What’s the Difference? | Refinished vs. Refurbished vs. Restored Pianos
Question: “I am looking to purchase a piano. As I’ve gone through various websites I’ve noticed the terms ‘restored’, ‘refurbished’ and ‘refinished.’ What is the difference between these terms?”
With numerous individuals and businesses within the worldwide piano industry, the terms ‘restored’ or ‘refurbished’ get thrown around quite a bit. This can lead to a bit of confusion over the actual condition of the piano in question and what each term actually means. We can’t speak for other businesses or piano technicians, however below you will find the definitions we use for these various terms.
Cosmetic Restoration: The refinishing of a piano is purely cosmetic. This is done to refresh the instrument and return a like-new look and feel to the exterior of the piano cabinet. When we refinish a piano we utilize the finest materials and workmanship to ensure a premium, like-new finish. We utilize closed pore, hand-rubbed lacquer finishes over the quicker sprayed-only method. This ensures a finish with optimum clarity and one that is more easily repairable in the future.
[Read more about the piano refinishing process.]
Refinishing the piano cabinet is a normal part of our extensive piano restoration process. We may also refinish a piano that is in very good mechanical and interior condition but needs to be cosmetically refreshed to make it retail-ready. Often refinishing will also be coupled with the refurbishing of a piano. Proper cabinet refinishing techniques are critical in ensuring a long-lasting, factory-quality result. Although it does not affect the actual mechanical function of the piano, aesthetics obviously count toward your overall enjoyment of the instrument and the value of the piano.
Basic Repairs & Regulation: Refurbishing the piano can vary in the extent of the work completed, however when we refurbish a piano it usually involves carefully cleaning the interior and exterior of the piano, ensuring tight tuning pins, completing our extensive action and tone regulation, repairing any small action defects and tuning the instrument for delivery. Often new strings are an option as well. If the cabinet is in overall good condition, we do some cleaning and minor finish touch-up. This is usually done to pianos that are already in good to excellent condition and do not require a full restoration. [For example, this 1965 Steinway Model M Grand Piano.] We are able to offer these fully playable and regulated Steinway grand pianos for very reasonable prices. This allows clients with smaller budgets the opportunity to purchase a Steinway grand piano. We do our best to offer as many options as possible for those searching for their dream instrument.
NOTE: We have seen cases where pianos that have had minor refurbishment and refinishing completed passed off as a ‘fully restored’ piano. Be sure to go through the list of work completed on the instrument to ensure the condition of the piano.
Extensive Re-Manufacturing: The process of properly restoring a piano is much more extensive than a simple cosmetic refinish or refurbishment of mechanical parts. The restoration work we complete is also known as ‘rebuilding’ or ‘re-manufacturing’ due to how complete this work is. Restoring a piano to the extent that we do here at Chupp’s Piano Service requires a broad base of knowledge and vast experience to ensure like-new condition and true concert-level performance. Our team of piano rebuilders goes through the piano and every component from the soundboard to the action is carefully evaluated and then repaired, restored or fully replaced. Below is an example list of what might be done to fully restore a vintage Steinway piano. (Steinway Model A-3 #224288 used as the example.)
- New premium spruce soundboard & bridge caps
- [Red Cedar soundboard option available.]
- New custom fitted multi-laminated pinblock
- New German music wire, blued tuning pins
- Premium quality custom made bass strings
- New damper felts
- Refinished original damper heads
- New German Renner wippens, new hammers, shanks and flanges
- New key end felt
- New premium German Kluge synthetic keytops
- Re-bronzed and hand-lettered original plate
- Fully restored and regulated damper back action
- Full concert action regulation
- Concert level tone regulation/voicing
- Action weighed off to Steinway specifications
- Premium closed pore, hand-rubbed satin finish
- Re-plated nickel hardware
- [Or polished and restored brass hardware]
- Tuned multiple times for stability & much more
- Five Year Warranty
When fully restoring/rebuilding a vintage grand piano, we go through every part of the instrument to ensure it is performing to top concert standards. With our restored Steinway pianos being utilized daily by top universities and performance halls nationwide, this level of quality is essential. One area that we give special attention to is the action and tone regulation. We spend many extra hours conducting exacting adjustments to ensure a responsive touch and a full, rich quality of tone.
Sadly, there are some piano ‘re-builders’ who attempt to pass off pianos that we would consider to be only partially rebuilt or simply refurbished as if they underwent a full restoration. It is important to understand that the work needed to fully restore a vintage grand piano is extensive, time-consuming and you truly do get what you pay for. Fortunately, we are able to keep our prices very competitive due to our shop’s lower overhead here in Northern Indiana. [North of Fort Wayne, East of Chicago.] In closing, it is good to know the differences between a cosmetic refinish, basic refurbishment, and extensive restoration. This knowledge will help you greatly in your search for your perfect piano.
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About Us: Founded in 1975, Chupp’s Piano Service features one of the largest selections of fully restored pianos in the Midwest United States. Specializing in the premium restored Steinway pianos, our work has become the preferred choice of countless universities, concert venues and professional pianists around the world. With a focus on service and only the finest craftsmanship, a piano restored by us is sure to provide you with countless hours of pure musical enjoyment. Located less than two hours from Chicago and less than an hour and a half from Fort Wayne, we invite you to visit us at our rebuilding facility and showroom. [Meet Our Team of Piano Rebuilders]