Q: Though we repainted it less than a year ago, our five-year-old wrought-iron railing is once again flaking badly and large patches of rust are evident in many places. Can you tell us how to paint it for a lasting finish?

A: Sounds to me as though the problem is that the iron was never properly primed in the first place. You will not have to take all the old paint off, then sand and scrape until you get down to the bare metal. Immediately apply a good coat of metal primer, such as one containing zinc chromate, making sure you cover all sides as well as to dry hard, then paint with two coats of exterior enamel or trim paint in the color of your choice.

Q: The wooden parquet flooring in our living room and bedroom is scratched in several places, and stained from water and link in other places. Can you recommend what steps must be taken to make this floor beautiful?

A: When wood floors have as many defects (scratches and stains) as your letter indicates, I am afraid the only way to restore them is to start from scratch-that is, sand them down to the raw wood and refinish as you would a new floor. The floor will have to be sanded at least twice-once with medium grit paper and once with fine-but if the scratches are very deep, three sandings may be required: a coarse one to get the scratches out, then a medium and a fine. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Mary Myers for The Washington Post