Q: What are "paper" countertops? How are they made and are they truly sturdy enough to withstand kitchen traffic?
A: There are two types: Richlite and Paperstone. They're made out of compressed recycled paper pulp. Richlite is compressed to 30 pounds per square inch; Paperstone is 45 pounds per square inch, which is harder and denser. It's harder than wood. Paperstone will dull your knives if you cut on it.
They come in their raw form and basically you just cut them to size and just sand them until they're smooth, and rub them down with mineral oil. Paperstone has an oil finish that you can rub on it. It's essentially a blend of oil and waxes that you can put on it.
It's incredibly resistant to stain. Kool-Aid can sit on there a couple of hours and it will be fine. This stuff is so dense it takes awhile for things to sink in there and set in. The counters are heat-resistant up to 350 degrees and, of course, they're food-safe, bacterial-resistant and scratch-resistant. Colors come in gray, black, deep indigo and some muted colors like mocha, yellow and burgundy.
Most of those products range between $40 and $50 per square foot. It's for people who are looking for ways to incorporate an environmentally sound product into their project. And it's got all the properties that are important in a countertop.
Anthony Brozna, owner
Eco Supply Center, Richmond
Q: How do you create a window box that lasts through the fall?
A: Many things are frost-tolerant. What folks should be looking for are some of the trendier things found in magazines, like dwarf spruce, dwarf pine. Also use some of the hardy herbs: lavender and rosemary. Put in clipped rosemary in the shape of a cone. Mix it with mums. Some folks want something that drips over the edge of the window box. English ivy is still the workhorse plant, but don't settle for just any variety. Get some of the cultivated varieties that have special variegation in their leaves — the white or yellow edges. You can also add any kind of pansy or marigold.
Tom Brinda, assistant director
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Q: We're considering putting in wood floors. What are the newest trends?
A: In wood-floor trends, it would be wider planks. Two-and-a-quarter [inches] is
standard width, but we're doing a lot in 4- and 5-inch. It gives it more of a country look, more of a warmer look. The wider boards are going to be more appealing to the eye. We're also seeing a lot of different species, versus traditional oak. We do maple and hickory. The new, wood hand-scrape floor is coming in. That's actually a floor that after it's manufactured is taken by hand and scraped down to give it a rustic look.
Bruce "Bones" Boehnlein,
Costen Floors, Richmond