Tuning is the most important aspect of piano maintenance. The main component of piano construction is wood and piano strings come into contact with this component at several points inside the instrument. As seasons change, temperature and humidity fluctuate, causing the wood to swell and contract and the string tension to increase and decrease. The result is what is commonly referred to as a piano that is "out of tune." How hard one plays and how often will certainly affect a piano's tuning stability, but not as markedly as environmental change.
Tuning involves adjusting the piano string tension so that all the notes are in proper relationship to each other and the piano as a whole. Given the fact that tuning can involve as much as a ton or more of tension adjustment (!), it's much less stressful for a piano to experience a small string tension adjustment more often, than a large string tension adjustment on a less regular basis. I recommend two tunings per year, and one more during the first year if the instrument is new. Pianos often represent a substantial investment... and it just makes sense to treat them as kindly as possible!
Pianos are machines, and as such, require repair now and again to function properly. Addressing "sticky keys," replacing broken or missing strings and a host of other needed repairs are well within the scope of my piano service. It's been my experience over the last 25 years that problems that appear serious to clients are often easily addressed. If extensive repairs are needed, I explain to clients very specifically what work is entailed, as well as the cost.
From the Piano Technicians Guild: "Regulation is the adjustment of the mechanical aspects of the piano to compensate for the effects of wear, the compacting and settling of cloth, felt, and buckskin, as well as dimensional changes in wood and wool parts due to changes in humidity." The goal of regulation is consistency of touch and tone, as well as the maximization of power and control. Sometimes a complete regulation is called for and other times relatively small adjustments can be made to improve piano performance. Consultation with clients about procedure, expectations and cost is always the first stage of any regulation plan.
Pianos are good at collecting dust and dirt! A proper cleaning requires a fair amount of dis-assembly of the instrument, which should only be done by a qualified piano technician. I use cleaners specifically produced for use on keys, dampers, cast iron plate, soundboard, etc., and do extensive vacuuming of the cabinet. Cleaning is an important, but often overlooked, step in complete piano service.
I cannot recommend a pre-purchase inspection highly enough! Whether you are planning to purchase a piano you found on Craig's List (probably the most common source these days), from a neighbor, acquaintance, or piano retailer, an inspection will give you the needed information about the condition of the instrument and its value. There's nothing more heartbreaking than being called to service a piano which a client has purchased and paid to move, only to find the instrument incapable of being tuned or in such bad shape that any service is futile.
I offer piano benches, lights, dollies, covers and other accessories. I order from the same supply houses that retailers do, but can offer the items at a lower price than they, due to my relatively low overhead.