Richlite is a paper-based fiber composite material manufactured by Richlite Company in Tacoma, Washington and distributed worldwide. Richlite Company pioneered the paper-composite surface industry beginning in 1943.
Is it really paper?
Yes it is. It starts out as pulp, is turned into paper, manufacturing with both Rapidly Renewable FSC Certified paper and recycled paper fibers and is transformed into a dense, durable, attractive material that can be tooled like wood and used for nearly any commercial or residential surface or design accents. Richlite is commonly specified in countertops, wall cladding, wainscoting, window sills, stair treads, bathroom partitions, guard rails, partition doors, cabinet doors, furniture, menus, signage, exterior cladding, rainscreen, siding, kick plates, and more.
Richlite can be milled easily, like wood, but is much more dense, durable and long lasting. It has an inherently natural feel with a mottled pattern. The finish out of the mill is similar to leather, when sanded it can be incredibly smooth and silky.
The color of Richlite surfaces is determined by the paper color used in the manufacturing process. Black Diamond comes from black paper while Chocolate Glacier comes from dark brown material. The resin used in the manufacturing process darkens the color giving it deep, rich tones that run through the thickness of each sheet. Designers enjoy working with the material because the color is consistent when they machine edges and features directly in the surface.
Generally speaking, Richlite resists stains quite well. As with most material, there is potential for some staining. Richlite stands up well to anything acidic, but high-alkaline products may pull or alter color after prolonged exposure. Stains may be cleaned with soap and warm water and scrubbed with a soft bristle brush. More stubborn stains may be repaired by a light refinishing of the material.
It’s significantly harder than wood but, like most countertop materials, can, under force, be scratched or gouged. Richlite countertops should not be used as a cutting surface. Because Richlite is a solid color throughout, when scratches do occur, they can easily be buffed or sanded out. Use of a separate Richlite cutting board is recommended. Most cuts, scratches and nicks can be repaired with a light refinishing.
Richlite is heat resistant up to 350º F. Due to its high heat resistance, the material does not need additional protection near stove areas though a trivet or hot pad is recommended to ensure no damage will be caused by exceedingly hot pots and pans pulled directly out of the oven.
Richlite is an incredibly durable product, but it can scratch. Scratches will eventually patina and are typically superficial. Due to its high impact resistance, gouges or cracks are uncommon. Because of the way it is manufactured with stacked sheets of paper, the edge can be prone to chipping if not eased or radiused properly.
Patina + Aging
Over time and with use, Richlite will develop a seasoned appearance that is characteristic of the material. There will be more luster or burnishing in areas of heavier use. Overall it will appear softer and deeper in color and pattern.
Aging is a natural process that begins immediately and may take a number of years to complete. It is similar to the manner in which natural wood products oxidize and age over time. The speed of aging will be affected by the amount of natural light the product is exposed to. Typically the process is noticeable after one to three months. In general, color change is least noticeable in darker colors and more pronounced in lighter colors. The manufacturing process does not allow absolute control over the color of the final product. Slight variations between sheets may occur but will lessen as they age.
The effect of aging in Richlite is primarily a result of the resin component, which begins as pale amber and deepens to a rich shade of sienna. It is strongly recommended to view this color change prior to purchase.
Richlite is recognized for its sanitary performance appreciated by chefs in the home and in high profile commercial kitchens. The National Sanitation Foundation, which sets standards for food service-related products has certified Richlite Natural for use as cutting boards with direct food contact in restaurants. The same material is used in Richlite countertops. The surface is impervious and does not support the colonization of bacteria. See NSF Listing here.
Richlite material is Kosher Certified by the Orthodox Union. For over 80 years the Orthodox Union has set the bar for the highest standards of Kosher certification. See Richlite’s OU certificate.
Extended Cantilevers and Spans
Due to the long, tough fibers inside Richlite, the material will not bend or break under normal circumstances. As a result architects and designers love the ability to design long spans and extended cantilevers without additional support. As a rule of thumb, 3/4”-thick material is structurally stable with a 12” overhang, 1”-thick material is stable up to an 18” overhang, and 1 1/2”-thick is stable up to 24″.
All Richlite materials, including Northwest, are made using Richlite’s innovative WE™ Technology utilizing either FSC Certified or post-consumer recycled paper. In addition, Richlite products are GREENGUARD Certified® for indoor use in residential, school and institutional environments and can contribute to LEED points.