First, make sure the attic really is the wisest storage place. Conservators warn against storing family treasures, including papers, in attics or basements because hot and/or humid conditions degrade many materials.
“I tell people to get archival storage boxes and put them under a bed or in a closet,” says Suzanne Gramly, senior paper conservator for the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Of course, longevity is a bigger issue if you’re storing family papers that you want to hand down rather than old business papers that you plan to toss as soon you legally can.
There is also a weight issue with attic storage. If you have many boxes to store, the weight could cause part of your house to sag if the attic floor wasn’t built to carry the load. Ask a builder or building inspector to assess the situation. Or at least store the boxes close to outside walls or near inside walls that line up with walls or posts on lower floors, carrying weight in the attic all the way to the ground.
If, after all these warnings, you decide that attic storage really does fit your needs best, here’s an idea for keeping out mice: Get an inexpensive metal filing cabinet. Secondhand shops often carry them, as do office-supply stores. Gramly recommends placing papers in archival-quality folders first because the folders help buffer the effects of fluctuating temperature and humidity.
I have an old table that needs to be professionally cleaned. It’s in good shape but is sticky after 50 years of dirt, grime, wax, etc. How can I find someone who works with antiques and who will know how to clean it and not ruin the inlay? I’ve tried various products myself. Nothing has worked.
Your piece might need more than a thorough cleaning. Sticky finishes often can’t be cured, just stripped and redone. Even though your table doesn’t fit the century-old definition of an antique, you should be able to get an honest evaluation and good results from a reputable shop that refinishes antiques.
With a very old antique, refinishers often try to strip off only the damaged layer or layers so they can preserve as much of the original finish as possible, since a lot of the value of the piece depends on that. But for a table that’s 50 years old, complete stripping makes more sense, says Don Selkirk, owner of Don’s Furniture Restoration in Lorton (703-798-3368, www.donsfurniturerestoration.com
). Steve Strosnider of
A Perfect Finish in Fairfax (703-204-2009, www.aperfectfinish-va.com
) also said that complete stripping will probably be the best approach.
It’s worth taking your table to a restorer or two for an evaluation, though. If the table does just need cleaning, you might get the work done for as little as $200 to $300, including a new topcoat or two to replace whatever finish comes off during the cleaning process. A complete redo could cost three or four times as much, though you might be able to save by having only the top of the table treated.