Why do keys stick?

One of the most frequently asked questions is “How much does it costs to repair a sticking key?” If there was just one reason for a key to stick, there would be one answer. But there are a lot of different reasons why keys stick. Here are just some of the more common ones.

Tight bushings

$10 – $75

A key is like a see saw. When the front of the key is pressed down, it makes the back of the key go up, which then sets in motion a bunch of levers which eventually makes the hammer strike the string. On the underside of each key, right where a finger hits the key, is a square hole. On the sides of that hole are two small pieces of felt. The two pieces of felt ride on a pin that is attached to the piano. That pin keeps the key from moving from side to side as it goes up and down. During very humid weather, the felt swells and rubs against the pin. It is a relatively easy procedure to squeeze the felt, called “easing”, to make the key work better. There are also bushings the center of the key, called the balance rail, which are right behind the fall board, which need to be “eased”. However, as in all repairs, sometimes it does get a little more complicated, and the key has to be removed to be eased, which can cost anywhere from $10 – $75 depending upon how many keys are affected.

Coins, pens, paper clips, etc, can easily fall in between the keys or behind the fall board. Sometime it is very easy to remove them, and there is no charge. But sometimes the piano needs to be taken apart to remove the foreign object, which, depending on the action, can cost anywhere from $10.00 – $50.00.

Foreign objects

$10 – $50

Wild life

$50 and $150

The droppings, nests and remains of carpenter ants, cock roaches, mice, termites, geckos, etc. have been found in between and under the keys and inside the piano. These animals can wreak havoc in a piano. Sometimes the droppings and eggs can be removed with relative ease, but carpenter ants leave a sticky tar like substance that can only be removed with a chisel. Vacuuming and cleaning under the keys can cost between $50.00 and $150.00.

Grommets are little round rubber donuts at the back end of the keys in some spinet pianos. When these grommets become brittle because of age or having been peed on by small critters, they need to be replaced, which costs $350.00. Another part that is often deteriorated on uprights are the bridle straps. See the link on Replacing Bridles Straps for an in-depth explanation on bridle strap replacement, which costs $195.00.

Grommets and Bridle straps