Floods are obviously tragic events that devastate lives, families, businesses and communities. Their reach however, goes well beyond that and even have long-lasting effects on the piano industry.
Flood pianos and how they end up in your home
The problem stems from the fact that after a flood, there are dozens or even hundreds of pianos that end damaged or destroyed. Homeowners and insurance companies end up calling piano companies and movers to remove the pianos but once they are deemed “totaled”, the pianos nefariously resurface on the resale market – their history unbeknownst to piano buyers everywhere.
This is by far the biggest problem plaguing piano buyers today who are doing their research online, and if you’re looking for a piano, it will never even crossed your radar because you’ll never seen an online ad stating “this piano came out of the floods in Northern California”.
Flood pianos are everywhere
There are THOUSANDS of pianos that are ruined every year in natural disasters and many resurface online. Damaged pianos just can’t be placed on the curbside for the garbage man. They get picked up by dealers and technicians, some of whom get creative with restoration efforts, even though insurance companies ask for the pianos to be destroyed. A grand piano can be in up to TWO FEET of flood waters before the actual instrument gets wet. Obviously the pianos get saturated with humidity (and odor) which cause countless short term and long term problems, but with a new set of legs and a pedal lyre, these pianos look every bit as good in pictures as a piano that never went for a swim. Floods don’t discriminate either — Steinways, Yamahas, Kawais, Baldwins, Mason & Hamlins, Bosendorfers — no brand is immune from being in a flood or a hurricane.
With a new set of legs and pedal lyre, Yamaha grand pianos like the one above can be purchased online for thousands less than others just like that weren’t in a flood. But don’t expect to see a disclaimer stating that it was ever in a flood and don’t expect it to last, perform…or smell, like a non-flood piano.”
There is no “Piano Police”
You may recall reading about the widespread problem of flood-ruined automobiles resurfacing after Hurricane Katrina. Over 300,000 cars were totalled in Katrina, yet thousands of them continue to resurface in showrooms and online. The problem is so pervasive that Congress got involved to help establish a web site containing VIN numbers of cars that were known to have been in Katrina. We wish the piano industry had the same help from the government but no such luck. THOUSANDS of pianos were destroyed in Katrina alone — thousands more every year in floods and hurricanes all over the country. These pianos are going somewhere and it’s not in the dumpster. That somewhere is online. And since you will never see an ad description admitting to such an unfavorable history, that “amazing deal” comes with some baggage…along with possibly some mold. Anyone who is selling these pianos is also more than capable of providing you with an extremely desirable storyline of how the piano was owned by the little old lady who only played it on Sundays. 🙂
To further mask the history of these pianos, crafty entrepreneurs send these pianos overseas where they get restored cheaply in China. In exchange, the U.S. gets the pianos from tsunamis and other natural disasters in Asia. It’s a fun, international game of piano hot potatoes where importers/exporters “flood” markets all over the world with pianos that insurance companies have long since forgotten.