Volunteer Piano

Thinking About Finding a Piano on Craigslist?

There are thousands of postings on Craigslist offering affordable or FREE pianos. How do you know if the piano is worth your time and money? Most of the pianos that you will find on Craigslist, especially the free ones, have several minor problems and some of them have major problems. These pianos may be okay for a beginner or child, but for an experienced piano player, this is not the route to go. There’s nothing worse than having spent $200 to move a FREE piano into your home, only to find out that it is not tunable, and having to pay another $200 to get it out of your house. You just spent $400 for absolutely nothing.

There are many things that you need to be aware of when purchasing a piano.

  • The cost of the move. Quality pianos should only be moved by professional piano movers. They are licensed, bonded, insured, and they have the experience necessary to move the piano without damaging the thousands of intricate parts. It is NOT the same as moving a dresser. If you are thinking about moving the piano yourself, you may want to reconsider due to the physical harm it can cause to your body. Pianos weigh between 500-1200 pounds. If you hire a professional piano mover, they charge between $200-$400 depending on the size and weight of the piano and the number of steps involved.
  • Cracks in the soundboard. The soundboard is made of wood, mainly spruce. Cracks are caused by major fluctuations humidity and extremely dry conditions. A crack in the soundboard is similar to a punctured lung. It causes the soundboard to lose its crown and it will not vibrate correctly, thus causing it to produce a muffled tone. Repair of a soundboard can cost between $5,000-$10,000 and replacing it costs even more.
  • A cracked cast iron plate. If you have a cracked cast iron plate, the piano is useless, except for repurposing. If you have a piano that is sentimental or has a beautiful case, we can repurpose it into a bar, desk, aquarium, or other piece of art for your home.
  • Broken or missing strings. If a string is broken or missing, replacements strings run from $5-$45 depending on if it is a treble or bass end string.
  • Broken or missing hammers. Hammers will not strike the strings correctly if there are deep grooves in the felt hammers. This is caused by repetitive striking of the strings. Repair is $15-$20 per hammer. Replacement is $25-$50 per hammer.
  • Pedals that do not function. The pedal trap mechanisms become worn overtime and parts of the mechanism may break. Repair or replacement can cost hundreds of dollars.
  • General flaws in the action. Over time, the thousands of intricate action parts become worn and have a tendency to break. This is one of the most expensive repairs that the piano requires. The expense is not due to the cost of parts, but the amount of labor involved.

But most of all……IS IT TUNABLE???

Almost half of the pianos that I have inspected that were given to someone for free off of Craigslist have not been tunable. How do you know if its tunable? This must be tested by a trained piano technician. To test this, I check several random pins in each section of the pin-block. The tuning pins go through the cast iron plate into a piece of hard rock maple wood, called the pin-block. The pin-block has several thin layers of wood and each alternating layer’s grain of the wood is turned 45 degrees. This helps to grip the metal pin that the string is connected to. Having the pin held in place is what holds the tension of each string. If the pin is not gripped correctly, the piano string attached to the pin cannot be tuned because the pin spins.

The only solution for this problem is to…

  1. Replace the pins with larger pins, which means restringing the piano (which costs roughly $3,000-$5,000)
  2. Replace the pin-block, pins, and strings. The pins are threaded, so you cannot use old pins because they are stripped

So your FREE PIANO is not looking so FREE anymore, is it?

For a nominal fee $50, I can inspect the piano to make sure that it is tunable, as well as look for any and all flaws with the piano that would cost you money to have repaired. I can also give you an exact estimate of what it would cost to get the piano in tune and playing to the standards that you expect.