When searching for information about worn frets, it’s normally a new experience. Once your guitar becomes hard to play or strings begin to buzz, there is a good chance your frets are worn out.
Most players don’t realize that the frets wear out and eventually need to be changed. One would assume that the strings could never do that kind of damage to the frets.
But it is in fact true, they wear down and sometimes quite badly, even to the point of being sharp. Divots and dents begin to make the guitars unplayable at certain notes on the neck.
It’s at this point, playing only becomes a frustration and so now service is required. But how much does it cost to refret a guitar?
How Much Does It Cost to Refret a Guitar?
There are two ways to go about performing a refret on your guitar. Doing it yourself and taking it to a professional. Now, performing a refret is not an easy job. A majority of the cost to do the job with a professional will be labor fees.
If you plan to take it to a professional, you can get back to playing without the worry of messing up the fingerboard. Whereas doing it yourself the first time could result in irreparable damage.
The cost to replace frets on a guitar ranges from 300 to $500. In most cases, this will include the fret wire when done by an experienced professional. It’s well worth it when the guitar has a higher value.
There are different types of fret wire, which will change the cost of the job depending on what you select. You will also need to think about a new nut, as this will have worn down at this point as well. The new taller frets could become an issue with a worn nut. But an experienced technician or luthier will be able to recommend this if it is required.
Fret wire itself is not very expensive and will range between 10 – 25 dollars for a more common type. There are a few different sizes and material types, but they generally fall into the same price range.
Not sure what a fret is? Click here to find out!
Guitar Refret Service
The final price will depend on who is performing the work. There are some technicians who are professional and charge accordingly. These are the technicians who can do anything you need and well. These repair services nearby are sought after because of their quality of work.
Then there are others who are quite capable of doing the work but are not as experienced. Their repair prices are a little less, but will try and bang out the job quickly to make it worth their time.
The guitar brand or model normally doesn’t matter. Some of the things that a luthier will charge for include:
- Number of frets.
- Binding on the fretboard.
- Fingerboard wood type.
- Age of the guitar.
- Sophisticated set-ups.
- Fret material surcharges.
In some cases, a few of these items will be included in the price of a refret job. But expect additional fees, especially if there is a binding along your fingerboard. This will increase the amount of labor, and a tech will charge accordingly for the refret service.
But if there is no binding, the job won’t require the extra surcharge.
We mentioned a few additional costs that are associated with a fret replacement. But it’s best to understand what could be included. Your guitar might need a few things that others do not.
This can increase the cost of the job and might even make you think twice about doing it. A luthier who knows what they are doing will give you an estimate before the project begins. So make sure to ask questions about all material fees.
Possible material fees can be found in this table:
|Materials||Cost In US Dollars|
|Maple board color match respray||50 to 75|
|New nut, material dependent||15 to 60|
|Inlay repair||30 to 50|
|Fretboard repair||20 to 40|
There is also the chance that something is found during the work that could increase the price. Of course, it’s very rare, but a damaged fretboard could always be found and in some cases could cost up to $200.
This is always something that a good inspection will reveal. It might not be worth the hassle of a fret job. But this also depends on the guitar, if it’s a rare vintage, then you may have no choice.
How Much Do Guitar Frets Cost?
Buying the fret wire is probably the least expensive cost of the whole job. They come in different sizes and widths, which changes the cost a bit. But overall, fret wire for your guitar is only between 10 – 25 dollars for a set.
Now there are some types that are worth a bit more, like stainless steel, but it isn’t a dealbreaker by any means. If you are having a professional install stainless steel frets, there may be a surcharge to do so. This is because stainless is a bit more difficult to install, as it’s a stiffer material.
Click here to learn about dead frets!
Why Is a Guitar Refret So Expensive?
There is a large cost to refret a guitar with a professional. This is because re-fretting a neck is a very large job. On average, it can take a luthier anywhere from 6 to 10 hours in labor to correctly perform a fret job. There are many frets and each one needs to be replaced.
The frets need to be changed, but the professional will also have to level them, re-crown and even set up the guitar. This doesn’t include the nut replacement and any other repair work that might be needed.
