Richlite is a solid, through-colour composite material made from compressed paper. Super dense, highly durable and versatile, it's used in everything from tooling and mould-making to skate ramps, interior design, chopping boards and quite often - kitchen surfaces. As cupboard doors or a kitchen worktop, it's great for those who like the look and feel of materials like concrete, copper, brass, stainless steel, leather or linoleum.
Richlite's surface will change and transform over time, enhanced by the signs of wear and patina as it ages and is used. Although people often want to compare it to solid surface or laminate, it bears much more similarity to the way hardwoods behave - the colours get deeper and richer, it's incredibly dense and has a warmer, natural feel with a mottled texture that will change and patinate over time. Richlite has an interesting combination of characteristics that allows for it to be used in a wide range of demanding applications in the kitchen - from residential or commercial worktops and splash backs, to office tea points and cupboard doors.
Properties + Features
Richlite is heat resistant up to 176 degrees C (350 F) and is non-porous so won't harbour bacteria.
It's not a seamless material, but good joins are like a fine hairline, similar to the seam you would get with wood. The sheets have a direction, so seam placement and orientation are important, but the oversized sheets (up to 3660 x 1525mm) mean that long spans can come out of a single run of material without needing to make any joins.
Thickness + Weight
As a material, Richlite has twice the density of marine grade plywoods and three times the strength. In general you can use half the thickness of a marine grade plywood in Richlite. For example 6mm thick Richlite is used for splash backs and upstands, 12mm for cupboard and cabinet doors, kitchen worktops and other horizontal surfaces.
Machining + Curves
Things like rounded or bevelled edges are no problem at all - because of Richlite's density, intricate details can be routed or laser etched into it and the material has an incredible screw retention strength. Richlite is a thermoset panel, so it cannot be formed to a radius, however some designers have gotten clever with machining the back to achieve a curve fixed into place.
Look + Feel
Like all materials, Richlite does scratch. The surface will show wear in areas of greater use - similar to how metal, leather or linoleum behaves. Because of its composition of resin and decorative kraft paper, the colour goes through the full thickness and any marks will look burnished and warm over time. The material is non-porous and fairly stain resistant, however when left on the surface for an extended period things with a high alkalinity, like soap, bleach or beetroot, can cause stains particularly in the lighter colours.
Over time all of the colours get deeper, darker and warmer, this is most noticeable in colours like Maple Valley which starts off as a light honey colour and will deepen into a rich amber colour, and Grays Harbor which starts as a mid-grey, shifting to a darker green/brown gunmetal grey. You can view an example of this colour change in this boardroom table which shows Grays Harbor after 5 years.
Once installed, Richlite is around a similar price point to other premium surfaces like solid surface, compact laminates or granite.
Richlite can be fabricated to three main surface options, depending on the application and desired finish:
Richlite straight out of the press and onto your application, no fabrication or surface finish is applied. This is incredibly matte and so will show natural oils from your hands very quickly and any scuffs will appear chalky - this surface is predominately used in industrial applications like skate ramps and chopping boards where the surface texture isn't important but can also be used in all types of internal joinery. This will perform similar to an uncoated steel.
A fabricator or joiner takes the Mill finish material, and keeps most of the original texture, with a slight buff and an applied finish. The Leathered surface shows less wear than the Mill or Honed options. This finish will still develop its own patina, just slower, and behaves similarly to a really dense hardwood, leather, or concrete.
The Honed option is sanded, buffed and then a finish applied. Honed Richlite panels have a very flat smooth finish, making it look almost polished. They have a slight sheen which will dull over time and use. It behaves somewhat like a polished metal - scratches from use will stand out to begin with, but over time will develop a nice lustre and patina. Its performance is similar to Stainless Steel, Brass or Copper work surfaces.
Cupboards + Cabinets
As Richlite is heavier and stronger than most materials, when building cupboards or cabinet doors, you have a few options. Some designers have started to use 3mm Richlite on either side of a plywood core to show the contrasting reveal of ply layers, similar to how Stratum looks. You can check out this residential kitchen as an example of 3mm Richlite used to make up doors.
The most common thickness for doors with Richlite is 12mm solid. As this is a slightly thinner door thickness, the doors are typically hung using the same type of hinges used for glass, although some are available for more traditional wood based materials. This Swiss project uses 12mm thick solid Richlite cabinet doors.
If a thicker door is desired, 18mm can be used for cabinets, although you will need more hinges than normal due to the weight of the material. See a project by Studio Rhonda using 18mm cupboard doors.
Nothing will give you a better sense of a material than holding a piece in your hands, learn more about Richlite and request samples.