Your church organ needs regular maintenance, and every 20 to 30 years it might also need a few repairs.

We can help you make good choices when the time comes to repair or replace it.

Row of organ pipes inside church

Routine maintenance and tuning

Your organ needs to be regularly maintained and tuned by a professional organ builder.

We strongly encourage you to use an accredited organ builder whose work is regularly assessed for its quality.

Find an organ builder now


Do not use the inside of your organ for storage!

The organ builder needs to be able to get inside your instrument safely. It also reduces the risk of accidental damage to your organ and the materials you stored in it.

To repair or replace?

Are you making changes to the use of your building, your style of worship, or simply need to do some repairs? Then, you may have to discuss the future of your organ.

Before you take any decisions, you need to understand your current instrument. Contact your Diocesan Advisory Committee for help. Ask yourself:

  • Who built the organ? And when?
  • Has it been restored or rebuilt? If so, by whom and when?
  • Does it contain earlier material which may be of historic value (e.g. pipes or casework)?
  • Is the organ of any musical distinction?
  • Is it mechanically well-made?
  • How suitable is it for the liturgical and wider uses of your church?
  • How much will it cost to repair?

"An organ by a good maker is a work of art."

David Knight, Senior Church Buildings Officer


Destroying or substantially altering an historic instrument is poor stewardship and a loss to our cultural heritage.

Carefully restoring your organ may well produce a visual and musical improvement. You might even be able to get a grant to help you do it.

If your organ is of historical value or is fundamentally sound, then the best advice is to restore it.

What are the reasons why you want to make changes to your organ?

It’s too small to meet our musical needs
It’s unreliable and has been declared irreparable
It’s in the wrong place
It’s ugly
We can’t afford to fix it

Permissions and advice

You need a faculty to restore or replace your organ. So, contact your diocese early on for advice.

Also, get qualified and independent advice from the Association of Independent Organ Advisers. They can help you with:

  • Contractual arrangements
  • Managing an organ project
  • Selecting an organ builder

There are some routine maintenance and tuning works to organs that fall on List A. For these, you will not need permission.

What does “routine maintenance and tuning” mean?

Improve your organ’s sound distribution

Natural acoustics means that your organ will sound louder in some parts of the church than in others. Often, this is not a problem.

But if your organ doesn’t speak well to any part of the building, then you may want to look into subtle amplification.

Use a microphone and set it up to amplify only the organ. You will need to use a different sound system intended for speech, singing, or band music.

And don’t forget about loop system users.

Choose the best heating system for you and your organ

Your church’s heating system will affect the performance of your organ. It can make the organ:

  • Shrink and crack if the air is too dry
  • Swell if the air is too damp
  • Sound “out of tune”
  • And more

Choosing the right heating system is about keeping people comfortable and the organ in good order to avoid expensive damage.

The same system will not work for every church, so you should talk to your heating specialist and your organ builder for advice.

Find out more about heating

Dispose of a redundant organ

If your organ has no future use where it is, you may want to see if another church will take it.

  1. Step one: Contact your diocese

They can help you evaluate the possibility of relocating the organ and will give you advice about your faculty application.

  1. Step two: Advertise on the Institute of British Organ Building website

When it is agreed that relocating the organ is the best way forward, send the administrator of the IBO:

  • A completed online form
  • The organ’s dimensions
  • Photographs

Avoid online auctions or only use them as a last resort. You will need a faculty before putting the organ up for auction.

  1. Step three: Make a full report of the organ before dismantling it


Putting an organ into storage is very much a last resort.

Buyers want to see and hear what they are getting.

The different types of organs

Most churches have pipe organs, but there are other options: using electronic sounds and a mix of pipe and electronic.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of each?

Pipe Organs

Cost and reliability
Long-term costs

Electronic Organs

Cost and reliability
Long-term costs

Hybrid organs

A hybrid organ combines pipe and electronic technology to produce sound.

This has been around for many years, but is not common in our churches.

Just as with pipe and electronic organs:

  • Consider how you will use the instrument
  • Make sure its design fits the architectural setting of your church
  • And don’t buy something that is too big for your building

Advice for organ builders on preparing reports

An organ builder’s report is used to:

The report should include information about:

  1. The instrument
    • Builders
    • History
    • Specification
    • Alterations
    • Compass
    • Pitch
    • Type of mechanism
    • Casework
  2. Its significance (e.g. local, national, or international)
  3. Its condition
  4. The surrounding environment
  5. Any recommendations
  6. A cost estimate
  7. And good, high resolution photographs (inside and out)

Advice for organ builders on conserving organ cases

There are some organ cases that are more significant than the instrument inside them.

Work to its joinery, carving, decorative metalwork or painted decoration is a specialist job. You should get advice from:

The church will also need a faculty before starting any work to the case.


You can accidentally damage the case by using the wrong material or using it incorrectly. So you should always ask your conservator for advice.

A wide range of approaches are possible for treating an organ case. The conservator may try:

  • Restoring the form and finish of the case
  • Replacing missing elements
  • Refinishing surfaces with varnish, paint or gilding
  • Consolidating damaged painted schemes with suitable materials

Removing an existing finish

You may consider removing a finish if it is of no, or negative, significance. But you need to adequately justify your action.

An analysis might reveal if an earlier decorative scheme is underneath. This will require consolidation or infilling.

The relationship of the organ case to its setting will need to be considered, since changes to the one could well have implications for the other.

“An organ is seen more than it is heard. So it is worth taking care over how it looks.”

David Knight, Senior Church Buildings Officer

Advice for closing churches

If your church is closing, you should try and find a future home for your organ before it is removed.

Your diocese will be asked to submit a report about the organ to:

Find out more about furnishings no longer needed for worship

Play the organ

Keeping an organ in regular use is good for it and the development of future organists.

Find out if your diocese has an organists training programme or visit your local branch:


A set of pipes of a similar tone in an organ.