Piano 101

Understanding the Various Levels of Piano Restoration.

  • Welcome!

    Hello, my name is Mike Sweeney, and for over forty years, my wife, Lisa, and I have been in the business of restoring vintage pianos.

    This image represents one of our very first storefront signs from our shop on Pennsylvania's famous "Main Line," just a few miles west of the great American city of Philadelphia. Over these four decades, we've had to move our shop location three times due to a need for more space, better tools and equipment to match both the volume of work, our increased know-how, and proficiency in this very specialized craft of piano repair and restoration.

    To date, we have restored more than 3000 classic pianos! And, through this experience, I have designed a highly streamlined operation that saves my customers money with restoration work that is both efficient and practical, what I call a "proficient economy of scale," a work model that is organized, systematized, and able to produce excellent results.

    At some point, I began taking 'before restoration, during restoration, and after restoration' photographs of my work. The images are very satisfying to me because they highlight amazing transformations of pianos that would seem impossible at first glance. Take a look (click the images to enlarge):

    Before and After Before and After During Restoration Before and After Before and After Before and After
  • Level 1: Our 25 Step Restoration Process Open or Close

    This is our blueprint for successful piano restoration

    Certain basic repairs & refurbishments are necessary to restore quality and reliable functionality.

    Our tried and true 25 Step Restoration Process is ideal for overall piano preservation. And even though we refer to this as "25 steps," there are literally hundreds of necessary procedures performed. Essential improvements include restoring and beautifully refinishing the original soundboard. The ribs are tightened and cracks, both major and minor, are repaired. The oxidation at the friction points of the cast iron harp are leveled. This allows the fresh new strings to sit nicely. The harp/plate is also stripped, primed, and refinished. The action parts, too, are thoroughly cleaned and the springs strengthened. All parts of the action are realigned for accuracy. The hammers are filed and shaped.

    This 25 step process is the minimum amount of work we recommend for older instruments.

    Watch a short video of Michael testing a piano after the 25 Step Restoration Process.

    We follow these steps to rebuild your piano's structural integrity, and to recover its essential foundation.

    This process restores the instrument's basic stability, an understructure that is essential and necessary for the creation of music. (One of the final steps is fine tuning your piano to concert pitch!)

    • Sand and refinish the bridges and soundboard.
    • Strip and sand the cabinet, furniture parts and bench.
    • Restore original key covering or replace.
    • Finish in the original color and sheen with 22 coats of lacquer.
    • Remove and inspect the pin block (duplicate if needed).
    • Remove and inspect the underlever tray.
    • Rebush action parts as needed.
    • Reinstall and align the cast iron plate.
    • Cut and install new damper felt
    • Shape, file and space the hammers.
    • Adjust let-off, drop, and back checks.
    • Professionally transport and set-up the piano in your home or concert stage.

    See a list of all the steps at level 1 at sweeneypiano.com.

    Level 1: Removing the Cast Iron Plate Level 1: Repairing the Keys Level 1: Repairing the Pin Block Level 1: Cleaning and Refinishing the Harp/Plate Level 1: Cleaning and Refinishing the Soundboard Michael Sweeney's Piano Restoration Shop
  • Level 2: Restoring the ActionOpen or Close


    Mr. Piano HammerAt Level 2, the work will be escalated to include replacement of the primary action parts. This means new hammers, shanks, knuckles, flanges, and whippens. The result will be the best accuracy in touch and tone. And, it's always best to have this work completed in shop rather than later in the home.

    If you decide to upgrade the restoration to Level 2, the new primary actions parts are highly discounted, and the costs are over and above the stand alone 25 step restoration process.

    At this level, your piano will be AS GOOD as when new!

    Level 2: Replacing the Hammers Level 2: Replacing the Dampers Level 2: Restoring the Action Level 2: Restoring the Action Level 2: Restoring the Action Level 2: Restoring the Action
  • Level 3: New Soundboard and BridgesOpen or Close


    This is the ultimate level of piano restoration. Work here includes a new soundboard and bridges in addition to the main action components and the 25 Step Restoration Process. It's a comprehensive rebuild and actually is considered to be more of a complete re-manufacturing of the piano. Click on the images below to get an idea of just how specialized this procedure is.

    We have had our customers tell us that at his level of restoration, their pianos came back to them better than new!

    Level 3: New Soundboard and Bridges Level 3: New Soundboard and Bridges Level 3: New Soundboard and BridgesNew Soundboard and BridgesNew Soundboard and Bridges Level 3: New Soundboard and Bridges
  • Testimonials & Customer ReviewsOpen or Close

    image10 We have collected many unsolicited letters of praise and thanks over the years, and we are always happy to receive them. Certainly, one of the things that drives our company is the satisfaction we see in the letters we receive from our satisfied customers. "Dear Mike and Lisa," they often begin..."We could not be happier with the wonderful work and fantastic customer service of Sweeney Piano..." "Amazing! Our baby grand is absolutely gorgeous!" "Thank you for your craftsmanship, professionalism, and honest salesmanship..." We've received hundreds of such thank-yous over the years, and truly, it makes us proud to be of service. Click on the images below to enlarge some of the cards and letters we've received, or visit our home site for a larger selection.

    Letters from our Customers Letters from our Customers Letters from our Customers Letters from our Customers Letters from our Customers Letters from our Customers
  • A Gallery: Samples of Our WorkOpen or Close

    We have restored several thousand pianos over the past four decades. As a craftsman, the work has been and continues to be very satisfying. I invite you to click on any image below to start a slide show of photos of some of our recently finished work. Once the slide show opens, click on any image to expose the controls at the bottom of the screen. Enjoy!

  • Try Our Online Estimate CalculatorOpen or Close

    We restore baby grand and grand pianos, all styles of uprights, square grands, too. Use our Online Price Calculator to estimate the price of restoration based upon your piano's type, size and location. Plus, if you order our service Online, you will save even more money. Visit our home site now.

    • We Will Move Your Piano Without Worry!

      The calculator will ask what size of piano you have, and its location. Transportation distance will be figured into the estimated price.

      Normal pick-up and deliver is calculated into the estimate, and we always provide professional piano movers to and from all sates in the lower 48. We help you save on moving costs since we schedule the restoration in advance so that we can geographically combine your piano's move with other pick-up and deliveries. This streamlining effort allows to offer first floor moving at no additional charge.

    • What About Special Circumstances?

      Your piano may not need to be crane lifted to and from its location in your home, but if it does, we can accommodate that need! (Special pricing would apply.)

      If your piano has fire or water damage, or if it needs to be removed and replaced by crane, additional charges may apply. But, all pricing must be approved by you, our client, in advance. Also, if your piano will be used professionally at a performance or stage level, you may request a more radical re-manufacturing process that will address concert stage performance requirements. We will be happy to quote a price for special needs pianos.

  • We Install Smart Players, too.Open or Close

    image10 Player pianos are not what they used to be. Now you can control your piano's music reproduction from an easy to operate app on your favorite hand-held device. Entertain guests, impress your friends, and listen to your favorite piano music without touching the piano. Choose from an extensive and growing collection of the world's favorite composers and compositions.

    We invite you to watch Youtube videos of smart players we've installed.

    A Smart Player installed in a Steinway B playing Frederic Chopin's Waltz in C# Minor, opus 64 No. 2.

    A Smart Player installed a beautifully restored antique square grand playing various popular themes.


    Contact us if you have questions.