As we’ve been chugging along on the garden’s kitchen remodel, we’ve been receiving questions on that little half wall – what’s going to go there? And it’s not just you; as our friends pop down to see the progress, they ask the same thing! It could be simply painted the same color as the walls, sure, but those corners are sharp, and we imagine that our future tenant might use it as extra prep space, a spot to toss loose change and keys or a place to rest their morning coffee.
For a hot second, we considered the same butcher block we used on the counters, but we didn’t love the 1 1/2″ thickness for this application. Instead, we had another idea up our sleeves – marble!
A few months ago, we found what we think is an old window sill at a local architectural salvage warehouse (Rebuilding Exchange for our Chicago friends!), but get this, for free. The shop was purging old sills and countertop remnants, and although we had no idea what we’d do with it at the time, we couldn’t pass it up.
For a rental, you might think we’re nuts, right? But marble is one of those stones that we think only looks better with age (similar to our feelings on brass), and the more it patinas, the more handsome it appears. That seems to be the name of the game in the garden, and we’ve given a lot of thought to the materials we’re landing on. Just like our butcher block counters, it may be a gamble, but similarly, it’s a stone that can be salvaged over and over again with a little buffing and sanding – and we were about to dive into our first attempt!
While beautiful as-is, it was obviously the wrong size, and there were a few minor repairs we wanted to tackle before setting it in place, such as chips along the edge and slight discoloration:
We decided to give it a good polishing, which was simultaneously nerve wracking and so, so satisfying. The goal wasn’t to make it sparkly and new, rather, we were aiming for a slightly honed finish, as a more dull finish will hide mishaps over the years a bit better.
Since no wall in this house is perfectly straight, we traced our cuts in place, mostly eyeballing the placement and checking for level. We were competing with tile on one side of the wall and drywall on the other, so we split the difference and landed on an overhang of roughly 1/4″ overall.
You can see in the photos above that we had just finished tiling the backsplash, so while our wet saw was out, we made our marble cuts, too.
Next, it was time to polish! We purchased this kit of diamond pads for our angle grinder, which came with grits ranging from 50 to 10,000 (I didn’t even know that was a thing!). The pads can be used wet or dry, and the advantage of using our angle grinder over, say, our orbital, is that the angle grinder can put out much higher RPMs. For our needs, we only used the pads ranging from 50-800 for the majority of the polishing, and Scott hit the marble quickly with the 1,500 grit for the final surface prep.
To get started, we set up the marble slab on saw horses, resting it on a length of scrap wood and securing it with clamps to support the middle. For the first pass with the grinder, Scott carefully eased all four edges:
Next, we hosed off the slab to prep it for surface grinding. Each pad was used for about 1-3 minutes, and every now and then, I would lightly spray the surface for Scott to continue grinding. By keeping the stone slick, we were able to avoid burning the surface (which may have happened a few times – we learned quickly!).
The first pass of using the 50 grit pad immediately knocked down the discoloration, and we slowly worked our way up to 1500. With every step up to the next pad, the marble got smoother and shinier, so not wanting to get too glossy, we were careful to hose it off between pads to check on the progress.
Stopping at 1500 gave us a slightly honed, slightly satin finish, which we found to be our sweet spot. (Of course, the higher you go, the more polished it will become. I can only imagine that slowly stepping up to 10,000 will give the illusion of glass!)
Finally, it was time to put it in place! We used construction adhesive to secure it to the half wall, and we allowed it to dry overnight with our tool bag placed on top – by far, that bag is heavier than a stack of the thickest books! The next day, I used this sealer from The Tile Shop (leftover from our marble entryway project) and applied two coats, following the instructions on the bottle.
And that was it! Before we began the project, we were both slightly fearful that we would risk damaging the marble, but as it turns out, marble is beautifully resilient. It only gave us more confidence in choosing this stone to cap that half wall, and we are tha-rilled with the results!
On a side note, can I just say that we are counting down the seconds until this place gets painted? It’s going to be transformative on a level that we can hardly wrap our heads around. Ignore the walls (and ceiling and trim), and instead, focus on this! Pretty marble!
Our entire to-do list finally fits on our dry erase board, and there are few things more satisfying than crossing another item off the list. This weekend? While Scott tidies up the kitchen plumbing and range hood, I’ll be focusing on the details – window frosting, cabinet hardware, spray painting light fixtures and scrubbing every last surface in preparation for paint.