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Remodeling 101: Paper Composite Countertops for the Kitchen


Remodeling 101: Paper Composite Countertops for the Kitchen

May 3, 2018

Paper as a countertop material? Sounds suspect—and soggy—but think again. When combined with a few key ingredients, heated, and compressed, paper turns into a material that is stone-like in appearance and durability, but softer and more forgiving. Originally designed for use in skateboard parks, science labs, and marine environments, paper composite countertops have proved that they have muscle, and are an excellent, affordable, eco-friendly alternative to solid-surface plastics and stone. Should paper-based countertops be on your short list?

the countertop in julie&#8\2\17;s kitchen is richlite, a durable, 17
Above: The countertop in Julie’s kitchen is Richlite, a durable, warm-to-the-touch paper composite selected for its eco-friendly attributes and stone appearance. “The material has a nice touch and solidity to it,” says Julie’s architect Jerome Buttrick. “True black is always an elegant color choice.” Take a full tour of the kitchen in the Remodelista book.

What are paper composite countertops?

Paper composite countertops are made of paper (or wood-based fibers), natural pigments, and non-petroleum-based resins. These materials are mixed, compressed, and baked at very high heat to create dense, durable, nonporous monolithic slabs.

paper based composite slabs have the look and feel of soft stone. available in  18
Above: Paper-based composite slabs have the look and feel of soft stone. Available in thicknesses ranging from a quarter inch to three inches, this countertop material can be easily shaped to create, among other things, drainboards. Photograph via Seattle kitchen company Viola Park (a subdivision of Henrybuilt).

What are the benefits of using paper composite counters?

Paper composite has an appeal similar to solid-surface composite (Corian), but with an earth-friendly bent. In particular, paper-based composite counters are:

  • Environmentally friendly. The majority of the paper content is postconsumer recycled or comes from FSC-certified, sustainably harvested forests.
  • Easy to install. Paper composite is lighter than stone and can be cut and shaped with ease.
  • Able to be joined with tight, clean seams. While not invisible, the seams are much cleaner than what can be achieved with stone countertops.
  • Dense and durable. Paper composite counters are harder than wood yet more forgiving than stone.
  • Nonporous. The material is impervious to water, won’t harbor bacteria, and is stain resistant.
  • Appropriate for indoor and outdoor applications. Paper composite counters can stand up to weather.
not just for countertops, paper composite slabs can be used as tabletops,  19
Above: Not just for countertops, paper composite slabs can be used as tabletops, windowsills, cabinets, sinks, tub surrounds, and backsplashes. Julie used Richlite not only in her kitchen but also to frame the fireplace in her living room (shown). Photograph by Maria Del Rio.

Who makes paper-based countertops?

The two key manufacturers of paper composite material are Richlite and Paperstone. They differ slightly in their ingredients, recipes, and resulting colors. Two additional products to consider are Trespa and Kliptech EcoTop. Used in scientific and medical laboratories, Trespa TopLab countertops are made of thermoset resins with cellulose fiber reinforcement and are exceptionally stain resistant and durable. Kliptech makes a partially paper-based countertop, EcoTop, which is a blend of bamboo fibers, recycled demolition wood fibers, and recycled paper bound together with a VOC-free, water-based resin.

richlite uses an especially thin paper (made of either \100 percent or 50 perce 20
Above: Richlite uses an especially thin paper (made of either 100 percent or 50 percent recycled cardboard, or FSC-certified sustainable pulp) in the manufacturing process that allows resin to flow very evenly through the paper to create an extremely dense slab.
paperstone prides itself on using \100 percent, post consumer recycled paper in 21
Above: PaperStone prides itself on using 100 percent, post-consumer recycled paper in its product. It has a slightly more mottled appearance than Richlite. The worktop in this Viola Park kitchen is made of PaperStone in Denim.

What colors are available?

The type of resin used to make paper-based countertops is dark and causes the resulting color choices to be limited to a range of medium to dark hues, all in a matte finish. They will darken slightly over time with exposure to UV rays.

 richlite&#8\2\17;s northwest line comes in a palette of seven so 22
Above: Richlite’s Northwest line comes in a palette of seven solid colors. The company has added a new gray option (Grays Harbor) that is lighter in tone and has a 100 percent recycled base.
 paperstone offers \1\1 colors ranging from slate to leather (shown h 23
Above: PaperStone offers 11 colors ranging from Slate to Leather (shown here in a Viola Park kitchen).
 ecotop deviates from the dark, muted tones. because the resin u 24
Above: EcoTop deviates from the dark, muted tones. Because the resin used in this product is clear, the counters can be made in white, black, and many colors in between.

