Ideally, a piano or any other pricey musical instrument would be safely kept in a specially designed room at home to keep it in great working conditions.
However, today’s urban homes are increasingly small, compelling you to cram things together to utilize every inch of available space.
So, Can You Put a Piano Near a Fireplace?
It’s going to depend on how the distance. A few feet, about 3 feet, is the closest your piano should get to any source of heat. Another thing: the material on the piano can have a big say. For instance, you can’t bring an electric piano with plastic parts within 3 feet radius of the fireplace. Metallic and wooden pianos won’t fare well within 3 feet from the fireplace either. Note that some woods are easily dehydrated when exposed to heat, something that may lead to warping.
Certainly, placing your piano right in front of your fireplace wouldn’t be a smart thing to do.
Just How Hot Can Air Around The Fireplace Get?
An average wood stove generates temperatures in the region of 1500°F (815°C).
However, wood stoves are highly inefficient.
The surfaces in contact with the wood get about 1000°F (537°C) of the heat. Most of the wood stoves sold today are 50%. A gas-powered fireplace generates lower temperatures, around 1000°F (815°C).
Rule of Thumb: If The Thermometer Hits 80°F (26°C), Your Piano Isn’t Safe
So your home is crammed to a point that your piano must sit right in front of the fireplace.
It is perfectly OK to pile items on each other to save on space as long as you regulate such things as temperature, humidity, and dust.
Pianos are typically made of wood. The soundboard is often made of Spruce, a softwood that’s particularly sensitive to high humidity.
Spruce can easily withstand temperatures in the region of 80°F (27°C) but the delicate coatings may be affected as the temperature escalates from that point.
Prolonged exposure to high temperatures, say 90°F (32°C), may darken the surface. The quality of the sound will certainly be affected as well.
Electric pianos are a little bit more vulnerable to heat because of their plastic parts.
They are also composed of microchips, resistors, and transistors just as you would expect from any other electronic device.
Exposure to high temperatures (anything above 86°F; 30°C) over a long period will ruin some innards.
The Extreme Heat Isn’t Good For Your Skin Either
Placing your piano close to the fireplace may also mean you plan to spend time seated there, playing.
That too isn’t great either. Sitting too close to the fireplace, within 3 feet from the source, causes skin dryness.
Prolonged exposure to great heat can also harm your skin.
Even worse, spending hours too close to the fireplace exposes you to Carbon Monoxide, a toxic gas known to deprive your cells of oxygen and lead to death.
Note that Carbon (II) Oxide is a product of incomplete burning, meaning smoky wood generates slightly more of it.
However, the most unfortunate part is that not all Carbon Monoxide escapes into the atmosphere via the chimney.
Part of it leaks through the front into your space.
High temperatures Lower The Pitch Of Your Equipment
Placing your piano near a fireplace is the easiest way to mess with its sound.
The key notes on your piano are pleasant to the ear because the strings at the core were carefully tuned at a certain tension/pitch to produce them.
This probably helps explain why piano making is a skill-intensive process – it takes about 9 months to craft an upright or grand piano at Steinway.
However, the problem is that these strings are made of copper and high-carbon steel.
Thin strands of these materials hold their tension better, but they are good conductors of heat. Being good conductors of heat and thin means they readily respond to temperature changes.
That’s why you should put your piano in a special room with monitored temperature and humidity.
Placing your upright/grand piano close to the fireplaces does the opposite – it exposes the strings to high temperatures which end up altering their tension and eventually the quality of the sound.
Christopher LaBarre, a tuner, demonstrated how high temperatures reduce the pitch.
When the environment gets warm/hot, the strings expand and become “loose.”
When pulled or struck in this state, they produce sound at a lower pitch than what they were designed to produce at room temperature.
A pianist trying to play a tune near a fireplace or radiator ends up with a slow buzzing sound that doesn’t entice the ears. Here is a more detailed explanation of the science behind it.
You can reverse the damage by removing your equipment from the hot room or shielding it, but that’s going to depend on how long it has been there.
A few hours’ worth of damage can be reversed by hiring an expert to tighten up the prop stick.
This will immediately eliminate the buzzing sound but may require more repair work.
However, months or years’ worth of damage can loosen the strings beyond simple repair.
Such a case may call for the complete replacement of the equipment or the installation of new strings. None of these would be a cheap undertaking.
How Do You Keep Your Piano ‘Healthy?’
First off, don’t expose your equipment to extreme heat.
As explained above, temperatures beyond room temperature affect the normal functioning of the strings, causing the pitch to drop.
Put your equipment in a specially designed room complete with an air conditioner (to keep temperatures in control)
Secondly, keep the humidity within recommended levels.
High levels of water vapor in the room may cause the soundboard to expand; low humidity causes it to shrink.
You don’t want any of these to occur as they will certainly interfere with the pitch of the strings. High humidity can also cause corrosion on some metallic parts of the equipment.
Thirdly, avoid opening and touching the innards of the equipment, especially the strings.
Only a trained professional should open and work on your piano in case of repair.
Sweat and grease on your fingers can adhere to the strings and cause corrosion. It takes about $2 to replace a piano string.
Lastly and equally important, take your piano to periodical tuning very much the same way you’d take your pet for an annual medical examination.
Can you put a piano near a fireplace? It’s going to depend on how the distance.
A few feet, about 3 feet, is the closest your piano should get to any source of heat
. Another thing: the material on the piano can have a big say.
For instance, you can’t bring an electric piano with plastic parts within 3 feet radius of the fireplace. Metallic and wooden pianos won’t fare well within 3 feet from the fireplace either.
Note that some woods are easily dehydrated when exposed to heat, something that may lead to warping.