Piano Refinishing 101

Aug 4th, 2010

Piano refinishing can be a daunting task, but it is also a very rewarding experience. You will find some great tips below to help you along the way. I will also share a few lessons that we have learned so you can avoid problems. First off, we decided to paint our piano. But, like anything else, if you don’t do it well, the piano will look extremely bad. So, with piano refinishing, make sure you take your time and it will turn out great! Refinishing a piano can save you a TON of money, and buying a piano can be extremely cheap. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of FREE pianos out there for those that are willing to move them. (We just lived too far away to most to take advantage of them).

Step 1: Buy a piano that is in good shape.
Good shape = plays well. The piano we bought cost $50.00 and had one key that sat lower than the rest. Other than that, it needed to be tuned. (We will get it tuned when it is moved inside). Of course the main reason why I say buy a piano that is in good shape is to save you $$. If you buy a piano that needs a lot of work, you will waste a lot of money. So, be a little bit picky. Inspect it thoroughly. Make sure all the keys work properly, make sure the panels of the piano are in tact and don’t need major repairs.

Step 2: Clean the piano with soapy water. Of course each piano will need different things, but this one needed a good scrub.

Step 3: Take the panels off. You will need to start removing the hinges and screws with a power drill. Make sure you save all the hardware. You will need it to put it back together of course. :) Each panel is vital, so be careful when you handle them. Set them aside.

Step 4: Remove the keys carefully.  When the piano is striped of all the panels, it will be easier to see how the piano works. Our piano keys were stamped with their corresponding number on the bottom. A piano has 88 keys. You need to be VERY gentle when removing the keys. We took a vacuum and cleaned under the keys also. BUT…be careful not to vacuum up any of the tiny pieces. Every piece of felt is extremely important. Set the keys aside.
IMPORTANT LESSON NUMBER LEARNED: It would have been better to set them out in order. Even though they were stamped, we found out that a lot of numbers look alike. For example 60 and 66 looked identical. So…to save you a lot of time putting the keys back in…I would set them out in order. :)

This is what a piano looks like with all the panels removed and the keys taken out. Doesn’t it look cool?

Step #5: Cover the entire guts of the piano with paper and tape. It would be a disaster to get completely done with the painting process to find that you didn’t take enough time to protect the most important part of the piano. You must carefully tape off the front, the back, the bottom, the pedals…etc.

Step 6: In a well ventilated area, Prime the Piano with KILZ spray primer. For the entire piano, including the panels, I used 4 cans of primer. As you can see on the side of the piano, you will notice the stripes of the primer. I did a few coats of primer (waiting until it is completely dry in between) to cover up those stripes. I took this picture after the first coat.

As you can see in this picture, the insides of the piano are safe.

Step 7: With a high grit sand paper, sand the piano lightly. KILZ primer tends to leave a sand papery texture so by sanding the furniture with high grit sand paper, the soft, smooth finish will return with minimal effort.

Step 8: Paint the piano with Krylon Ivory Gloss finish (or whatever color you choose).I used seven cans of paint for the piano, plus the panels. I choose to paint with Krylon because of the nozzle. In my opinion it leaves a professional finish. I put at least two coats on each part of the piano. On the main body of the piano, I think I did four coats. MAKE SURE that each part dries thoroughly before you coat it again.

Step 9: Let it dry overnight and put the piano back together. 

Here is a reminder of the “before” picture.

And Voila! Doesn’t it look great? I am not done…I will be glazing this bad boy so stay tuned for the final reveal.

And…to all those detailed readers out there, my hubby helped me add the decorative wooden scroll to the front panel. I’ve been searching for a piano for a long time, and I LOVE the old pianos with decorative carvings. But, I haven’t been able to find one that was affordable. So, for around $10.00, we found one at Home Depot, and we added it.

Glazing this piano is going to make this decorative scroll POP right out!  Don’t worry it won’t be long before I’ll show you the result. This piano will be staying in my house. I am pumped! My six year old daughter is starting lessons.

