Q. I picked up some Oriental rugs while working overseas many years ago. The basement flooded recently, and I had to have some of them cleaned. The cleaners told me the rugs are valuable and offered to repair them, including reweaving. They quoted a price that seemed very high. When I hesitated, the cleaner assured me the rugs are very valuable and well worth the cost. I never thought these were anything special, so before I go further, I’d like to get a second opinion — preferably from a neutral party. How do I find a qualified appraiser?
A. The Appraisers Association of America (www.appraisersassoc.org) sets ethical standards and tests appraisers who want to be certified as experts in specific decorative arts. So contacting the organization is a good way to find a knowledgeable, impartial appraiser. Three members of the association who evaluate Oriental carpets in the Washington area are Jerald Johnson at National Appraisals, 202-547-1240; Karen Holtzman, 202-966-5877; and Richard Driscoll, 202-293-2323. To give you an idea of the possible cost: Driscoll charges $250 an hour, including travel time, but because you live in Northern Virginia, you could save by taking the carpets to the appraiser. That way, you’d just pay his minimum fee of $250, which covers an hour of appraisal work. Quite a few carpets could be checked in at that time, since it might take only five minutes to evaluate a small rug. A repaired carpet isn’t as valuable as one that was kept in good shape all along. “But a repaired carpet is certainly more valuable than one in damaged condition,” Driscoll said.
Q. I live in a 100-year-old house and would like to paint the pocket doors and mantles in the living room and dining room so they’re white or other colors. What would this do to the value of the house? I don't know the kind of wood but the mantle in the dining room has glass doors.
A. Old homes with painted woodwork can be as valuable as ones where the wood color still shows, because value is a sum of many, many features about a house. That said, if your house has gone a century with unpainted woodwork, you’re smart to carefully consider the implications, especially if most of your home’s other features are original. Even if you don’t value an authentic look, a later owner who does will curse the day you made the switch. By then, of course, you’ll be long gone. If you do decide to paint, you can ease your conscience by planning ahead so it’s easier to remove the paint later. If you sand or strip the wood before you paint over it, apply shellac before you paint. It will seal pores in the wood, keeping paint out of places where it’s almost impossible to remove. And because ammonia dissolves shellac, anyone who wants to strip the paint later will just need to wash the woodwork with ammonia diluted in water. That will strip the paint and the shellac, leaving a surface ready to refinish. Jeff Jewett, who sells finishing supplies through www.homesteadfinishng.com and has written several books about wood finishes, recommends using two or three coats of dewaxed shellac, which is sold as Zinsser SealCoat. For the paint, he recommends using standard latex paint, which will wash off easier (eventually) than latex trim enamel. If there is already a clear finish on the wood and you are planning not to strip it, don’t add shellac. The clear finish is already sealing the pores, and you’d just be adding extra layers that someone would need to strip later.
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Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in November such as how to check smoke detectors.