The modern piano is the result of hundreds of years of work, and thousands of intricate moving pieces. Beyond just being one of the world’s most popular musical instruments, pianos are also finely crafted pieces of furniture, appreciated for aesthetic beauty, and commonly kept as family heirlooms. 

Because pianos are both fairly robust and very popular, there is a huge number of older pianos out there, but those moving parts mentioned above are susceptible to wear and tear. If piano maintenance is left neglected, whether it is played frequently or not, pieces wear out and need to be replaced. For example, a piano that is well-loved and played often for many years will wear out the hammers, and many of the wool or felt pieces inside the piano may become compressed, no longer performing the way they used to. An unplayed piano is also likely to develop issues, as parts can rust or warp over the years.

The big question in all these situations is this; should the piano be restored, or is it better to replace it? At what point does one become the better option? To help you answer this question, we’re going to cover common reasons why piano repair can be required and look at which pianos are more likely to be worth repairing.

What Happens to the Piano Interior Over Time?

To start with, let’s explore why pianos need to be restored in the first place. As we briefly touched on earlier, a piano has many moving parts, and these are made of a range of materials, including felt, cloth, wood, and metal. Over the years, these parts can oxidise, rot, become moth-eaten, or just wear down with repeated use. The hammers are typically the easiest place to see this wear in action; as they strike the strings many thousands of times, you can see cuts develop in the felt of the hammer’s head.

Ultimately, a piano is a mechanical object, so it needs maintenance, just like any other mechanism. Most manufacturers will suggest that a piano should be tuned twice a year, or more often if it is brand new. This is because tuning the piano is important for keeping the parts in good condition, and gives technicians a chance to highlight any other potential issues that may be developing. 

In this blog post however, we’re focusing more on very old pianos; the ones that may have been in your family for generations. If cared for, pianos last a very long time, but tuning alone may not be enough to manage the sorts of issues that can develop over decades or longer. For instance, as softer internal parts compress, it’s possible for the parts to become very slightly out of sync with each other; we call this a ‘regulation’ issue. 

Regulation isn’t something that you’re likely to notice while playing because it happens so slowly. Your ear will likely not notice the notes changing over the years, and most players unconsciously adjust the way they play to accommodate it, until suddenly you hear another piano playing and realise that something is wrong with your own! Particularly bad regulation issues do become noticeable while playing eventually, because the keys can start to feel wobbly. This is why servicing is so important; it allows you to catch these issues before they develop too far.

When is Repairing Worth it?

Because long-term issues like regulation can be quite hard to catch, owners of older pianos often find themselves facing steeper restoration costs than those with new pianos, but there are definitely some cases which are worth it.


The first thing to look for is the brand, as some brands are worth repairing more than others. This is due to the general quality and design of the pieces made by that piano maker. Brands known to create great pieces are worth repairing because the outcome is more likely to be a good one. In these cases, the price of getting a new piano of the same quality is likely to be high, so it’s really worth repairing the old piano.

For instance, it’s probably worth repairing a Bechstein or Kawai over a Yamaha, simply because the former two are known for quality, and the latter is known for affordability (which does have its place!). It’s also worth noting that it’s not all about age here, some newer brands are right up there on the list of quality too, such as Stuart and Sons or Fazioli, which started in the 90s and 80s, but produce some of the highest quality pianos available.

Sentimental Value

The other key factor is sentimental value, and there’s no rule here, because pianos are simply worth different amounts to different people. If you’ve had a piano that has been passed down through your family, chances are you’re more attached to it than others, and it’s entirely reasonable for piano owners to decide restoration is worth it, even if it would be cheaper to purchase a new piano.

Depending on what parts need to be replaced, and how well an instrument has been looked after in its lifetime, repair costs can be anywhere from quite reasonable, to more than double the cost of a replacement instrument. In these cases, it’s best to talk to an expert, because it depends so heavily on the specifics of your instrument. For example, a lot of antiques just don’t play as well as newer pianos, even in good condition, simply because newer pianos have better technology and updated designs.

But again, that might mean nothing to you if you’ve inherited a piano that you want to keep in the family.

Other factors

No matter how often you play or tune your piano, if you keep it for long enough (typically several decades) you will reach the point where you need to decide between repair or replacement. We’ve covered the main factors above, but there are few other things to consider below:

  1. Damage. Older pianos are more likely to have been moved multiple times, or endured things like fires or flooding. If the piano has sustained a lot of damage over its lifetime, it might not be worth repairing regardless of the points covered above. A qualified technician will be able to tell you if this is the case.
  2. Size. Generally speaking, bigger pianos age better. Because of the way they are built, large pianos, like Concert Grands, tend to last an exceptionally long time, making them easier to repair or restore.
  3. Cost. We’ve touched on this already, but cost is always a factor. Sentimental value can outweigh cost, but in most cases the cost will probably be the deciding factor. A technician should be able to quote you on repair costs, and help you compare them to the costs of similar pianos on the market.

Need repairs or restoration?

If you’re looking for a piano restoration technician who can help you investigate the condition of your instrument, talk to the team here at Piano Corner! We’ve got the expertise and experience to help you understand your options, and offer advice on piano repairs, servicing, and replacements.