Building Materials Comparison: Shou Sugi Ban vs. Other Cladding Options

How Charred Wood Siding Stacks Up Against the Most Popular Construction Materials in the World

When designing a home, consideration of building materials is one of the most important tasks of the process. Your overall build considerations include how much to focus on sustainability, how much maintenance will be required long-term, and how much budget to allocate to each scope. Add these to the range of design decisions such as flow and utility, the atmosphere each space has, the full range of large to small details, how you will bring natural light indoors, etc. All of these topics and more will inevitably lead to specific choices surrounding materials you select to build your home. Since our specialty is shou sugi ban siding, we expect you are interested in how it compares with other standard exterior building materials in terms of generic, quantifiable metrics.

Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world, so we will include it to start. Similarly, modern design has pushed architectural trends heavily towards the minimalistic and low maintenance elements of metal and glass for exterior coverage, so those are next. Wood siding has been a primary material on homes for centuries, and we will next include painted softwood since it is the North American standard finish for wood siding. Lastly, we include our specialty shou sugi ban with the same metric comparisons. In a world that’s constantly innovating and with so many options available nowadays, why would you choose an extremely old-fashioned siding product like Japanese shou sugi ban?

For quantitative comparison we broke down the top construction materials in North America by overall cost, maintenance, environmental impact, durability and customizability, to give you a better idea of the options available and the pros and cons of each. Read on to learn why shou sugi ban has been re-discovered as a superior building material for conscious design.



  • Durable
  • Moldable
  • Rot, rust, fire, wind, water resistant
  • Soundproof


  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Difficult to move/remove
  • Limited versatility
  • Slow to build with

Initial Cost: 2/10

Maintenance: 8/10

Environmental Impact: 1/10 (bad)

Durability: 10/10

Customizability: 5/10

Total: 26/50

Concrete is the most popular building material in the world, and for good reason. Concrete is stable, strong, and easy (albeit slow) to work with. The real drawbacks come in terms of cost and environmental impact, with customizability being high in terms of engineering and low in aesthetics. Concrete is nearly unavoidable for most projects, as it’s the best product available for foundations and sticky situations that require extremely dimensionally stable walls or supports. However, limiting the amount of concrete used beyond those critical points will keep project costs and environmental impact lower.



  • Durable
  • High customizability & versatility
  • Rot, wind, water, fire resistant
  • Low maintenance


  • Poor insulator
  • Easily damaged
  • Expensive

Initial Cost: 2/10

Maintenance: 8/10

Environmental Impact: 5/10

Durability: 9/10

Customizability: 8/10

Total: 32/50

Metal is also stable and strong, but can be more difficult to work with than concrete and typically carries a higher initial cost. It is commonly used for structural support, roofing, corner details, and even exterior siding. Metal shines brightest vs. the building material competition when used in highly engineered, tall buildings in urban spaces that are resistant to seismic activity. Unless recycled, the environmental impact is overall higher than wood but lower than concrete. It is a highly durable material with a decent amount of customizability and color options depending on the application. Metal can also be used to great effect as an accent material, but using it for a majority of a project will eat your budget up quick!



  • Rot, wind, water, fire, rust resistant
  • High visibility
  • High customizability where applicable
  • Low maintenance


  • Not a strong, structural building material; needs support
  • Expensive
  • Poor insulator

Initial Cost: 1/10

Maintenance: 8/10

Environmental Impact: 3/10

Durability: 2/10

Customizability: 5/10

Total: 19/50

Glass is generally reserved for windows and doors, but as modern architectural design has developed, so have applications for larger glass walls. For projects with a high budget that place a lot of importance on natural light or a modern aesthetic, you may see larger portions of the structure being constructed with glass. However, outside of typical window and door applications, glass can cause issues with durability and cost. Glass is not a structural material unless reinforced, and constructing large areas out of primarily glass can cause material constraints and limitations elsewhere as you scramble to ensure dimensional stability. As far as glass goes, if you can afford a lot of it, go for it! But make sure you understand the drawbacks and position it accordingly to avoid a fiasco.

Painted Wood Siding


  • Wind, water, rust resistant
  • Unlimited color options
  • Low initial cost
  • Environmentally friendly (renewable carbon sink)


  • Maintenance & upkeep costs – regular repainting, etc. 
  • Mold & moisture hotspot if not installed as a screen wall
  • Environmental impact fluctuates depending on type of wood, manufacturer & finish
  • More susceptible to fire, water damage, decay, termites

Initial Cost: 8/10

Maintenance: 5/10

Environmental Impact: 7/10

Durability: 5/10

Customizability: 8/10

Total: 33/50

Painted wood siding has been around forever. Take a drive through just about any suburb in North America and you’ll find countless buildings constructed using wood siding and painted every color under the sun. While a solid middle-ground option in terms of price, environmental impact, durability, maintenance, and customizability, all of these factors are subject to change based on where the wood is sourced from, how it’s manufactured, and what types of finishes and paints are applied. You have thousands of options to choose from, and not all of them are good. It’s important to do your due diligence with any building material, but with wood especially. For most, painted wood is the go-to option for exterior siding because they aren’t aware that there are other options in the same price range that provide different benefits. Such as…

Shou Sugi Ban Siding


  • Unmatched organic, natural beauty
  • Water, fire, mold, decay, pest resistant
  • Same easy install as stain grade wood siding
  • Low to no maintenance
  • Environmentally friendly (renewable carbon sink)
  • Variety of non-toxic natural color oil finish options 
  • Low long-term cost of ownership


  • Initial cost is higher than painted wood 
  • Owner hesitation or contractor up-charging due to perceived liability 
  • Fewer overall color options than painted wood
  • Not as durable as concrete or metal
  • Not a readily available commodity at local lumberyards

Initial Cost: 7/10

Maintenance: 8/10

Environmental Impact: 9/10

Durability: 6/10

Customizability: 6/10

Total: 36/50

Shou sugi ban siding covers a lot of bases that the other building materials on this list do not, and it offers enough durability and customizability to fit the needs for most residential and low-rise commercial building projects. While not as tough as concrete or metal, charred wood siding is case hardened and has still been specifically used for buildings in marine and other abrasive zones due to its resistance to harsh weather and especially lots of precipitation. When compared to painted wood cost and maintenance, the initial cost is slightly higher, then after a couple of decades it lowers long-term cost due to minimal maintenance. If grown and manufactured efficiently and with a low carbon footprint throughout the process, shou sugi ban achieves both lowest cost and highest sustainability of all options.

So Which Building Material is the Best?

Here are the final scores we gave each of the different building materials listed out of 50 available points in the 5 categories listed above. Keep in mind, each of these different materials have specific applications where they obviously match best – you wouldn’t use concrete for windows or glass for a foundation. However, when comparing basic material options in general it’s useful to understand how your material selection will affect overall cost, long term maintenance schedule, how “green” the project will be, and how much control you have over the aesthetics.

Concrete: 26 – best for foundations and areas where structural support is of utmost importance.

Metal: 32 – best for roofing and structural support for tall buildings, especially in areas with seismic activity.

Glass: 19 – best for windows & high-budget modern designs that want to maximize natural light.

Painted Wood: 33 – best for projects with budget constraints or solid color aesthetic.

Shou Sugi Ban: 36 – best for environmentally-friendly, aesthetics-driven projects that need some protection from weather, mold, and pests.

Want to learn more about the benefits of Shou Sugi Ban siding as a building material? Check out our Shou Sugi Ban 101 post here!

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