What Are Paper Composite Countertops? – Everything Explained
Are you finally planning a kitchen renovation and want to find a worktop that is beautiful, tough, and friendly to the planet? Paper composite countertops could be the perfect solution to your search!
In this post, I’ll explain what paper composite countertops are, their pros and cons as well as answer some frequently asked questions on the topic.
Let’s get into it!
What Are Paper Composite Countertops?
Paper composite countertops are a modern solution to an eco-friendly worktop material. It is a renewable alternative to granite or marble.
Paper composite countertops look and feel much like natural countertops made out of soapstone or granite. However, they are manufactured using layers or sheets of sustainably sourced paper, natural pigments and non-petroleum based thermoset resins baked into sheets 6 – 30 mm thick.
The resulting product is a solid worktop that can be worked much like wood and will last just as long as other available worktop options.
Sometimes referred to as paperstone (which is a brand name), it was first developed for the aerospace and marine industries and has been used for decades to build half-pipes for skateboard parks.
Laminate worktops also begin as a paper product, but the laminate surface is only a few millimetres thick and then glued to particleboard to give it thickness and added durability. Laminate is much less expensive, but can show signs of wear and tear and is susceptible to snapping and water damage.
Paper composite takes the technology of the durable laminate surface and dials it up to 100.
How Are Paper Composite Countertops made?
The manufacturing process begins by soaking the sheets of paper in specially formulated resin along with any colour pigments used to create the various finishes available.
Once fully saturated these sheets of paper are then stacked together and compressed under intense pressure and baked at a very high temperature. This fuses the layers together and creates one solid surface material.
Can You Install It Yourself?
DIY homeowners can carry a sheet of paper composite with the help of a friend. Cut it down using your usual woodworking power tools. Mount it with brackets and screws and create a unique edge with a router. For best results use carbide-tipped tools.
When you cut into a sheet of paper composite, you are treated to visible layers that look much like wood grain.
If you demand a more professional finish in your kitchen, you can hire contractors to measure, cut, and install a paper composite worktop.
Paper composite does have a limited colour range as the base paper and resin combination dries in a dark yellow. You can find versions in all shades of brown, black, and dark grey. It can be tinted in rich hues of blue, red, and green. You may struggle to find it in lighter shades of grey, beige or white.
The most common brands of paper composite on the market come from Richlite and Paperstone.
The material continues to gain interest and traction as we look for greener building choices. Many brands use VOC-free and petroleum-free resin and use 100% recycled or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified sources for their paper.
Still, you may only find a sample display at your local building supply store. For the greatest array of options, search for a contractor that specialises in paper composite worktops.
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Due to the nature of the paper composite production process, the slab comes with a natural matte finish.
The low-gloss look will not create as much glare as a stone worktop. If you tried to polish the paper composite to a high gloss, the surface would begin to distort and melt.
To maintain the look and durability of the worktop, regular treatment with a sealer will keep it looking its best for years.
How Much Do Paper Composite Countertops Cost?
Expect to spend a comparable amount to a quality custom marble or granite worktop, about £150 to £225 per square metre installed.
If you just want to buy the full paper composite slab and cut it down yourself, prices range from £750 to £3,000.
A custom installation will include the creation of a precise template based on the position of your cabinets and the use of robotic saws to cut the required pieces. A team of professionals returns to your home to install the finished product.
Advantages of Paper Composite Countertops
- Eco-friendly product made out of post-consumer recycled paper and non-petroleum based resins
- Unique and trending appearance
- Just as hard, heat, and stain-resistant as many natural stone options.
- Non-porous surface, won’t harbour bacteria
- Can be cut and installed by the homeowner
- Contemporary honed matte finish
- Tested safe for use in commercial kitchens
Disadvantages of Paper Composite Countertops
- Just as expensive as quality custom granite worktops
- Limited colour palette–there are no options for white, light grey, or beige
- Will gather abrasions and darken with time as the paper and resin age
- Requires bi-annual sealing to prevent scarring and stains
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Are Paper Composite Countertops Durable?
Your paper composite countertop can last up to 25 years with regular care and maintenance. It naturally resists stains but will develop a patina over time. Cutting boards and hot plates protect their finish from damage.
But for daily use, it is just as durable as laminate or soapstone.
Are Paper Composite Countertops heat resistant?
If you place a glass bowl filled with hot water on the paper composite countertop, nothing will happen. Screaming hot pans out of the oven may discolour the surface or leave behind an abrasion.
Use a hot pad or trivet to protect it, just like you would with laminate worktops.
Are Paper Composite Countertops scratch resistant?
The resins used with paper to create paper composite countertops will resist light scratches from a dropped knife. It will show marks if you use it as a cutting board.
Grab a cutting board whenever you want to chop veggies and your countertops will last for years.
Are Paper Composite Countertops stain-resistant?
Paper composite is just as stain-resistant as granite countertops. Use a recommended sealant once or twice a year to help close its pores and wipe up any spills with a damp cloth as soon as they happen.
For more stubborn stains use gentle dish soap and a non-abrasive sponge. Try to avoid using harsh chemical cleaners or bleach on the countertop as this may dull the finish.
Following these simple guidelines will help to avoid stains from seeping into the material.
Do Paper Composite Countertops crack easily?
No. Paper composite was developed for the marine industry as a sustainable surface rugged enough for the docks. Its multi-layer construction makes it less likely to crack compared to quartz.
However, if it does crack, it can be repaired with epoxy. The repair is hidden using matching tints.
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There you have it! Everything you need to know about paper composite countertops.
An eco-friendly and renewable countertop option for your kitchen. While it may not have the most colours or finishes available and requires a degree of care and maintenance, its sustainability credentials make it an appealing choice.
Would you consider installing paper composite countertops as part of your next kitchen renovation?
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.