Restoring a 94 Year Old Piano- How we did it! – Part One

When my girls were little, we had a small stage, complete with curtains, in our living room. It was where many memories were made, watching them dance and sing.  As they are older now, we sadly parted ways with our stage, leaving a large open space in our living room.  When discussing the “uselessness” of our living room (“We never use it!”), my husband joked that the room should now become our music “conservatory.”

piano restoration


Our eldest daughter has been playing piano since she was 7, and is quite proficient today at 15. After years of playing on a keyboard, we decided to get our daughter a piano. But how? New pianos are extremely expensive, and being a one income family, it wasn’t an option.

After a few days of looking on craigslist, we found a baby grand piano for $400.  Figuring this was too good to be true, we made an appointment to check it out.  After inspecting the piano and having my daughter play it, we decided to buy it. Now, I have to say here that we should have had a piano tuner with us to check the quality of the instrument  before buying it.  For a small fee, a piano tuner will tell you if there is anything wrong with the used piano, how much it will cost to fix it, and can offer advice on the purchase.

piano restoration
Day 1 – Piano looks rather black and dusty inside, doesn’t it?


We paid for the piano to be moved from the seller’s house to ours and were anxious to see it in our home. Once it was set up, I was a little surprised at how it looked. I knew it was old (the seller told us she guessed it was 50-60 years old) but it looked worse in our home. Looking back, I now realize the light was much dimmer in her home than ours. Plus, the seller had the lid of the instrument up and next to a wall, hiding flaws in the lid. Once the lid was down, I was really surprised and disappointed. I had to call my husband and tell him we had a little work ahead of us – not a fun call to make.

piano restoration
This was a surprise. Obviously people had tried to refinish it and failed.
piano restoration
The nasty crackled finish on top of the piano. Very leathery looking.

The piano had been in a smoker’s home for over 15 years.  It was obvious that the smoke had caused yellowing of the keys, a distinct odor, and a tarry buildup.  When we got a good look at it, we could see that this instrument wasn’t properly cared for, cleaned, or maintained. A few attempts had been made to refinish it, but nothing was ever completed.

piano restoration
Before: UGH. We had removed the lid and were ready to work on it.
piano restoration
Close up of the piano lid when we received it.

The only solace I had, once I saw the reality of the piano’s condition, was that my husband is excellent in carpentry.  We could see the beautiful grain in the wood and knew that a little elbow grease and love would shape it into great condition.

piano restoration
Getting to work!


After sanding a bit of the lid to see how much work we had in store, we both knew that this would take hours of work.

The satisfaction of getting a good deal nullified itself when reality set in.

Stay tuned for more…..

Happy Travels!

Juliepiano restoration


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *