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You do not need guitar refret very often – maybe after 20 years or so. Most people don’t need a refret job unless it has impacted their playing with bad tones and the guitar strings are buzzing. 

I personally have done fret dressing a couple of times. Note that fret dressing is different from a complete refret. More about that later.

In this article, I am going to discuss more about guitar regrets – with things like how do you know if you need a refret, refret vs fret dressing and other things like cost and worth. 

If you are struggling to decide whether you need a refret or not, then this article is great for you. Read till the end and you should know all you need about guitar refrets.

How Do I Know If My Guitar Needs Refret?

You know you need a refret when your guitar frets have visible divots and the frets no longer have enough material for a simpler fret dressing procedure. 

Also, you might want to refret if your guitar is producing unpleasant tones and constantly buzzing. If there’s no visible wear and the guitar sounds fine, you definitely don’t need a refret job. 

If you have never done any fret work before, you should be looking into fret dressing instead of a full on refret (more on this below). Refretting is usually done for old guitars that are constantly used – at least 10 years old. 

If your guitar is still kinda new (2 years and below), then refretting is most likely not necessary. Unless you really play that often at 8 hours a day. 

Guitar fret divot

Worn out guitar frets that need refret

Guitar frets start to wear out and show dents because the fret bars are made from softer material than the guitar strings. Constant pressure from the tougher strings is bound to wear out the guitar frets. 

Guitar Refret Vs Fret Dressing

Guitar refret is a process where you replace the entire fret bars with new ones. Whereas fret dressing is where you sand off the existing fret bars until they get even in level.

Guitar refret is only required if there is not enough material to shave off using the sandpaper. In this case, you need to replace the entire fret bars. 

Typically, you only perform a complete refret if you have done fret dressing before and you have shaved off enough material. Otherwise, fret dressing is the better approach than a complete refret because it’s cheaper and takes less time. 

A typical guitar refret can cost $200 – $350. Whereas a fret dressing can cost $60 – $100. The price depends on the guitar and how much work is required. 


For a complete refret, the technician has to remove each fret bar, polish the fretboard and install individual fret bars on the board again – using glue. 

This takes longer and there’s a chance that you get a different sound after that because of different materials used. 


For a fret dressing, the technician has to use fret dressing tools to sand off the fret bars until they are all even. 

Typically, the tech also has to do another round of sanding to make sure the fret bars are in the correct curve / round shape (not completely flat) – this is known as fret crowning. 

fret dressing

Fret dressing uses a special file to sand off the fret bars until they are all even.

How Often Do Guitar Frets Need To Be Replaced?

Typically, you replace your guitar fret bars (refret) after 20-30 years. Whereas you can perform a fret dressing more often – every 3 years or so. Depending on the wear and performance of the guitar.

Refretting should only be done for much older guitars – newer guitars (below 5 years) should do fine after a fret dressing. 

However, if you are a hardcore player who practises for long hours everyday, then refreting after just a couple of years is fine. It’s even recommended because guitar sounds and plays much better after a refret.

Also, if you constantly perform techniques like slides, bends, then the fret bars will wear out faster. The same happens if you press too hard. Constantly pressing too hard on your strings will wear out the fret bars more quickly.

Once you get the technique down, you should be able to play without pressing too hard on the fretboard. 

Other common things like sweat and change in humidity and temperature can also wear out the frets more quickly.

Though, I personally don’t think you need to pay too much attention to this. Fret bars are meant to be worn out – they are like tires for your car. If you use your car, they eventually wear out.

Instead, just make sure you don’t develop the habit of pressing too hard on your guitar strings and store your guitar properly – on a stand (away from the sun) if you play regularly and inside a case if you don’t. 

Related article: Laying Guitar Flat: Is It Bad? (Vs Hanging & Lean On Wall) 

How Much Does Guitar Refret Cost?

A guitar refret costs $200 – $350 depending on the material and how experienced your technician is. Whereas a sample fret dressing costs only $60 – $100. 

A guitar refret can be even more expensive if the guitar is vintage or has guitar bindings. Guitar with bindings are harder to refret. Thus, taking more time.

In case you don’t know, guitar binding is a protective layer around your guitar body and the neck. It adds a cushion for your guitar when you accidentally bump it and it provides a smoother feeling to the neck.

Related article: Is Binding Guitar Necessary: 5 Benefits & Impact To Tone

Is It Worth It To Refret A Guitar?

Refretting a guitar is definitely worth it. It can instantly improve the tone of your guitar. Especially true if you like that particular guitar and want to play it for as long as you can.

After speaking to different guitar technicians that offer refret jobs, it’s clear that refretting a guitar can instantly improve the tones. Guitarists are always surprised at how good the improvement is.

This is because as the year goes by and your frets degrade, you don’t notice the degradation in tone very much. Only after a set of new frets will you notice how bad it was and good it sounds after.

That said, refretting a guitar is only worth it if your guitar is at least mid tier. I am talking about at least $600 guitars. If your guitar costs $200 – $300, refretting it doesn’t really make sense. Might as well get a new one. 

Though, you can always fret dress your cheap guitars. Then it will be worth it. 

Can Refretting Damage Guitar?

The process of refretting a guitar will not cause any damage. However, there’s always the risk of human error – depending on your guitar technician.

Just make sure your technician is experienced and has been doing refret jobs for a while. Otherwise, you can risk damages if the technician yanks out the old fret bars to harshly and damage the fretboard. 

You might also feel a slight difference if the new fret bars use a different material than your old ones. But if your old fret bars were already in poor condition, changing to new fret bars in different materials should always be better. 

Does Refret Hurt Guitar Value?

Guitar refrets will not hurt the value of said guitar. Unless the guitar is vintage and is being sold as a collectible item (not for playing).

When talking about collectible vintage guitars, they should always be in their original condition. Doing any jobs like refretting will hurt its value.

However, if the guitar is meant to be played, then refret jobs will not hurt the guitar value. It should even increase it. Again, this is like changing tires for a car – will that decrease its value? 

Ifandi S.

About Ifandi S.

Ifandi started Strumming Bars to answer all the questions of a guitarist. As a self-learned guitarist, he remembered how frustrating it was to not find answers to his many questions in the journey. With Strumming Bars, that's no longer the case!

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