who you talk to. While they are experts in transporting freight, they aren’t always experts in dealing with consumers. Knowing these terms will serve to help you understand how your goods are being moved, and what is being done to protect them in transit. That’s why it’s critical that you as a potential customer understand the companies you are dealing with, and the words used.

In the future we’ll continue to explore the moving industry, including the products and services that moving companies employ, the history of the industry, the federal and state requirements for a moving company to operate, and the moving process.


Questions about this post? Have ideas for future posts? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

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