How Much Does It Cost To Refret A Guitar? | 2022

Anyone who is searching for information about worn frets has normally never had to perform this before. Once your guitar becomes hard to play or strings begins 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 just 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

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

However, if you plan to take it to a professional, the job will get done, and you can get back to playing without the worry of messing up the finger board. Whereas doing it yourself the first time could result in irreparable damage.

The cost of a refret ranges from $310 – $500 which in most cases will include the wire when done by an experienced professional.

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.

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 perfectly. Normally, these repair services nearby are highly 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 in order 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 additional surcharge.

Material Fees

We mentioned a few additional costs that are associated with a refret, 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:

MaterialsCost
Maple board color match respray$50 – $75
New nut, material dependent$15 – $60
Inlay repair       $30 – $50
Fretboard repair    $20 – $40

There is also the chance that something is found during the work that could significantly 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, in which case it might not be worth the hassle of a refret. 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 over all, 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, however, 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.

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 refret. There are normally many frets and each one needs to be changed.

Not only do the frets need to be changed, but the professional will also need 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 refret 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 all involved. This might help you understand why a tech charges what they do. Or perhaps 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.

On the other hand, if the instrument is a rare vintage worth a few thousand dollars, then the cost to do the job is minor as 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 has been set up to play perfectly.

It can also be just as easy as buying a new neck and just bolting it up if you’re able to do so. Especially if the guitar is not worth much.

Does it hurt Resale Value?

In some cases, 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 the frets replaced. To a collector who is not buying it to play, the old original frets are worth more.

To a player, buying the same guitar, 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 when changing frets. There are a lot of vintage instruments worth a lot that retain their worth because of the original frets. If you have a model that is of high market value, do your due diligence before performing a refret.

Guitar Repair

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 refret for a very long time.

So while you will be paying an extra fee for the service, the frets will last a significant while longer and 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 fret dressing. This means that the frets are still able to be fixed by re-leveling and filing to revive them. There is normally no need to remove or install any, and is much easier of a process and can remove sharp spots.

The fee for this will normally 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 best 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 amount of times the repair can be done. Each time it is done, 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 be finished completely. Luckily, frets do last a long time, and 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 for this very reason. After a while, the refret service damaged the neck to a point that it wasn’t repairable. And so a new neck was required. However, he used the guitar more than most people and really put it through the ringer with heavy strings.

Summary

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!

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!