Refretting a Guitar: Ultimate Guide for Beginners

The frets on a guitar can be something even guitarists think little about, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. The truth is, the way the strings fit onto the guitar and the way your fingers slide across the guitar are both affected by these frets, which is why they need to be replaced occasionally.

Lots of things can wear down the frets, so it’s important to have at least a little understanding of why re-fretting your guitar is so important. Refretting a guitar is not an easy task, but the end result is well worth the effort. 

What Is Refretting a Guitar?

Re-fretting a guitar is simply replacing the frets found on the neck of a guitar. Frets need to be replaced once they have become worn out.

If the frets are being worn down, it can affect the sound your guitar makes, but replacing the frets isn’t something all musicians know how to do. Nevertheless, it’s important to at least know when the frets on your guitar need to be replaced so you can either replace them yourself or get the experts to do it for you.

When you replace all of the frets on your guitar, the tone and overall sound of the notes improve drastically.

When Should You Get a Refret?

If you notice a buzzing sound when you’re playing your guitar, or your guitar is already at least 20 years old, you likely will benefit from refretting it.

There’s a difference between a refret, which is the replacement of one or more frets, and a fret dressing, which involves sanding them down and making them more level. Refrets are normally done on older guitars that are at least 20 years old, as opposed to fret dressings, which can be done every three to four years.

Is it Worth it to Refret a Guitar?

It is definitely worth it to refret your guitar. You’ll notice an immediate difference in the tone and overall sound quality as soon as you start playing after you refret your instrument.

If you choose to have a pro refret your guitar, it can cost around $300 for a total refret, but once you notice how the guitar sounds and plays afterward, you’ll understand how worth it the process is.

How Many Times Can You Refret a Guitar?

The answer to this question varies depending on who you ask. Most experts agree that if you refret your guitar more than two to three times in its lifetime, there might be a problem with the guitar itself.

Since refretting your guitar is usually only recommended every 20 years or so, you likely won’t experience too many of these procedures for the lifetime of your guitar. While fret dressings can be done every three to four years, refretting is done far less frequently.

If you find you need a refret more often than that, you should check with a guitar technician and determine if you’re doing anything wrong or if there’s something wrong with the instrument.

Why Do You Refret a Guitar?

You refret a guitar for one main reason: the frets wear down over time and can even become indented, and therefore they need to be replaced.

Keep in mind that everything you do with your guitar directly affects the condition of your frets, from how much pressure your fingers put on the frets to your playing style and even whether your hands are dirty or clean. This, in turn, affects the tone and overall quality of every note you play.

So if your notes don’t sound like they should and you’re not sure why just know that it could be your frets.

Does Refretting a Guitar Damage it?

If done correctly, refretting a guitar does not damage the instrument.

You’ll need a few tools to get the job done right, and you’d be wise to follow all of the instructions (like the one in the video below) to the letter. As long as you use the right tools, follow step-by-step instructions, and take your time when replacing the frets in your guitar, the instrument will be just fine.

You also should remember that there are many different ways to refret your guitar, which is one of the reasons why following specific instructions are so important.

How To Refret A Guitar [Video]

Does Refretting a Vintage Guitar Devalue it?

As a general rule, refretting a vintage guitar does not devalue it. This is true as long as the job was done correctly, which you can determine simply by examining the frets. In fact, many older guitars have been refretted because most guitarists replace the frets on their guitar after a certain length of time.

This means that any time you decide to buy a vintage guitar, you don’t have to worry about a refretting job causing it to decrease in value.

Final Thoughts

Replacing the frets on your guitar might sound complex, but it’s easier than you think. A little practice and you’ll be able to change frets like a pro.

The good news is that you won’t have to change your frets very often, so all you have to do is pay attention to how the guitar sounds and feels so you can better know when it’s finally time to do just that.

This post covered many common questions about re-fretting to get you started if you decide to do it yourself.  I hope you found it useful!