How do you clean and maintain paper composite counters?

paper composite countertops are pretty low maintenance. nonporous, they&#8\ 25
Above: Paper composite countertops are pretty low maintenance. Nonporous, they’re stain resistant and easy to clean. But perfectionists take note: The counter will develop a patina over time (this is especially true around the sink, as shown in Julie’s kitchen). Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista.

For day-to-day cleaning, use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the surface. Skip the soap—alkaline soap, such as regular dish soap, will gradually dull the surface. With stubborn stains, try a nonabrasive household cleaner (avoid using bleach products). Plain yogurt can be used to pull stains from lighter colored material.

It’s important to note that paper composite counters are only heat resistant to 350 degrees: Hot pads or trivets are a must to avoid burning the surface. That said, surface nicks, scratches, and scorch marks can be sanded out of the top with an abrasive pad and then finished with food-safe mineral oil.

manufacturers recommend a yearly application of mineral oil, such as food  26
Above: Manufacturers recommend a yearly application of mineral oil, such as Food Grade Mineral Oil or an approved finish, to help keep the top looking new. The integrity of the material won’t be compromised if you choose to leave it be, but the surface may start to appear chalky and will pick up oils from fingerprints and food.

How much do paper composite countertops cost?

Comparable to other solid-surface composite countertops in price, paper-based countertop slab is in the low-to-mid price range of worktop materials, running between $30 to $80 per square foot installed. Price varies depending on the complexity of the installation, the thickness of the slab, and the cost of installation labor in your area.

if you&#8\2\17;re searching for the look and feel of soapstone co 27
Above: If you’re searching for the look and feel of soapstone counters, paper-based composite is an affordable alternative. Photograph via Richlite.

Paper Composite Countertop Recap


  • Durable work surface
  • Warmer and more forgiving than stone
  • Made from recycled and environmentally sustainable materials
  • Stain- and nick-resistant
  • Easy to install
  • Impervious to moisture, won’t harbor bacteria
  • Affordable
  • Easy to clean
  • Will develop a patina over time


  • Heat resistant to 350 degrees; can scorch
  • Limited color palette
  • Not recyclable due to resin content, but can be recut and reused
  • Will develop a patina over time

Researching new countertops? Read 5 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Kitchen Countertops. And for more specifics, see:

Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your kitchen countertop in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Kitchen Countertops.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on September 2, 2016.

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Frequently asked questions

What are paper composite countertops?

Paper composite countertops are a type of surfacing material made from a combination of post-consumer recycled paper and a resin binder. They are compressed and hardened to create a durable and environmentally friendly countertop option.

What are the advantages of using paper composite countertops?

There are several advantages to using paper composite countertops. They are environmentally friendly, as they are made from recycled materials. They are also durable, heat-resistant, and resistant to stains and scratches. Additionally, they have a unique and natural appearance and can be a cost-effective alternative to other solid surface materials.

Are paper composite countertops suitable for all kitchen styles?

Paper composite countertops can complement various kitchen styles, ranging from modern to traditional. They have a warm and organic look that works well in both contemporary and rustic settings. They are available in different colors and textures, allowing for customization to match different design aesthetics.

Can paper composite countertops handle heat and moisture?

Paper composite countertops have good resistance to heat and moisture. They are generally heat-resistant up to a certain temperature, but it's recommended to use trivets or hot pads to protect the surface from excessive heat. As with any countertop material, it's important to wipe up spills promptly to avoid prolonged exposure to moisture.

Do paper composite countertops require special maintenance?

Paper composite countertops are relatively low-maintenance. They can be cleaned with mild soap and water or non-abrasive household cleaners. They may require periodic resealing or re-oiling to maintain their appearance and durability, depending on the specific brand and finish. Always follow the manufacturer's care instructions for best results.

Are paper composite countertops resistant to stains and scratches?

Paper composite countertops are generally resistant to stains and scratches. The resin binder used in their construction helps provide durability and resistance to wear. However, it's still advisable to use cutting boards and avoid placing hot pans directly on the surface to minimize the risk of damage.

Can paper composite countertops be installed as DIY projects?

Paper composite countertops can be installed as DIY projects, but it's recommended to have some experience with countertop installation or carpentry skills. Precise measurements, proper tools, and attention to detail are important for a successful installation. If in doubt, consulting a professional installer is always a good idea.

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