Packing Small Boxes – Explained

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There are many things to handle when moving from one home to another, and packing small boxes may be one of the most important. From choosing the right boxes to the proper tape and packaging inserts, there are many options to consider. But! Portland-Move is here to help, even before we step into your house.

First off: Boxes—– DEFINED!

Cardboard is just paper, not the whole box. Yes you heard it here first! Bold claims from Portland-Move!

How they fold and construct the cardboard is key and it is how we define boxes.

Most movers name these containers that move your goods something different:

Cubes, Boxes, Cartons, Cardboard Jockeys…

Regardless of what nicknames they may have, cardboard boxes come in a couple different varieties and each are defined by the cu/ft (cubic foot) of space the hold. There are many other aspects defining why each box is used for different purposes so we will focus on what you will generally run into when choosing a box at your local retailer.

Flute: No, not the instrument! This is the folds between the cardboard that give the walls of your box their strength and width. Check out the picture here. What is wedged between that cardboard stock? bent and rounded cardboard. The flute of a cardboard box comes graded from A (5 mil thickness.. really thick) to F ( 0.8 mil thick.. Not very thick).

This picture shows the inner workings of a box. The flute liner pasted to cardboard stock.

Cardboard box – Walls and flute

Box Wall: That’s the sides of the box. Pay attention to how thick they feel. The thicker the box walls, the heavier and more structurally stable they are. The thickness is determined by the flute. Also look for double and triple wall boxes (Kitchen/Dish Boxes) They add extra support and cushion for delicate packaged materials. When packing small boxes, make sure the walls are strong enough for what you plan on putting in them.

Cube: These rating range from book/small (1-1.5 cu/ft) to extra large (6-7.5 cu/ft)… So what in the heck do these mean and why do I have to choose different sized boxes. Can’t i just put anything in any box, I mean, they are all just cardboard, right?

Please rethink before packing an extra large box with books… especially cook books (shudder**).

They are too heavy to pick up and fall apart when moved.

As the amazing person you are, you know now that small, heavy items should be places in smaller boxes. Why?

Smaller boxes are also called 1.5 cubes or book boxes.

The name there kind of gives it away. Pack books in these boxes. They are designed to be easily stacked and placed onto a hand-truck/dolly for easy moving. A packed book box can easily weigh as much as 50 pounds (about 23 Kilos)! If we stack these 5 high on a dolly, we are pulling about 250 pounds through the house. That’s the size of the average American adult male. Sheesh!

Looking at the total weight of these smaller boxes, you can only imagine what it would feel like to carry a box 5x the weight and much wider in dimension.-(extra large box)-. Most times it is nearly impossible to pick up, but if we can get it off the ground those extra large boxes tend to break into pieces.

A large broken packing box. It has broken due to being packed with goods too large for its designed purpose.

This is a nice place to go back to box construction and take a second to examine the box you may have in front of you ro check our picture above.

Notice the walls (sides) of the box. Yup. The sides on a single walled 6.5 are the same as the book box. There is no extra strength to hold up hundreds of pounds.

So what have we learned – Small boxes are great for books, but what about smaller, delicate objects?

Packing small boxes – Size matters

Packing a small box (1.5 cu/ft) with delicates is a great idea, as long as you have taken precautions to ensure safe transit during shipping/moving.

First, place a layer of packing paper or bubble wrap at the bottom of the box making a little nest. Do not crumple the paper flat as the looseness of it all adds support from vibration and jostling during transport.

The first step to packing a box. Placing loose paper inside of the box to fill the bottom but not crushing it down.

Second, place in the valuables that you want to be moved, If what you are placing doesn’t fill the entire carton, no worries! Fill the space around what you are packing with loose, crumpled paper. Pretend you are packing loose eggs.

Continue this process until you are about 1-1 and a half inches from the top of the box. separating each layer of packaged goods with another crumpled layer of packing paper. If you pick up the box it should feel light but not jostle when given a light shake.

Next, cover the last bit with crumpled packing paper so that the last layer of goods placed are covered loosely.

Finally, Close the lid and seal your carton with tape. Write “FRAGILE” with magic marker in bold, legible letters as well as “TOP LOAD ONLY”. This will ensure your movers, or even yourself or friends, will know to be careful when around this box. It also ensures the movers will place this box on top of the loaded goods. This is important so that nothing heavy is placed on top of what you so carefully packed, crushing it and possibly destroying what is inside.

Thank you for taking the time to read about packing small boxes. This is the first of our BOXES Series. We will be posting more soon so check our blog regularly for updates or subscribe to our blog!



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