The Pros & Cons Of Stainless Steel Frets

Not many people think about frets compared to the rest of their guitars, especially regarding materials, but what your frets are made of can make a huge difference!

One such material that frets can be made of is stainless steel, which has been growing in popularity because of its great benefits. 

Whether you’re looking to replace your worn-down nickel-silver frets or are interested in buying a guitar that already has them included, this article will cover these benefits and some potential downsides to consider before switching over to stainless steel frets.

The Benefits of Stainless Steel Frets

Stainless steel is a hard, corrosion-resistant material that has been growing more prevalent in the guitar industry because of its physical properties and longer lifespan.

Traditionally, guitar frets are made of nickel-silver, a softer material than stainless steel. Nickel-silver is very affordable, but it’s still quite durable yet easy to work with, hence why it’s frequently seen on most guitars by default, even on high-end ones.

It gets the job done, but eventually, they will wear down over years of playing, especially if you do a lot of bends.

Once this happens, people often not only have to decide if they should get a refret on their guitar but also figure out what kind of metal to use, and stainless steel is one of those options.

So, why use stainless steel guitar frets? Here are some reasons why you should:

They’re Very Durable

First, from a practical standpoint, stainless steel frets are incredibly tough, and they will resist wear and tear far better than nickel silver because it’s a harder material that can withstand constant friction and pressure from the strings. 

This means that they will stay in shape, last a lot longer, and require fewer dressings or replacements, but you’ll still need to maintain them by getting rid of any grime.

Improved Feel & Playability

Stainless steel frets can enhance the playability of your guitar by providing a slick, smooth feel under your fingers, making it easier to play fast and execute bends and slides. This can be a significant advantage for players who value speed and fluidity in their playing and want it to feel effortless.

However, some people might argue that this is a benefit of having new frets rather than stainless steel itself. For example, going from corroded nickel-silver frets to fresh stainless steel ones can definitely make a difference in feeling much more apparent.

This brings me to another point – tone. Part of your tone is definitely in the fingers, but it’s debatable whether or not stainless steel frets themselves will have a direct impact on your sound. 

Many swear that they do, whereas others are more skeptical and believe any difference is minimal, and I fall into the latter camp. I can’t definitively say they do, but you might find a positive and noticeable with them.

These stainless steel frets look gorgeous!

The Drawbacks of Stainless Steel Frets

Despite the advantages, there are also some drawbacks to stainless steel frets you should be aware of. Here’s what you should know:

They’re More Expensive

Firstly, there’s the cost factor – stainless steel frets are typically more expensive than nickel-silver frets, both in terms of initial purchase and installation. 

Remember how I mentioned that one of the advantages of stainless steel frets is their hardness and durability? Because of this, it can be more challenging to install, even for those who are inexperienced working with frets.

So, most of the time, people will typically need to take it to a professional, but because it’s not an easy task and requires specialized tools, it will raise the cost of a refret job by a considerable amount. 

Because stainless steel frets can be expensive to install, it can be a deterrent for some players, especially those on a tight budget, and this is often a factor when trying to decide between getting nickel-silver vs. stainless steel frets.

If you’re curious, here’s a video showing you what goes into putting stainless steel frets on a guitar:

They Can Wear Down Strings

Another issue people can run into related to the toughness of stainless steel frets is that it can accelerate the wear of your guitar strings.

While the metal-on-metal contact is one of the reasons that strings can cause pits, dings, and divots in nickel-silver over time, the inverse is possible with stainless steel. 

Since stainless steel is much harder than nickel and more resistant to wear, it’s much more likely to cause your strings to deteriorate due to friction. It might not be significantly faster, but it’s something to keep in mind.

However, strings are meant to be replaced and are guaranteed to corrode as you play with them, so this issue is inconsequential to most of you. I’d personally much rather have stainless steel frets that last a long time than have to worry about nickel-silver frets wearing down because I like to play a lot. 

If you’re reading this, you might already be in that boat, frustrated, and already considering stainless steel frets.

The Cost of Stainless Steel Frets: Is It Worth It?

Deciding whether stainless steel frets are right for you is largely based on personal preference, but cost is almost always the deciding factor since professional installing stainless steel frets can cost around $400-500.

If you can afford them, I will always recommend that you go with them. The initial investment may be more expensive, but in the long run, they will pay for themselves due to their longevity.

However, keep in mind that although stainless steel frets will last longer than nickel-silver, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for them to wear down. They will eventually because they don’t defy physics, but it might be decades after you start playing on them.

That said, if you choose stainless steel frets, don’t expect to need new frets anytime soon!

Now, if you’re in urgent need of new frets but can’t justify the steep cost of stainless steel ones, go with nickel-silver frets. New frets are always better than old, run-down ones, regardless of the material, so if they don’t fit your budget right now, that’s okay.

Nickel-silver frets are still made to last a while, and it’s not unusual to get a decade out of them, but just be prepared to get a refretting much sooner than you would with stainless steel.

How to Care for Stainless Steel Frets

Maintaining stainless steel frets is relatively straightforward – the protocol is the same as cleaning other kinds of frets.

All you need to do is use a soft, clean microfiber cloth and a fret polisher to remove any dirt or oils from your frets, and if you want an in-depth guide to do the most thorough job and find the best products for polishing your frets, click here to learn how to clean frets the right way.  

Overall, despite their durability, stainless steel frets can still get damaged if not treated properly, so avoid using any harsh chemicals or abrasive materials on your frets, as these can cause scratches or other damage. If you notice any significant wear or damage to your frets, it’s best to consult with a professional.

It’s also a good idea to periodically check your frets for any signs of wear or damage! One issue, in particular, you should keep an eye out for is fret sprout, which isn’t necessarily related to fret-wear; instead, it’s caused by low humidity and the wood shrinking, leading to the frets sticking out of the wood on the sides.

This can make playing on your guitar with beautiful stainless steel frets uncomfortable, leading to a less enjoyable experience with your investment.


So, should you fret or not over stainless steel? The answer is that it depends on your current needs as a player and your budget.

Stainless steel frets offer many advantages, including superior durability and playability, but they also have their drawbacks, mainly their higher price tag.

However, no matter if you choose stainless steel or nickel-silver frets, remember that good maintenance and care are crucial to keep your guitar sounding and playing its best, and by doing so, you can make your frets last longer.