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18. Fire Damage to a Piano


This is something we don't like to think about, but it happens. I am going to tell you if your piano has not been damaged beyond repair, then how to repair it. If you are trying to prove a lightly damaged piano top qualifies you for a new piano, go chase yourself. I want nothing to do with fraud by people like you. Do not send E-mail asking me how you can make a disaster of a perfectly good piano.

Assessing fire damage:

The assessor will probably try to save the piano, and he may not know much about pianos. Most insurance people don't know anything about pianos, but only a few will admit it. The first question is, how far did the smoke level come down the wall? If it stopped no more than three inches down from the top of the upright piano, it can be saved. This would be modified by the time the house stayed hot until the fire was put out. If the smoke level came below six inches, the piano is probably junk. I don't care how it looks inside, the tuning pin block is very likely damaged and split.

It must not have come lower than two inches below the top of a grand piano.

The problem here is this-- The top may be all bubbled and look horrible. But, the real issue is the heat / smoke line, which the insurance agent will know about.

The second question is, did the piano get doused with water? If so, it is junk. Demand a new piano from the insurance company.

Repairing the fire damaged piano:

The piano did not flunk the above tests, so now you want to repair it. You can do this yourself and collect the insurance payment, IF that is legal in your case. The first thing is to get the smoke smell out of the piano. This can be done pretty well in two steps.

Step one-

Sponge out the inside, BUT NOT THE WIRES OR TUNING PINS, with a mixture of Murphy's Oil Soap and water. Soak a cloth in the mixture, and wring it out slightly until it does not drip. Do the back of the piano, wiping the whole wood frame. Dry it immediately after this.

Next, spray it with a solution from the hardware store that covers smoke. If your hardware store does not have the smoke covering spray, you can get this from the people who come to spray the fire damaged areas of your home. DO NOT spray the wires or the tuning pin area. Use a pistol grip sprayer with a fine mist so that you just barely cover the various wood parts. You may want to remove the keys and spray the key bed at this time. Do not spray the keys!  You cannot totally get the smoke smell out because you cannot treat the steel parts without rusting them, but you can improve it a lot.

Step Two-

Strip the top of the piano which probably has had its surface damaged. Strip is all the way down to wood.

See my section called, Refinishing the cabinet to learn how to refinish the top. If the upper part of the cabinet is damaged down a couple of inches, you will have to strip part of the piano and refinish it to match the whole appearance. If this is beyond you, demand that the insurance company pay for a refinishing of the whole piano. A high value grand with any damage below the top should be refinished.


I welcome phone calls from insurance companies, and I welcome gift certificates to a good restaurant if I save an insurance company from getting ripped off :-)

  On to task 19.