April 2001

Volume 10, Number 4

The Resourceful Renovator: A Gallery of Ideas for Reusing Building Materials

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by Jennifer Corson, 2000. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, Vermont. Paperback, 157 pages, $24.95


Every once in a while, a book comes our way about building and the environment that just about anyone will find practical and delightful—Sarah Susanka’s most recent book, Creating The Not-So Big House, comes to mind.

The Resourcfeul Renovator is another. It is a wonderful blend of art, science, architecture, and salvage that could grace any coffee table, reference shelf, or guest bath magazine rack. It takes building materials reuse to another level, with everything from relocating a building (even by barge) to designing a hat rack with faucet knobs and a raised door panel.


A four-paneled door can be cleverly reconstructed into a bench with little waste.

Illustration from The Resourceful Renovator

The Resourceful Renovator is cleanly organized by materials—wood, metal, stone, brick, glass, and ceramics. Each chapter begins with a brief history of the material’s use in building, examines a wide variety of creative reuse options, and closes with information on how the materials are recycled as a last resort. The book is packed with great photos, illustrations, and success stories. What building enthusiast would not be drawn in by a salvaged wood cornice bracket turned into an art pedestal; brass door hinges morphed into elegant drawer pulls, or wood shutters designed into a corner set of shelves?

Many of the book’s building materials salvage examples come directly from one of the author’s businesses, The Renovators Resource, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, Jennifer Corson does everything from sell used building materials to hosting a TV series on creative renovation for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Corson is an architect with an innovative and inspiring take on building with less, even designing and building a desk from salvaged materials on which to write

The Resourceful Renovator.

There’s little to criticize about this book. EBN would like to have seen stronger language on some hazardous materials considerations, particularly lead-based paint. And the poor quality of a few of the photographs stands out (perhaps because the book is loaded with so many high-quality images). Don’t let these details keep you from buying this book for yourself or any of your friends—it’s a great read and resource.


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April 1, 2001