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How To: Get rid of stains on wood floors

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Q. I had wood floors installed in 2003. For the past two years, I have kept potted plants on the floor, and between them and a Christmas tree, there are now large dark circles on the wood. Is there a way to take out the stains? Do I need to bring in a professional floor cleaner? Or do the boards need to be replaced?

Potomac

A. If the stains aren’t too deep, a company that specializes in refinishing hardwood floors might be able to sand them off. “In most cases, we can’t tell until we sand whether that will work,” said Amir Movahed, owner of Renaissance Floor and Carpet in Rockville (301-545-0007, www.renaissancefloorandcarpet.com). “If sanding is not working, then we would have to replace the pieces.”

Floor refinishing companies typically give free estimates but have minimum charges for any work. Prices vary a lot, with some companies having a relatively low minimum-fee charge but a high square-foot price for sanding and refinishing, while others have fees that work in the opposite way. For example, Renaissance charges a $398 minimum, with a square-foot fee of $3 and a board replacement fee of $20 per piece. Vanover’s Hardwood Floor Works in Woodbridge (703-490-0802, www.hwfloor.com) has a heftier minimum fee of $750 but a much lower square-foot fee ($1.75) and a higher board replacement fee ($50 per piece).

Many floor refinishing companies don’t do spot repairs because it’s possible to get an even sheen only by refinishing the floor in the entire room. However, if your budget is tight and you aren’t super-picky, ask around for a floor refinisher or even a handyman who’s willing to deal only with the damaged area. Or get a few potted plants (with leak-proof containers this time) and set them over the stained areas.

My wife recently inherited the family Bibles, some of which go back to the 1850s. We plan to store them in an air-conditioned and heated basement but are not sure what kind of archival storage box to use.

St. Leonard

Basements, even ones that are heated and air conditioned, often aren’t the best place to store family treasures because of the risk of high humidity and flooding. But if that is the best option in your house, check the relative humidity regularly, and keep it between 35 and 55 percent. Extremely dry air weakens paper by extracting too much moisture, and damp air, above 65 percent relative humidity, encourages mildew.

Store the Bibles on shelves high enough so they’ll stay dry even if the basement floods. And don’t butt the shelves against an exterior basement wall, because a cold, damp microclimate is likely to occur there, advises Lois Olcott Price, director of conservation at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware and a book and paper conservator. Instead, she says, leave an air gap between the shelving and the wall. She knows the necessity for this from personal experience, because her parents discovered moisture damage in photo albums they stored on shelves against a wall in a basement that seemed dry.

Store each Bible individually in an archival box made to fit the book. Price recommends ordering these from Custom Manufacturing in Hammondsport, N.Y. (www.archivalboxes.com). The custom-cut, acid-free boxes cost $7 to $9, depending on size, with some upcharges for special features. Bibles don’t generally need to be wrapped if they are in a box that’s the correct size, Price says, except when a leather binding disintegrates. Then wrapping can help keep dust from getting on pages.

For advice on whether your Bibles need that level of care, or on what it would take to restore them to usable condition if you want to use them for family prayer or reflection, get advice from a book and paper conservator. The Winterthur Museum (www.winterthur.org) offers free clinics; the next one is May 17. Or you can use the referral service offered by the American Institute for Conservation (www.conservation- us.org).

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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