If you play your guitar for a while, there is a chance that you’ll need to refret it. Refretting is a process of replacing worn frets with new ones so you can continue playing the guitar. While it is not the most common practice, it is something you’ll need to do after a while.
So, how much does it cost, and is it worth it? Refretting usually costs between $200 and $400, and it is worth it if you plan on playing that guitar. Especially if it is a more expensive one.
Refretting cheaper guitars might not be a good idea since the whole procedure can cost more than you paid for the instrument.
The Cost Of Refretting A Guitar
There are so many things that may affect the price when it comes to refretting. As you all know, each guitar is different, and there are many variations that depend on the brand, model, and so on.
The first thing that may have an impact on the price is the type of guitar, or more precisely neck. Usually, the price is different for bolt-on and set-in necks. Furthermore, the wood may also play a role in the price you’ll need to pay.
And if your guitar neck has the binding on it, it will only increase the price. And each part of the guitar or neck can further affect the price. Needless to say, if you have a vintage instrument that’s rather expensive, you will need to pay even more for refretting.
In essence, rosewood necks are a lot cheaper than maple, and you will need to pay less for bolt-on necks. Moreover, if your guitar doesn’t have binding, the price will go even lower. So the cheapest options are guitars like Stratocaster with rosewood fretboards.
The more expensive and fragile the instrument is, the higher the price will go. You might ask why this is the case, and why refretting is so expensive. Firstly, you might notice that I never mentioned the price of frets.
The reason for this is that you can get a set of frets for the guitar for around $10. But the process can be quite complex and requires a lot of work. Needless to say, you need to replace frets without damaging the instrument.
Is It Worth It To Refret A Guitar?
Yes and no. If you own an expensive instrument, refretting it is undoubtedly worth the price. Vintage instruments can cost a couple of thousands, and adding a few hundred on top of it is just part of maintenance.
If you own a Strat from the fifties or vintage Les Paul, you would want to keep it in the best possible condition, and you will need to invest in the guitar if you want to keep it playable. But what happens if you have your old instrument instead?
This is where you might face a problem. If you need to refret, let’s say, your first guitar, then it might not be worth the price. Unless you feel like it. But in theory, the guitar is worth a lot less than you’ll pay for refretting.
I already mentioned that the price is between $200 and $400, and if you have a $150 guitar, it might not be worth the price.
However, if you love your guitar, and want to fix it, then it is ok. You should ask yourself if it is worth repairing it and if you can afford it. If the answer is yes, then you should do it.
How Do I Know If My Guitar Needs New Frets?
Whenever you play the guitar, you will press the string against the fret. And each time you do this, it will leave a dent on the fret. Naturally, this isn’t something that you’ll notice after a couple of months of playing.
But after a few years, dents in frets will become more noticeable, especially if you play without vibrato. Using vibrato while playing can help you wear out your frets naturally and evenly which won’t cause you problems.
So, the first thing you can do is check your frets and see if they are worn out. But this isn’t the primary concern and even if there are visual differences, you might not need to refret the instrument.
If you were wondering whether your guitar needs new frets, all you need to do is play it. If there are notes that aren’t sharp, or if they are losing sustain or any other problem with notes, then you might need to do something about it.
But this doesn’t mean that you’ll need to replace frets. Sometimes, all you need to do is take your guitar to a local service, and they can file down frets and make them even. Instead of replacing all of them, they can often eliminate the problem with the existing frets.
How Often Should You Refret Your Guitar?
For the average player, it will take decades before they will need a fret job. But it depends on your playstyle, the amount of time you spend playing the guitar, the quality of the instrument, and so on. Many players spend decades using the same guitar without refretting it, and it is not the most common procedure.
If you have more than one guitar and you keep playing all of them, there is a high chance that you won’t need to refret it any time soon. Furthermore, your playstyle or how hard are you on the frets will also play an important role.
A lot of bending and vibrato will wear out frets faster, but the refretting time will still measure in decades. Needless to say, if you play five or ten hours each day, then you might need to consider refretting your instrument after a while.
How Many Times Can You Refret A Guitar?
Did you know that Stevie Ray Vaughan had to stop playing his favorite guitar? In early videos, you can see his Stratocaster named “Number One” in almost every show. But the guitar became nearly unusable near the end of his career.
The reason for this is because it had been refretted so many times that they couldn’t do it anymore. In the end, they had to completely replace the neck of the guitar.
But assuming that you are not touring as much as SRV did and that you are not playing heavy gauge strings, it is highly unlikely that you will face this problem.
So, there is obviously a limit to how many times you can refret the instrument. However, if you refret it every ten or twenty years and the job is done correctly, you won’t face a similar problem.
Regular players are a lot more gentle with their guitar than Stevie was, and you can easily refret it three or four times without any problems.
How Long Does It Take To Refret A Guitar?
It depends on how busy your luthier is. But even if they have nothing else to do, the answer is still not certain. For example, you will need to consider the type of guitar.
If you have a Strat, with a rosewood fretboard, the process will be significantly easier, and that means that they will need less time. On the other hand, a maple neck or some other wood with binding might take longer.
Furthermore, if they can’t remove the neck, it will just make the process a bit more slower and complex. But even if you take the worst-case scenario, they can still finish the work in a couple of hours.
Luthiers have a lot of experience replacing frets, and it isn’t something new they need to discover or learn.
Usually, you will be without a guitar at least a week. As you can probably imagine, luthiers have other customers and things to do, and they will need to find time to refret your instrument. But two or three days is probably the best possible scenario if you are leaving your guitar in a shop.
Can I Refret A Guitar By Myself?
So, can you refret a guitar by yourself? Sure, why not. The same way you could fix your car when it breaks. However, this isn’t something that I would recommend. Refretting guitar is not as easy as changing strings, and you will need appropriate tools.
Moreover, there are so many things that could go wrong, and if this is your only guitar, doing it by yourself might be a bad idea. Of course, if you have several guitars, and you take the cheapest one to have fun, then go for it.
All you need to do is remove the old frets, place new ones, and cut the excess parts and level the frets. That’s it. But there are so many steps to each process, and you need to do it without damaging the fretboard.
Furthermore, you need to ensure that each fret is the same size, and that is perfectly placed to avoid buzzing and problems with sound. While it might sound expensive, remember that this isn’t something you’ll do often.
And even if you have to pay $200 every decade, it might be worth leaving it to someone with more experience in the field.
for more on the topic you should check this video
Replacing the frets on your guitar is something you might need to do at one point. The reason people replace frets is that strings start buzzing and your guitar is unable to keep sustain and sharpness of each note.
Depending on the time you spend playing, and your technique, the frets on your guitar will wear out, and you will need to get new ones.
Now, the price of frets is not an issue since they are rather inexpensive. But the main problem is in the work you’ll need to do. You will need to remove each fret, place a new one, and cut the extra part, all while ensuring that each fret is perfectly placed and that there are no problems with the sound.
The whole process can be quite complex, so you might want to leave it to someone with more experience. Professional luthiers will do that for you in a couple of hours, and your guitar will be as good as new.