Planning to make some changes to your worship space? Even if the upcoming renovation does not include new pews, you may still need to remove the existing pews to re-carpet or refinish the floor. Remember that most pews are very heavy, requiring planning, equipment, and strength to move them. Here are some tips for successfully removing and replacing pews in your worship space.
1) Draw a seating plan sketch or obtain one from the company that installed the pews. This assumes that you are either not changing the arrangement or only slightly modifying it. Take a few photos to go with the drawing.
2) Number the pews to designate their location. When the pews were originally installed, the floor supports were probably scribed to fit their exact floor location and any slight irregularities in the floor surface. If they are not put back in the same place, the supports may be too long or not long enough. As you face the platform, designate the far left bank (section) of pews as Bank A, with the next bank to the right of A labeled Bank B, and so on. The first pew in Bank A will be A-1, and this can be written on the underside of the pew seat with a permanent marker.
3) Remove the anchor fasteners. If the pews have a hidden anchor system, there will be a small cover on the inside of the pew ends (and some supports for longer pews) to remove first. You can then use a small wrench or socket to remove the nut and washer from the anchor bolt. Some older pews have only small exposed L-brackets that will require a screwdriver to remove. Note: For temporary moves where anchors will be left in place, such as moving a pew to allow a ladder to be placed for lighting maintenance, cover the anchor bolt or bracket with a Styrofoam cup taped in place to help prevent accidental damage.
4) Position 4-wheel dollies near each end. You may need an additional dolly for longer pews (over 12’ or so – depends on pew type). It is best to have two strong people at each end, one in front of the pew and one in back, who can lift the pew straight up until it clears the anchor bolts. Having a “spotter” who can guide them and position the dollies is recommended.
5) Roll the pews to where they will be stored, etc., and carefully lift them from the dolly. If they are to be used as seating in a temporary location, people should be warned that unanchored pews can tip over backwards if they don’t sit and stand with caution.
6) Important caution: Do not slide the pew from end to end for any reason. They are not designed to take this movement, and it is likely that a support would be cracked or an end loosened if they slide sideways. It is ok to slide them forward or backward, with care, for short distances if both ends move at the same rate.
7) Stacking: Although not recommended, sometimes there is no alternative. Ends will usually need to be overlapped, and any exposed wood should be padded if needed.
8) Re-anchoring: For hidden anchor systems in which the bolts were cut to allow new carpet to be installed or a floor to be refinished, new anchor holes and new anchoring hardware will be needed. It is best to punch new anchor holes in the carpet to avoid unraveling the yarn, and then drill into the floor surface below. This work is best done by professional installers. If the pews were anchored with L-brackets, it should be possible to re-use the brackets if they are in good condition, and it is usually possible to find and re-use the original anchor holes.
Have you recently renovated your worship space and discovered additional tips or tricks for removing/replacing pews that may help other readers?