Built into window columns during a 1970 expansion at Sinai Hospital, the slabs were removed in 2009 to make way for an atrium, according to Lew Poe, Sinai's director of facilities.

The store at one point had five pallets of the stone, which it was pitching to customers for reuse as garden benches, Kirkland said.

Experts praised Foard's vision and pointed out that a homeowner doesn't have to be an artist or designer to find inspiration for such a project.

"I find it encouraging that anyone would see the potential in a material that has been cast away and use it," said Lane Myer, a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, who teaches sculpture and furniture design.

Reusing building materials comes with risks, however — such as a history that may not be so palatable. Myer once considered recycling stone in Connecticut that turned out to be former bathroom stall dividers from Yale University, and he wondered how much to tell the customer.

"Ultimately, what wins anybody over is the beauty of what's been made," Myer said.

Once he completed the table last summer, Foard and his wife, Debra, inaugurated it with a quintessentially Baltimore feast — they invited some neighbors over and steamed some crabs. Later, around Thanksgiving, another guest marveled at the table but worried about spilling red wine on it.

Foard, however, didn't worry a bit.

"This is marble. It's tough. And it's Baltimore. Tough again," he said. "That's the beauty of it. I can just sand it out."

Local salvage yards

To turn steps into something stupendous, start by trolling these salvage yards in Baltimore. You also might want first to try a simpler project, such as transforming a a door into a headboard or a mirror into a table. Budget several hours to comb through the offerings. You might be seeking broken tiles to make a mosaic and instead find old roof slate to make into wall tile.

Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, chesapeakerestore.org. All locations open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5p.m.; 505 Kane St., Dundalk 21224, 410-633-0505; 3741 Commerce Dr., Suite 311, Halethorpe 21227, 443-297-5141; and 8101 Fort Smallwood Road, Pasadena 21226, 410-437-7755.

The Loading Dock, 2 N. Kresson St., Baltimore, 410-558-3625, loadingdock.org. Open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (April-September).

Second Chance, 1700 Ridgely St., Baltimore, secondchanceinc.org, 410-385-1700. Open Monday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.