If you have ever attempted to perform a fret job on a guitar, you will know that it can be labor-intensive. There are many players who have done a few, but now gladly pay a technician the fees.
You may want to try to do a guitar fret job, just to see what is involved. This might help you understand why a tech charges what they do. Or you might even enjoy doing them and can save the fee of all the labor. Only one way to find out.
Is Refretting a Guitar Worth It?
The best place to start when trying to determine if it’s worth re-fretting a guitar is the market value. A model that isn’t worth very much should only be re-fretted if it has some kind of personal attachment.
Perhaps it was a gift from a family member that makes it priceless. In this case, it would be worth the fees, even if it wasn’t high in market value.
If the instrument is a rare vintage worth a few thousand dollars, then the cost to do the job is minor. In some cases, it will raise the value. Or at the very least get you top market value. Some people will pay more to know the guitar has new frets and was set up to play perfectly.
It can also be just as easy as buying a new neck and bolting it up if you’re able to do so. Especially if the guitar is not worth much.
Does it Hurt Resale Value?
A fret job can make the guitar worth less. There are many collectors that will not pay top market value for a vintage model that has had them replaced. To a collector who is not buying it to play, the old original frets are worth more.
To a player, new frets would be more desirable and thus a higher price might be acceptable.
So depending on the guitar, the value could be affected negatively. There are a lot of vintage instruments worth a pretty penny. They keep their value because of the original frets. If you have a model that is of high market value, do your due diligence before performing a fret replacement.
Stainless Steel Refret Cost
When upgrading your frets to stainless steel, you are likely to pay more for the job. This is because a luthier will charge a fee or surcharge to work with stainless. The material is stiffer and so it requires more time to work with it in order to do the job right.
As a result, it’s not uncommon to be charged an extra 50 – 75 dollars to have stainless steel frets installed.
This isn’t all bad, of course. Stainless steel is a harder material, which means your frets will not wear out again. At Least not nearly as quickly. So some guitar players will upgrade to stainless. Knowing that they will not have to re-fret the guitar for a very long time.
So while you will be paying an extra fee for the service, the frets will last a significant amount longer. They also prevent another repair job down the road. This in itself can be worth the extra cost to have the harder material installed instead.
Fret Dressing Cost
In some cases, even though some or all of the frets are not playing right, the guitar may only need a light dressing. This means that the frets can be saved. This is accomplished by re-leveling and filing them. There is normally no need to remove or install any. Plus, it’s a much easier process and can remove sharp spots.
The fee for this will cost guitarists between 60 and 120 dollars. This depends on how badly the frets were worn and how hard it is to fix them. It also depends on the technician’s rate, this also can vary a great deal even outside the scope of work. Sometimes it’s best to get a couple of quotes from shops near you in order to get the right price.
How Many Times Can You Refret a Guitar?
Because removing a guitar fret can do damage to the neck, there is only a certain number of times the repair can be done. Each time, material from the neck will be removed. After three to four refret services, the neck might be in rough shape.
Some guitar technicians can repair it, but at some point, that favorite neck might need to be replaced. Luckily, frets do last a long time, so using a material that is harder may preserve your guitar neck.
Stevie Ray Vaughan had to retire a neck from his favorite Stratocaster called number one. After a while, the fret service damaged the neck to a point that it wasn’t repairable. And so a new neck was required. Yet, he used the guitar more than most people and really put it through the wringer with heavy strings.
So, How Much Does It Cost To Refret A Guitar? Well, it’s more than we would like as players. But there really is nothing like an instrument that is easy and fun to play without dead notes. New frets will give us all that and more!
How do I know if my guitar needs new frets?
One of the more obvious signs are divots. If you inspect your frets and see grooves or divots in them, it may be time to replace. You will also experience buzzing or dead notes as a result. We have a great article here that can help you inspect them.
How often should you replace frets?
Frets only need to be replaced when they are worn out. There is no need to change them otherwise. They don’t have a shelf life and will never lose the ability to provide good tone by sitting.