The Cook Trio

How much to refret a Guitar?

Refretting a guitar is quite a demanding task, and even though it can be done at home, it would be best to hire the services of a professional. So, how much does it cost to refret a guitar? 

 Typically, a complete refret will cost you somewhere between $180 and $500, depending on various factors. That said, it needs a wide-ranging number of skills and tools and will sometimes be more expensive than buying a guitar. 

 Oftentimes, people prefer fret dressing instead of refretting, which makes sense as it only costs $60 to $100. Here, we comprehensively review the cost of refretting a guitar, how often you should do it, and whether it’s worth it. 

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    How much does it cost to refret a guitar?

    How much does it cost to refret a guitar

    It’s rather expensive to refret a guitar, though there is a broad scope of factors that determine the exact price, such as: 

     Number of frets 

     Prevalently, the number of frets will play a huge role in determining how much you’ll pay for guitar refretting. Hence there will be a difference in cost between a 15-fret guitar and a 24-fret instrument. The more the materials used, the more it will cost. Besides, there is more work to be done on the 24-fret guitar. 


    Bound necks 

     If the guitar neck has binding, you might require having it redone along with the worn frets. For instance, if you have a Gibsons guitar, the binding usually encases the fret edges; to have this guitar model refretted, the tech needs to undo the binding, eventually increasing the refret cost. 


    Professional service or DIY 

     When refretting a guitar, the labor cost normally surpasses the parts` cost. Typically, fret wire is affordable, so you’ll spend less than $20 for materials, though this doesn’t include finish adjustments and binding. 

     All the same, labor can cost over 10 times this, depending on the professional’s experience and the complications involved during the process. 

    On the other hand, if you decide to do it yourself, you’ll save a lot of cash, but remember, if you don’t have the right tools, you might spend the same as you would have if you hired the services of a professional. 


    Fretboard wood 

     Lastly, you have to consider the wood your guitar’s fretboard is made of. For instance, refretting a guitar with a maple neck will cost you more than a rosewood board. This is primarily because maple is more challenging wood to work with than rosewood fretboards. Besides, a newbie luthier can shoddily work on the finish, resulting in irreparable damage to your instrument. 

    How much to re fret a guitar?

    refret a guitar

    The amount it will cost you to refret your guitar depends on its quality and condition. The most affordable refrets will cost you about $150 to $200, though this only comprises basic services like fret substitution and re-crowning. 

     Besides, the wood and neck material will be important when determining cost. A rosewood or ebony fretboard with no binding won’t be expensive to refret. On the other hand, it will be costly if the neck features binding or is made of maple.  

     Meanwhile, a vintage instrument will bite a huge chunk off your budget, though if you take it to a professional luthier, they will do it justice and make it worthwhile. Nevertheless, it would be best to refret a vintage guitar when fret dressing is not an option or if you really need to play it. 

     For the fret wire, you’ll pay between $10 and $20. While this is affordable, the labor is normally what’s expensive. If your guitar is not on the expensive side, it might not be a good financial decision to pay for a refret since you can purchase a new instrument or neck for the same price. 

     For instance, a certified fender neck is worth $200 to $400, though its sound will differ from your guitar’s usual sound. Even though you use steel frets and request a complete setup, including nut replacement, you should not pay more than $ 500 for refretting your guitar. Besides, you could find a luthier who will charge per fret. 

    How to know if your guitar needs refretting

    How to know if your guitar needs refretting

    Frets are basically thick strips of metal, and when you continuously play the strings against them, it leads to wear because of the friction. So, after playing guitar for a long period, the frets flatten, resulting in horrible intonation. 

     What’s more, if you don’t normally do vibrato or bends, the strings could notch the frets and form dents. So, when you hear a buzzing sound more than once, or the dents are visible, it’s time to regret it. 

     Eventually, it depends on how inconvenient the buzzes and intonation are for you and the action you prefer. While dents and fret wear are normal for instruments, you’ll have to refret the instrument more frequently if you’re heavy-handed. You can correct insignificant wear through a fret dress or simply switch the worn-out frets. On the other hand, hire a guitar service if you don’t know how to go about it. 

    How often should you refret a guitar, and does it impact its value?

    There’s really no fixed time frame for refretting your guitar. You simply have to assess the wear on the frets. Unfortunately, if you have a death grip on your guitar’s neck, you’ll require refretting it annually. However, if you have a much lighter touch, you don’t need to refret it for decades. 

     Again, if you have multiple guitars, you won’t need refretting them for years. All the same, it would help if you switched the saddles and nuts occasionally when the guitar begins buzzing. Plus, if it’s your only guitar, you might have to re fret it more often. 

     That said, how regularly you have to refret depends on the instrument’s quality, how you play if you often utilize capo, and whether you have steel strings on the guitar.  

     Remember that you might refret a guitar multiple times before needing to change the guitar neck. When it comes to market value, a guitar refret could make your instrument worthless in some instances. Numerous collectors won’t pay a lot for a vintage guitar whose frets have been replaced. Some collectors don’t purchase it to play it, making the original frets more valuable. 

     On the other hand, for a person buying it to play, new frets are an excellent addition since they translate to a better tone, hence can be sold for more. 

