Piano and wood stove

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jds015

Member
Mar 4, 2013
43
NW NC
Hello everyone. My wife recently inherited a very nice baby grand piano and we have moved it into our home. I know I don't have to go much further for everyone to figure out what I am about to ask, but obviously we want to keep both. Unfortunately they are both going to be in the same room. Our stove is a Drolet Savannah, so not a very large stove and while it warms our 20 x 25 room very well, it doesn't heat items up located more than 3-4 feet away by radiant heat. Obviously if something is 3-4 feet or less from it, that item will warm up dramatically. The problem is this: The piano sits about 6-7 feet from the stove. I'm personally not concerned about the radiant heat on the piano. I'll be surprised if it is even warm to the touch, much less hot, and this is from my experience with our stove and our burning habits. The bigger concerns are humidity and dust. I suggested to the wife we get a cover for the piano and we are going to have to look at humidifiers, so any suggestions there? Right now my wife is skeptical of using the stove this winter, but I know when its cold outside she's going to want to be warm and not pay and arm and a leg for propane. We are in northwest NC and our climate is fairly humid, especially compared to folks out west. Our burn season usually lasts from the end of October to the very end of March. No, we currently do not have a humidifier. We have used the cast iron kettle, which while I know doesn't do much, has satisfied us in the past.

So anyway, the questions are, how to mitigate the dust and any suggestions on types of humidifiers. We have pine flooring and wood bead board walls in this part of our house so I know we'd do ourselves a great favor by getting some form of a humidifier. Obviously we want to protect the piano while still staying warm cheaply. Any suggestions? Obviously pianos and wood stoves or fires have lived together for centuries so this shouldn't be anything new to figure out. Thanks for any suggestions and any input! This is a great forum and I always appreciate knowledge gained from it!
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,438
Philadelphia
We also have a baby grand piano and run two wood stoves. Our indoor humidity hovers around 21 - 23% in winter, which has nothing to do with our chosen method of heating, and everything to do with living in an old (ca.1773) house. We have the piano tuned at least once per year, and it seems to hold pretty well, despite our large swings in summer/winter humidity. In our case, the piano is two rooms away from the closest stove, so a very different situation, in that regard.

What does surprise me is your mention of dust, as we get basically zero dust out of our stoves, excepting when I have to do a repair or major seasonal cleaning. It would not be difficult to drape a drop cloth over the stove for that twice per year type event. Does your stove generate airborne dust at other times?

I suppose you've already considered the obvious option of moving the piano or stove to a different room, and decided that won't work for you.

If you haven't already been there, the Piano Tuner's Guild is a great resource: http://www.ptg.org/Scripts/4Disapi.dll/4DCGI/cms/review.html?Action=CMS_Document&DocID=61
 

billb3

Minister of Fire
Dec 14, 2007
4,668
SE Mass
My mom plays both piano and organ. They have always had a piano of some sort in their house.
From what I understand, what impacts pianos here in New England is the vast changes in humidity. They always had a huge humidifier going in that same room all year round.
 

SteveKG

Minister of Fire
Jun 23, 2009
695
Colorado Rockies
A fellow who lives up the road from me is a piano tuner and owns a piano store. He told me that the moisture thing with pianos is that one wants to match the humidity at which the piano has been living for many years, otherwise major and possibly fatal things can happen. I have read this in a number of places. I have guitars, and that is the same rule for them: match the humidity to the place the [acoustic] guitars were made.

A few years ago, I heard a report on NPR news that the biggest problem people have with pianos is the situation where one moves to a new area with different humidity, drier or wetter, or buys one and has it shipped in from such a different area.

I've never done it, so that's all I know. Though I did move once from an area of high humidity to a region of low humidity and had a classical guitar develop some serious damage after about six months.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
First, how old, and more importantly, how good a piano is it? And what condition is it in now?

Second, how serious a musician do you have in your household?

First thing you want to do is find a very good piano tuner/technician to evaluate the general condition of your piano, including the sounding board and other innards.

If the piano is a good one and in decent shape, and you don't have a professional or very serious amateur musician in the family, it'll be fine. If any of those variables are different, then you'll want the advice of the piano person.

For instance, I'm a good amateur musician, but I don't have perfect pitch. My 100-yo piano is a superb one, but the sounding board has dried out over the years to the point where it can't be tuned up to standard pitch without the risk of the board cracking or splitting. So I have it tuned about a quarter tone below pitch to reduce the strain on the sounding board, a difference I don't notice, and took out the baseboard heater sections behind and to the side of the piano to minimize further drying when the boiler comes on for a few hours overnight on cold nights.

The wood stove per se is likely easier on the piano than central heating would be since there won't be dry heat blasting the piano directly from close up. Big swings in humidity and temperature are harder on a piano than anything else, but again, if you're not talking about an expensive Steinway being played by a fussy and super-keen-eared pro, you're unlikely to have a problem. The piano tech can advise you on using a humidifier. I don't use one myself.

After 5 or 6 years, I had the tuner/tech come in again, and she told me my piano was holding its pitch very well and showed no further signs of drying or other deterioration. Tuning it a bit lower would obviously not work if I were in the habit of hosting and playing in informal chamber music concerts with other instruments, but since I only play for myself, it's not an issue.
 
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