How to Paint an Old Piano

Give grandma's piano a new life with paint.
Give grandma's piano a new life with paint. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Pianos are popular family heirlooms and can be passed down from generation to generation. They continue to hold great sentimental value, but the outside often gets neglected and worn out long before the music dies. There is hope for your grandmother's piano! Give it a new fresh look by painting it a classy black or a warm chocolate brown---sand the edges to keep its style and you have yourself not just a music player but an elegant piece of furniture that will last for generations to come.

Things You'll Need

  • Painter's plastic
  • Painter's tape
  • Wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Hand sander
  • Tack cloths
  • Vacuum
  • Latex interior paint
  • 2- and 3-inch foam brushes
  • Oil-based polyurethane

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Protect your floors. Because pianos are very heavy, you may not have the option of moving it from where it already is, which is most likely your living room. So lay down painters plastic all around the piano to protect your floor, and then be very careful!

Tape off all of the keys with painter's tape. This will take you some time, but remember that you are taping the keys to protect them from the paint. So be careful and thorough with this step.

Fix any scratches or gouges by filling them in with wood putty. Allow the putty to dry completely.

Sand the entire piano with a 220-grit sandpaper. This will rough up the wood enough to allow the paint to adhere to the piano without scratching it. You can use an electric sander for the top and sides, but you may have to sand by hand the harder to reach parts or smaller parts such as the music rack.

Wipe off all of the dust particles caused by the sanding with a tack cloth. Go over the piano and keys with a vacuum to ensure that all of the dust is cleaned off. Vacuum the room as well, since dust most likely went everywhere as you sanded.

Begin painting the piano using a foam brush (this will help to avoid visible brush strokes once the paint dries). Apply one coat of paint to the piano, going in the direction of the wood grain. Before painting around the keys, paint the top of the keyboard lid and allow the keyboard lid to dry completely.

Lightly buff the first coat of paint after it has dried. Wipe it clean with a tack cloth. Apply another coat of paint. Allow it to dry and then buff again. Depending on the color of your paint, you may need to apply more coats. If you are using black paint, you will need fewer coats of paint than if you are using white paint.

Sand and stain the edges of the piano to give it a more antiqued or rustic look if desired. To do this, sand with a 220-grit sandpaper, and then wipe a stain of your choice over the sanded edges, using a 1-inch foam brush. Wipe the stain off using an old t-shirt with paint thinner on it. The paint thinner will clean the excess stain off of the paint where you have not sanded. Allow stain to dry on the sanded edges for at least 3 hours. The stain will allow the sanded edges to stand out, so it is critical that you choose a stain that does not clash with your paint color. For example, if you are painting your piano black and you have sanded the edges, wipe a stain that is significantly lighter than black so that the edges stand out. If you are painting your piano a white or a cream color, choose a stain that is darker in tone, such as warm browns and reds.

Brush a light coat of oil-based polyurethane over the top. You will have your choice of sheen when you purchase the polyurethane (matte, satin, semi-gloss or gloss). Allow the polyurethane to dry for 24 hours. Apply another coat if desired.

Remove the painter's tape from around the keys. With a damp cloth, wipe the keys down.

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