Why You Shouldn't Garage Your Piano

July 16, 2018

You're trying to sell your home and decide to put some of your excess furniture in a storage unit. A table, some chairs, a dresser, and your piano. You don't think much of this, it's just furniture right? It'll be fine! It takes longer than you expected to sell your home, but now you're in a new home and ready for the furniture in the storage unit. You dust off the table and chairs and they look good as new. You move the piano into your new living room and dust it off as well. As you open the lid to take a peek inside, you see some dust and grime, and what looks like a nest! You take a seat at the piano and start to play your favorite piece, only the opening note sounds more like a clunk than a C...

 

 

 

 

A piano action has several thousand individual parts, most of which are made of wood, and machined to very exact tolerances in order to function perfectly. When everything fits to specs, is aligned properly, and sufficiently lubricated, the piano action handles itself like a well-oiled machine.

 

In the video below, you can see just how many parts are involved in playing just a single note!

 

 

If all of these parts aren't exactly where they were designed to be, the action won't function properly. This leads to all sorts of problems, from sticky keys, hammers striking the strings multiple times, or even the piano failing to make a sound at all. 

 

Because most of these parts are made of wood, they are extremely sensitive to changes in both temperature and humidity. Garages and storage units are not climate controlled, so your piano is exposed to significant daily temperature fluctuations and, most importantly, large fluctuations in humidity. 

 

As the humidity increases, the wooden parts swell - and eventually begin to buckle and warp. This can lead to some serious problems!

 

Furthermore, your piano will go out of tune much, much faster than if it were in a stable environment. The piano strings are held at the proper tension by the piano's pinblock - a large block of laminated wood. 

 

 

Each piano string is under around 150 pounds of tension, and an average piano has around 230 strings so there is, on average, a string tension of over 17 tons throughout the piano. The piano's pinblock usually does a really good job of holding those strings at tension, however when the temperature and the humidity start to wage a battle against the piano, the tuning begins to slip. 

 

The increased humidity can also cause the steel strings to rust. This not only deadens the sound and shortens the life of the strings, but it can also lead to the strings breaking when being tuned or played! Replacing piano strings can quickly become a major project.

 

On top of that, small critters might make your piano their new home! I have come across pianos where mice have created nests in the piano and caused additional problems. 

 

 

The piano above was garaged for several months, and when I found it, a mice had made a home beneath the keys. There were the empty seed shells, pieces of uncooked pasta, rodent droppings, and other filth. 

 

 

Unfortunately, the rodents also destroyed many of the felt parts along the key frame as well and used them to build its nest. This caused additional problems with the playing of the keys, and the only way to repair the damage was to replace the felt parts.

 

After several hours, I was able to get the nest removed, the parts replaced, the action regulated, and the piano tuned.

 

Garaging a piano can damage the instrument and should be avoided. If your piano has been in a garage and you're ready to bring it back to life, contact us to schedule an appointment. And check out our Complete Service Packages, designed to help get your piano back in shape! 

 

  

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