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Q.In our remodeling business, we often demolish plaster and drywall in old homes, and find that the dust and fine abrasives work through just about everything we put down on the floor. What method do you recommend for protecting floors? Also, do you have any recommendations for a shop vac that works for drywall dust?

A.Mel Hines responds: My floor protection method is as follows. It applies to hardwood floors in excellent condition. If the floors are in fair to poor condition, I don’t always go to these extremes.

First, I put down a 2-mil-thick plastic drop cloth. I butt the plastic right to the bottom of the shoe mold. I then tape it — half the tape on the mold, half on the plastic. I like to use 1 1/2-inch Scotch-brand Long Mask. It does not stick to the mold when removed, and does not leave a residue. Next, I put down 4x8 sheets of wafer board. This eliminates dings from dropped tools and gouges from dropped and stepped on fastener heads. On this I put down butyl-backed drop cloths, available from Duron Paints (10406 Tucker St., Beltsville, MD 20705; 301/937-4600), and other fine paint stores. These drop cloths keep most dust from penetrating. Often, the wafer board and the drop cloths can be reversed. With the drops on top, however, I can fold them up and easily dump out the debris at the end of each day, making sure to shake out the cloths in an appropriate location.

As for a shop vac, I have tried many models. The one I’ve been pleased with the most is the Craftsman from Sears. I use the 5 hp, 16-gallon model, which sells for about $100. Considering the amount we use this vacuum, this is a great value. Drywall dust will occasionally (though not very often) clog the filter. When it does, I simply take it outside and tap it into the base container, dump, and resume the cleanup.

Mel Hines owns Atlanta Pro-Serve, a ceiling and wall repair service in Atlanta, Ga.