Cost of the Piano:
$50.00 for piano off of Craigslist
Cost of primer (4 cans X $4.44)= about $18.00
Cost of paint (7 cans X $2.97)= about $21.00
Decorative scroll= about $11.00

Grand Total: $100.00
How awesome is that!?!?

Project linked to Before and After Party at Thrifty Decor Chick

Comments

  1. Incredible! I dream of doing this one day.. this and actually learning to play the piano :) Great job!!

  2. You inspire me so very much! I am no longer afraid to paint furniture. In fact, as soon as it cools down, we are going to paint and glaze(I think) our table just like you did the one you sold. Thanks for the inspiration!

    The piano looks great and after your last post, I totally went to craigslist and found a TON… free, or cheap and in good shape. However, we do have a little clavinova (electrical piano) and no room for more furniture here! So, I will be patient until we have a bigger home.

  3. I love this! I've seen pianos painted before, but they're always done in teals and such that's a bit much for me. We have an old piano that my aunt and uncle are probably going to take. maybe I'll be able to convince my crafty aunt to do something like this!!

  4. This. Is. Amazing.

    Wowzers.

  5. YES!!!!! I've been patiently waiting for a blog out there to paint a piano and you've given me exactly what I need. Thank you so much!

    One small question. I know you do a lot of spray painting and it looks like from your pictures that you do it in your garage. When you're painting huge projects like this piano, doesn't the overspray get all over your garage and the stuff in your garage? Finding a good place to spray paint is the hardest part about furniture makeovers for me. I have a garage, but worry about the overspray with big items.
    Thanks!

  6. Love love love it! It makes me want a piano even though I only took lessons for a year….20 years ago. Hmmmm. Thanks again for featuring my blog last week it was so so wonderful! Hopefully I will talk to you soon!

    love your guts
    mandi

  7. Okay, that does it. I'm painting my piano.

  8. It looks fantastic!!

  9. I am amazed! It looks beautiful. I think it looks great just the way it is but I'm excited to see what the glaze does for it. Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing.

  10. this is beautiful! I'm so glad you chose such a nice, neutral color.. it looks fantastic. I think the bright colors are too much for classic pieces like this. You are truly an inspiration!! I check for updates on your blog daily.
    So with the spray paint, the lid of the keys doesn't get stuck to the bottom when it's closed right? I seem to have trouble with sticky paint.

  11. The Yoder's Four says:

    It looks amazing! I can't believe you disassembled the whole thing. That would have been WAY too daunting for me. And I love the decorative scroll you added! The color is perfect. Looks SO much better than the original.

  12. Dana Marchant says:

    So
    amazing
    &
    great!

  13. The Piano looks wonderful! I've always wondered about painting pianos. Thanks for sharing the step by step process.

    There is one thing that I would add about looking for a piano to buy. You have to be VERY careful. Sometimes when someone is selling a piano they have no idea if it's a good piano or not. They may think that it is and that all it needs is a little tuning, but from my experience not all piano's are created equal!!! Ask any piano tuner/repairman. There are some piano's that can be tuned and some that can't. There are some that will hold a tune for a month or so and then lose it. Also if one or more of the keys are "damaged" in any way, it can add up to a lot of $$$ to fix it!

    I went on an extensive piano hunt with a friend of mine a little over a year ago and learned first hand about all these things….with some help from piano tuners/repairmen!

  14. Forgot to tell you some of the "tricks" that the repairmen/tuners told me about. (Can't remember everything since this was over a year ago!) 1. Check on the inside of the piano. Any piano that has been properly taken care of and tuned regularly with have dates on the inside telling when it was tuned. 2. Try to stick with well known brands! If you don't know about a brand call someone who would know and ask them. 3. When testing the keys make sure you play something that will use most/all of the full keyboard, so you can hear how ALL the keys are responding! 4. And when you do purchase a piano make sure it is positioned on an inside wall (no wall where the other side is on the outside of the house) to avoid any major temperature changes that will affect the tuning. If possible you also want to avoid having the piano near a window where it will be hit with direct sunlight, for the same reason as before.

