“Building with Secondhand Stuff” by Chris Peterson

Nobody needs to remind you that money’s tight.

Still, you’ve been dreaming of a new look around your home, an addition or a total remodel, and that’s dangerous territory. You know from experience that one idea leads to another, which leads to another and pretty soon, you’re deep in sawdust and debt.

So how can you get a new look – or a new shed, garage, outbuilding, or playhouse for the kids – for cheap or for free? Start with the ideas in “Building with Secondhand Stuff” by Chris Peterson.

Even in a down economy, construction of new buildings continues to happen while old buildings are demolished and carted off to a landfill. That’s a lot of waste, says Peterson, which can be “a fantastic opportunity” for homeowners.

It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that reclaiming and repurposing old or cast-off building materials is sustainable and environmentally friendly. The bonus to reusing is that materials you find may be of higher quality than what’s in stores. Plus, learning to deconstruct and reuse can be a fun challenge.

First, though, you’ll need to ask permission before taking (if it’s a construction site) or find a regular source, such as a salvage or demolition company or look at flea markets. Then do your homework.

Old wood can be a treasure or it can be a mess, and neither situation can be determined by a cursory glance. Carefully assess wood and all materials, Peterson says. Know what you need, but keep an open mind because, once you’re bitten by the reclaiming bug, you might find all sorts of uses for your finds.

Not just for outdoors, old stone and ceramic materials can be used in many different ways, and in conjunction with the wood you’ve saved. Peterson advocates using materials for projects they weren’t meant for, a mere “matter of looking beyond the rugged nature of the material.”

Reclaiming old metals is “not quite as obvious” a notion, but Peterson urges readers to use their imaginations. Old ceilings can become backsplashes (and vice versa). Antique hardware would look great with reclaimed doors or newly-built cabinets. You can even reuse old plumbing, with a few caveats…

Not much of a DIY-er? That’s going to change, once you get “Building with Secondhand Stuff” in your hands.

Using lots of gorgeous full-color pictures, easy-to-follow steps, a unique perspective, and tons of encouragement, author Chris Peterson offers a huge range of ideas for giving your home a new look for little-to-no money. I liked this book for the possibilities Peterson shares, and for the way it got me to thinking about other uses for materials.

The other thing I liked to see is that Peterson hammers home reminders of safety. In an eagerness to get started, it’s easy to forget gloves and goggles but safety sidebars are helpful and plentiful here.

Homeowners know that a house is never done, so if you’re looking for something old to lend a new look, then look here first. “Building with Secondhand Stuff” is a book you wood love.