Crating Paintings for Shipment
When we moved to Costa Rica, we didn’t trust a moving company to pack our household belongings or our artwork. Here’s how we crated our paintings . . .
First, make a list of the dimensions of each painting you're planning to bring. Sort that list by the maximum dimensions of each painting, largest first.
Now, buy the following in the quantities you estimate you'll need:
- 1x12 lumber - the longest lengths you can handle (Shelving grade lumber will be fine.)
- 4’ x 8’ sheets of oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood (3/8" is plenty)
- 1 1/2" drywall screws (Buy a large box. Don’t skimp on these.)
- tubular plumbing pipe insulation (Look for the stuff that's already split lengthwise.) (The interior diameter should accommodate the thickness of the thickest frame you’ll be crating.)
- 4’ x 8’ sheets of foam insulation board (half-inch is plenty.)
- thick bubble wrap (It comes thin and thick. Get the thick stuff.)
- silicone bath and kitchen sealant and a caulking gun (Optional)
Tools you'll need:
- a variable-speed drill and screwdriver bits
- a power saw
- a carpenter's framing square or cabinetmaker's square (used for squaring up corners)
- a tape measure
- four "pliers-type" clamps with a minimum jaw gap of two inches
- a carpenter's pencil or other marker
- a kitchen-type knife with a blade about six inches long
Using your largest painting as the beginning point, make a four-sided box from the 1” x 12” that's six inches larger than the width of that painting and six inches larger than its height. We're talking inside dimensions of the box here, so if in doubt go an inch larger. If you lay one piece of 1” x 12” on top of the other and clamp them together using the “pliers-type” clamps and cut them both at once there's a reasonable chance that your box will come out equal in all dimensions. Use the carpenter’s square to guide your saw. Do this for all four sides.
Using the carpenter's square as a guide, overlap the end of one cut board over the end of the next and screw the two together with the drywall screws. Three screws are enough. This is not what gives the crate its strength. Do the same for all four corners.
Once the four sides of the box are assembled, lay it on top of a piece of OSB and use the square corner of the OSB to square it up. Make sure the two square sides of the OSB are flush with the two sides of the box, Mark the OSB on the other two sides so you can cut it square. Cut the OSB to fit the “face” of the 1” x 12” box.
Using the drywall screws, attach the cut OSB to the face of the box. This is what gives the crate its strength. Put screws about an inch from each corner. Also, use enough screws so that the OSB creates an airtight seal to the one-inch face of the 1” x 12” lumber.
I still have all of my art back in the Bay Area
OPTIONAL: You might also consider laying a thin bead of silicon caulk to the face of the 1” x 12” box before you screw on the OSB back. That would protect the contents from both moisture and dust.
Turn the box over on another sheet of OSB, and cut it but do not attach it.
Now turn the box over so you're looking down into it. The OSB surface is on the floor. Line the box with the foam insulation board on the sides, top and bottom, and the back. It's easiest to cut with a kitchen knife with about a six-inch blade. You don't need to secure the foam board inside the box if you cut it tight. Just wedge it in.
Once the foam board is installed in the box, cut long strips of the bubble wrap. These need to be long enough to line the back of the box, both sides, and the top when you're ready to close it up. Lay the bubble wrap in the box with the ends hanging out on all four sides. You could do this in both directions which would be especially good if your paintings are behind glass.
Measure the net interior width of the box now that you've installed the foam insulation board and the bubble wrap. The first time, add an inch to this dimension 'til you see how it goes.
Cut a piece of the tubular pipe insulation the interior width of the crate with the foam insulation board installed. Put the pipe insulation on the bottom frame of the largest painting and put that painting in the crate. See how it fits. You may need to make some adjustments. You want the pipe insulation tight to the sides so that the painting cannot move side-to-side. Put a second piece of pipe insulation on the top of the frame. If the pipe insulation isn't pre-slit, you'll have to slit it lengthwise. It's worth it to shop for pre-slit pipe insulation.
Now lay that largest painting face up in the box on top of the foam insulation and the bubble wrap. Be sure that the pipe insulation is tight to the sides. Once that first paining is securely in place, put a layer of bubble wrap (or two layers if the painting has a glass face) over it to isolate it from the next painting which you’ll put on top of it.
Now cut pieces of pipe insulation the same length and install them on the next-to-largest painting and put it in the box, again face up. Add a layer or two of bubble wrap over it.
Continue to put paintings into the box, layered with bubble wrap, until the box is pretty much filled. This process is kind of like assembling a pan of lasagne, layer upon layer.
Finally, when the crate is about full, fold the ends of the bubble wrap that you put in first over the face of the last painting that will fit. Lay in a sheet of the foam insulation board. Then lay the OSB "cover" over the box and see how it fits. You may need another layer of bubble wrap or foam insulation board to make the whole thing tight inside the crate. What you do not want is for your paintings to shift around or rub on each other while they're in transit, so make sure they're snug.
For additional protection, you might want to roll up bubble wrap and put it between the side frames of the paintings and the sides of the crate. I'm not sure this step is necessary, however.
Once the paintings are all packed in the crate, isolated by foam board, bubble wrap and pipe insulation, lay the second cut sheet of OSB over the front and attach it using the drywall screws and maybe another bead of caulk.
Depending on just how large and heavy this crate and its contents are, you may want to drill two holes in each side of what will be the upright crate (the 1” x 12” sides) and make crude handles by putting knotted ropes through those holes. This will facilitate handling and may prevent the crate being dropped. If you do this, put the handles above the midpoint of the sides so the crate won’t be top heavy.
When I was working this out, I was concerned about moisture during the time that our paintings were crated up in transit and in storage waiting for our Grecia rental house to be completed. So I went online and found Zorbit packs. These are high-tech alternatives to the silica gel packets that are packed in cameras, etc. Zorbits are available in a number of sizes. They're not cheap, but if your things are important . . .
An alternative I have read about would be to put an open box of common blackboard chalk in each crate to absorb any moisture.
Another approach would be to be sure you’re closing up your crates on a day when the humidity is low, or in an air conditioned space, and to seal the wooden components with the silicone caulk.
Wondering if you should bring your vehicle to Costa Rica?
See you on Thursday for the answers and our final installment