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Interview: Mr. Kevin Barton, owner and manager of Astra Piano Removals

Mr. Kevin Barton, owner and manager of the family-run Astra Piano Removals company located in Bornemouth, Dorset, kindly accepted to answer a few questions and to share his experience of the profession :

arrow interview On average, how long does it take to prepare a piano before it is ready to be moved ?
As you can guess, it depends on the type and size of the piano. To give you a broad idea, it takes from 10 to 15 minutes for an upright piano, and an hour will be necessary to prepare a grand piano.

arrow interview How many removal men are expected to show up to remove a piano ?
The minimum required is 2 people, and it can go up to 4 people. But of course, the type and size of the piano are not the only elements that will determine the number of removal men needed.

arrow interview If for some reason (weather conditions, roadwords in progress or inaccurate informations given about the house …), getting to my house is harder than expected and the removal men don't have the necessary material, what is provided for ?
Basically, there should not be any problem with having the material or not, since the removal men are always equiped. Our aim is to transport the piano in the best possible conditions. So we will schedule the removal for grand piano movedanother date if we think it is necessary.

arrow interview An « inventory of fixtures » is made when leaving or moving into a flat. In the same way, is an « assessment of the piano condition » made before you move it ? If yes, do you know if most companies do the same ?
Every company is suppozed to be insured. This insurance, of course, covers the pianos of the clients whilst in our care. So when the removal men arrive, they check the piano and protograph the various scratches and damages they notice, if there are any. This will prevent or settle any dispute there might be between the company and the owner(s) of the piano. And yes, I think all companies operate in the same way so that the insurance accepts to compensate for damages.

arrow interview How many factors are taken into account to make out an estimate ?
There are major criteria to consider first ; indeed, the type and size of the piano to move are essential. From an upright to a grand piano, you will find pianos with different sizes and weights, which will require a different equipment from one to another. We also take the location into account, which includes the place of removal (address) but also the various steps, stairs, conditions of access to the house. The day of removal can affect the price (extra cost during week-ends or bank holiday), as well as your choice on using a shared load (we deliver a few pianos belonging to different owners into a selected area) or a special trip with your piano only.

arrow interview What should worry me if I have my piano moved by a company ? Are there elements that should lead me to think the removal men are unexperienced or bad professionals ?
My first advice would be to stay nearby for a while when the removal men arrive, so that you can see how they work. Moving a piano requires time : time to check the piano, time to appreciate or estimate the different elements and obstacles that surround it, and time to think of the best possible method to adopt so as to move the piano safely. Therefore if the removal men rush into the room, head to the piano and seem to be in a hurry, this should worry you ! They are also suppozed to wrap the piano properly, with specific blankets and else ; so make sure your instrument as well as the floor are protected and kept undamaged. If the removal men start moving your piano without having even exchanged a few sentences to agree on what they are going to do, be worried and maybe try to ask a simple question to show you are here and you do care about what is being done !

arrow interview How long does it take to become a good professional ?
You will never be a perfect accomplished removal man. There are so many elements that are taken into consideration when it comes to move such a big instrument that you will always have something new to learn or at least to cope with. Moving a piano is not only about moving a heavy item, it is also and even more a question of balance. You would never think how much balance is important when you face an instrument that looks so stable. A qualified removal man knows that it is the combination of balance, technique and equipment that will permit to do a good job. For example, when you have to go up to a street, if you tip the piano too fast, its basis will scratch the floor and seriously damage it ; but if you are too slow, you can lose the balance and, again, damage the piano or hurt yourself.
You will also work into hundreds, thousands of different houses during a career, and therefore have to deal with as many as much different issues about the « how to... » to take the best decisions.
To conclude, and to give you an answer (at last !), I would say that at least 10 to 15 years of pratice are necessary to be a good professional.
Harpsichord moved by Astra Piano Removals.
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