Sealing basement walls against water seepage is often unpleasant because of the strong odor of solvent-based waterproofing paints.
A new latex-based waterproofer from the manufacturers of Drylok, one of the best-known basement-wall paints, eliminates much of the odor while retaining Drylok's sealing ability. Odor is important to consider because basement walls generally are sealed from the inside and ventilation frequently is poor.
Besides sealing basement walls, Latex Base Drylok Masonry Waterproofer, by UGL (United Gilsonite Laboratories) can be used to seal other interior and exterior masonry surfaces such as garage walls, swimming pools, retaining walls, planters, ponds and cisterns. It cannot be used on floors.
The latex base also speeds drying so a second coat can be applied in three hours; most conventional waterproofers require overnight drying before recoating. The new paint is non-flammable and tools can be cleaned with soap and water.
The paint is white but can be tinted to any light shade. It is sold at home centers, paint and hardware stores and lumber yards.
Windows should be opened and a fan set up if necessary to help exhaust vapors when the paint is used indoors, because some odor remains.
Apply to bare, clean masonry. A synthetic-bristle brush, which can be used to work the paint into pores of the masonry, is good for applying waterproofing paints.
Several new books offer good cold-weather reading for do-it-yourselfers and homeowners.
* "Reader's Digest Book of Skills and Tools" ($30 hardcover, Reader's Digest) is the newest in a series of excellent how-to books from Reader's Digest. About one-third of the book is devoted to illustrations and brief descriptions of various tools and hardware items such as fasteners and hinges. The rest shows how to put tools and hardware to work. Among the topics discussed in the skill section are woodworking, metalworking, masonry, paint, wall coverings, flooring and planning projects.
* "Fine Homebuilding Great House: Energy-Efficient Houses," by the editors of Fine Homebuilding magazine ($24.95 hardcover, Taunton Press). This is another in a series about interesting styles of houses, compiled from articles originally in Fine Homebuilding. Most discuss specific energy-efficient houses, ranging from a solar home in northern Pennsylvania to a superinsulated dwelling in Idaho. Many energy-saving building techniques are discussed. Color photographs and drawings help clarify complex building techniques.
* "The Complete Book of Wallpapering," by David M. Groff ($12.95 paperback, Creative Homeowner Press). In 134 pages, Mr. Groff, a paperhanger for 20 years, covers an amazing variety of topics from preparing walls to avoiding shiny seams. Illustrations are small and sometimes not too clear, but this is a fine primer and reference book.
* "Cottage Water Systems," by Max Burns ($19.95 paperback, Cottage Life Books). This book's subtitle, "An Out-of-the-City Guide to Pumps, Plumbing, Water Purification and Privies," aptly describes the contents. Information of this type is difficult to find, and "Cottage Water Systems" presents it well. The chapter on septic systems, which includes a two-page illustration of how a system works and an explanation of why septic systems fail, could be worth the price of the book to some homeowners in rural areas.