    I thought maybe your readers might be interested to know some of the tricks before embarking on their piano search after seeing your awesome transformation! Maybe you knew all this already, but if not, I hope I, for once, was able to teach you something new.
    Thanks again for sharing everything. I LOVE your blog!

  15. Looks great!! Can also go into detail about putting the scroll on the piano because I've used them before and have a hard time getting them on without the glue showing up in some way… Thanks! Love your blog and all your projects! :)

  16. ** Adrian ** says:

    As always you are AMAZING!!! I wish I had the guts to paint mine!! It looks FANTASTIC!!! I am in awe yet again, my sister!!!!

  17. Nicole Kingsbury says:

    Gah!! That's completely awesome! I'm so glad you posted this and especially step by step. The taking out all the keys and disassembling it sounds way intimidating, but gosh, it looks totally worth it! I think it looks amazing, but I know you'll make it look great with glaze. I tried glazing…totally not my thing.

  18. VERY well done! What a project this is! Must have taken forever. Worth it though! I'm amazed.

  19. I am literally jumping out of my computer chair! I freaking LOVE your piano. I HAVE TO TALK MY HUSBAND INTO DOING OURS!!!!! We have his Grandma's (who has passed away) and he's all about the original wood….. but painting it would be so awesome!!!! LOVE IT!
    Love you!
    Jaime
    P.S. People in my new ward in Riverton told me to go to this "awesome site" called "all things thrifty." Don't you just love how popular you are?!!! I'm popular now cause I "know" you! ha ha ha! Love ya!

  20. How much can I pay you to come help me do mine?…. and of course do lunch! :)
    Jaime
    Why do you live sooooo far away?

  21. Now this is a TRANSFORMATION of transformations! Fabulous!!! The scroll along with the planned glazing will make this a piece de resistance!!! I have to admit I'd be scared beyond scared to remove those keys!! You and your hubby should be very, very proud of the beautiful resoration you have accomplished!!

  22. That turned out so great, good for you!

  23. Michelle says:

    Wow, you really jumped in on this one didn't you? WAY TO GO!!!! It looks amazing! It's such a huge piece of furniture, I thought you were crazy to take on such a huge task. Then to read you took off all the keys!! Very professionally done. Can't wait to see the final results!

  24. Galo Fab 5 says:

    Our piano is the same brand and almost the same style. I would LOVE to do this, but it was my grandmas piano and I think my mom would have a heart attack if I painted it. Dang. :( You did a fantastic job!!

  25. Oh please don't glaze it!!! It is so stunning as it is! It's such a dramatic feature with all that beautiful white. Nothing stands out at all when everything is the same (glazed). Put the glaze can down!!!!!

  26. I love the wood accent decor! Nice touch.

  27. Brooke!!
    Oh my word!! I am so so so glad you did a post on this!! It has been in my head for so long trying to figure out how it would work out and look in the end and i have to say, i am loving it!!! It's amazing what a little paint can do!

    Also i want to thank you, once i found you, i come to your page everyday just to see if there is something new! Hahaha i love your ideas and they just help spark more in my head! Thank you for the inspiration you are amazing!

    And i do have a question about the glazing, i have tried it in the past, and it just didn't work out the way it should have, what do you use to wipe it away with? I think i did too mich at a time because it wouldn't really wipe off very well, but i was wondering if you had any tips you could share!

    I CANNOT CANNOT wait for the final pictures of the piano!! I'm stoked to see how it turns out!

    Thanks again! You brighten my everyday!

    Amanda

  28. Brooke…this is so awesome! I am with Jamie, I want to know what you would charge to do this. It looks like a fun project but a lot of work. So, let me know if you and Dan are interested in doing another piano. :)

    Love you guys!

    P.S. You are so amazingly talented girl. I can't believe all your creative projects on here. Simply incredible!

  29. you really are amazing! great job on this, and the decorative piece you added to the front? pure genius touch!

    xox,
    susan

  30. wow.