    For this reason, depending on your guitar, the market value could reduce after switching the frets. Some vintage instruments maintain their market value because of the initial frets. So, if you have a valuable vintage guitar, do your homework before refretting. 

    The best material for new frets

    When it comes to the feel and sound of the fret wire, there are several variables to consider, like size, shape, width, and the material. Typically, nickel silver is the most common fret wire material. Nonetheless, it doesn’t contain silver. 

     Here are the most common fret materials: 

     EVO Gold: EVO Gold is a more recent addition to the fret industry. It comes in handy if you are allergic to nickel. It is made of tin and copper alloy. Although, it is somewhat less robust than stainless steel and nickel silver. 

     Stainless steel: Frets made with stainless steel are extremely robust and serve you a long time. Using them at first might be tricky, though they will look as good as new even after a long time of use. 

     Nickel silver: While not the most robust option, Nickel Silver frets are the most popular. They offer a warm tone and aren’t slippery like stainless steel frets. Nickel Silver frets are the industry’s standard so far. 

    How many times can you refret your guitar?

    Well, there is no direct answer to this question. For example, if you refret your guitar too much, it could be useless, and you’ll have to replace the entire neck. However, you might never have this issue if you’re not using it often and don’t tune heavy gauge strings. 

     Therefore, there is no set limit on the number of times you can refret a guitar. On the other hand, if you do it once every decade or two, you won’t have an issue with the frets or strings. Players who utilize their guitars frequently, and gently, won’t need to have them refretted all the time. 

    So, why do frets wear out?

    Typically, the frets on your guitar will wear because of using it. After a long time of playing it, with the strings pressing on the frets, the frets tend to wear out, gradually peeling the material and eventually calling for substitution. 

     Some circumstances can accelerate the wearing process. For instance, if you have steel strings and basic frets, the steel strings are more robust than nickel and will result in the swift erosion of the frets. 

     Again, blues players who utilize a broad scope of expressive practices, including vibrato and bends, usually have the frets wear quickly compared to rhythm players, who normally play cords instead of single notes. 

     Moreover, if you have a heavy grip, you will generate more friction with every note between the frets and strings, which will accelerate the process of wear. 

     Lastly are the players whose guitar frets wear swiftly due to playing with intense gauge strings. As expected, the significant surface area of these strings leads to substantial damage to the frets at the top, leading to swifter wear. 

    Is guitar refretting worth it?

    Is it really worth it? The most important factor to consider when deciding whether it’s worth refretting a guitar is its value. If your guitar isn’t that expensive, you shouldn’t refret it unless it has intimate value. 

     Suppose it was gifted to you by your friend or family member; making it precious, then a fret job is an excellent idea, regardless of its market value. However, if the guitar is vintage and expensive, then the expense of refretting will increase its market value. Potential buyers will pay more once they find out that the guitar has been regretted. 

     Besides, if possible, you could have the neck replaced, especially if your guitar’s market value isn’t that high. 

     That said, are stainless steel frets worth it? 

     If you’re not on a budget, stainless steel frets are an excellent option. They are more robust and will serve you longer than their counterparts. Besides, they play and feel better than nickel silver and EVO Gold strings. 

     On the other hand, installing steel frets takes a long time and is costly, though you won’t have to refret for a very long time. That said, you shouldn’t be surprised if your tech charges you somewhere between $400 and $500 for a complete fret job. 

    FAQs about Refreting a Guitar

    Do frets impact the tone of my guitar?

    Yes. While it might not sound like it, frets can impact the sustain and tone of your guitar. More precisely, frets impact the guitar’s playability, though their width can impact the resonance of the strings, making it less or more twangy. 

    What is fret dressing?

    This is whereby you or a luthier cleans up the frets and leaves them in good shape for best performance. This comprises tidying up the frets` tops to guarantee that the strings slide effortlessly, ensuring that no frets are stuck over the fretboard’s sides. Normally, wood shrinks in certain weather conditions, so it would help if you leveled the frets and polished them adequately. 

    How many frets do I need as a newbie guitarist?

    For a beginner, the 22-24 fret guitar will be sufficient. More frets will come in handy if you often prefer playing down the board or soloing. 

    Conclusion of How Much to Refret a Guitar

    At some point, you will require to refret your guitar. The primary reason players refret their guitars is because the strings begin buzzing, and the instrument is incapable of maintaining the sharpness and sustain of every note. 

     However, depending on how often you play your guitar and how you play it, your guitar frets will wear out either fast or gradually, hence requiring replacing. 

     All the same, frets are rather affordable, and the main expense will be labor. You’ll require removing each fret and replacing it, cutting the additional part, and at the same time, making sure that each fret is ideally positioned and there are no issues with your guitar’s sound. 

    After reading this article hope you learned how much it cost to refret a guitar!

    Simon Mattav

    I am the owner of The Cook Trio, a three-piece band that has been performing in the Chicago area for over 10 years. I have a passion for music – everything from guitar to songs. I graduated from the music University of Chicago! My passion is writing songs about my life experiences, feelings and emotions through different genres. My inspirations are some of today’s popular songwriters such as Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez among others.

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