How to restore an old family photo

I have two pictures of my great-grandmother that are in pretty bad shape.  They are peeling away from the backing.  Is there anyway to restore these photos?  If so, roughly how much would something like that cost, and can you recommend anyone in Northern Virginia?

Reader photo - A photo of an Arlington reader's great-grandmother.

Q: I have two pictures of my great-grandmother that are in pretty bad shape. They are peeling away from the backing. Is there any way to restore these photos? If so, roughly how much would something like that cost, and can you recommend anyone in Northern Virginia?

Arlington

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A: Valeria Orlandini, a professional conservator in Chevy Chase (301-657-2682; www.orlandini-paper
conservation.blogspot.com
), recommends focusing on stabilizing and protecting the pictures by framing them in conservation-quality materials to prevent further damage and deterioration. It is possible for conservators to make repairs, but the cost — $500 and up — usually isn’t justified for family photographs, she says, and it shouldn’t be the top priority anyway. Proper framing is the place to start.

If you want to display pictures of your great-grandmother that aren’t so damaged, protect the existing pictures but also have them copied on a digital camera. Then someone skilled in photo editing can retouch and even resize and recolor the pictures, if you want, so that everyone in your family has pictures they can display, too.

Old Town Photo in Alexandria (703-684-1000; www.oldtownphoto.com) does this type of digital repair. If the pictures are small, copying and touching up each picture might cost $100 to $250. A large picture would cost $50 to $150 more. Prices for prints are based solely on size: $15 for one under 5 by 7 inches, up to $60 for one 15 by 19 inches. Nik Moghadar, the owner, suggests that customers e-mail him (info@oldtownphoto.com) with pictures of the photographs they are trying to copy. He can then give a rough estimate, though for a precise price he needs to examine the photograph in his shop.

I live in a mid-century brick rambler with the original kitchen and bathroom. I love the retro look. The kitchen countertop is the original gray laminate, with chrome trim. The trim is in great shape, but the laminate is very worn. The entire counter runs about nine feet, with one cutout for the sink, so I think replacing it should be a fairly small job. Who can replace the laminate while retaining the chrome trim to maintain the 1950s look?

Arlington

The existing metal edging probably can’t be reused because it would be very difficult to pry it off without bending it. Metal edging is usually T-shaped, with a leg that fits into a groove in the countertop edge. If there is no T, the edging could be nailed on, but that’s less ideal because edges of the nail heads can catch on clothing.

Replacement metal edging is still made, though, so you should be able to duplicate the look. One company that installs replacement countertops with metal edging is All Points Countertops in Winchester (540-665-3875). The total cost would probably come to about $400, according to Donna Knight, the office manager.

All Points has a supply of laminate samples from several manufacturers, but the company doesn’t have a showroom. If you haven’t already picked out new laminate, Knight recommends going to manufacturers’ Web sites. These are typically set up so you can look at colors and designs and order samples directly from the site or by calling the customer service number that’s listed. Or, if you use the Web sites and settle on a few designs that seem promising, you can call All Points, and Knight will mail you samples. Always look at an actual sample before you commit.

Manufacturers with free samples include www.formica.com, www.wilsonart.com and www.nevamar.com.

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.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in October, such as adding outdoor lighting, at washingtonpost.com/home.

 
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