  31. This turned out great. I'm excited to see how the glaze looks on it.

  32. I have always wanted to to redo a piano.. Love what you have done with it. Thanks for the great pics of doing it step by step.!

  33. So I absolutely love how this piano turned out. I am going to try and paint my kitchen table but I wanted to ask you a few pointers. It is the same color as my cabinets which I love, but it is old and needs to be sanded. I want to paint it black but I want brown to show through. I wanted to ask you if you have done this before and your opinion on the best way to do this. I would love your input. I love all the projects you have posted on this site. Morgan

  34. So I absolutely love how this piano turned out. I am going to try and paint my kitchen table but I wanted to ask you a few pointers. It is the same color as my cabinets which I love, but it is old and needs to be sanded. I want to paint it black but I want brown to show through. I wanted to ask you if you have done this before and your opinion on the best way to do this. I would love your input. I love all the projects you have posted on this site. Morgan

  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Beautiful and absolutely fabulous end piece. I'm going to have to keep my eye out for one of these bad boys in my house. I really like the added detail of the wood applique too.

  37. You are absolutely amazing!!! Where do you get your energy?!?!

  38. I absolutely LOVE this post!! I bought a beautiful older (1930's) upright piano and few years ago that is beautiful, but is in need of some TLC and I've always been so afraid to try and take it apart. I teach piano lessons and have thought about buying a new piano, but after this post I think I might just try refinishing it instead. My piano has beautiful wood grains and so I'd probably want to just sand and restain…how to do you think that would work??

  39. What is the paint color called that you used on this? I have been wanting to redo my entertainment center. Thanks!!

  40. argylesocks says:

    You rattle canned a piano! Do you have any idea what goes into making pianos?

  41. This post is awesome! We are getting ready to do a piano right now, so this is just what I needed. What kind of glaze did you use?

  42. This is so incredibly helpful as I try to decide if I want to do the same! My mom offloaded the family piano on my husband and I a year ago, and while it's slightly chewed on (we have an anxious pup), it plays well and just needs some reinforcement in the front legs. It's been treated well over the past several decades by my mom and her parents before then… it's not necessarily an heirloom or all that nice of a piano, but it's a real piano and one that we have for free. I had posted it on Craigslist about a month ago for $50, but lately I've been strongly considering re-finishing it a bold color with some shabby chic type accents. It seems far more rewarding to have a statement piece (not to mention a playable piano with a family history!) than $50 in my pocket.

    THANK YOU for boldly going where I want to go, but don't yet know how! Your tutorials are so easy to follow and I will be sure to let you know if we do indeed end up keeping ours and giving it a fresh, timeless-looking lease on life.

  43. I get where you're coming from, but I'd rather see a piano given some TLC and imaginative (well-applied!) paint rather than end up rotting in a ravine, like the pianos I read about on the BBC a few weeks back. To each her own – but I love this idea!!

  44. BUT, as a piano player and teacher, I have to tell you the paint destroys the tone! The volume. The sound of the wood. The wood resonates to create the sound. The paint acts of a muffler. But if you want a cool looking piano, and you have the space, good job. It just doesn’t sound very good.

  45. Katherine says:

    I’m not sure if you are still checking comments on this link, but I’d like to ask; How is it holding up? I’m planning on doing mine and until you, it seemed the bed laid plan was multiple coats of a flat enamel with sandings between. Is it holding up well? Does it get a lot of use? I have a bunch of kids and want to make sure it’s durable. Thanks~Kat

  46. I scrolled down quickly but didn’t read every post carefully so I don’t know if this issue has been addressed…
    The sound board at the back of the piano should not be painted, and when you are choosing a piano you should look there to see if there are major cracks in it. Don’t paint the sound board. In other words don’t paint the back of the piano! It is an integral part of how your piano sounds and should be left as the factory made it. This is VERY important. And be sure to take note the thickness and standard of the refinishing and try to stay similar (albeit a different color). Your piano might be beautiful but any real musician would find it ruined if the sound were compromised this way.

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