Japanese Flame Treated Wood: Understanding the Art of Shou Sugi Ban

The art of Japanese flame treated wood, known as yakisugi in Japan and shou sugi ban elsewhere, is a centuries-old craft that is returning to popularity today. This method of preserving wood involves heat treating it with fire, a process that hardens the surface layer and preserves the wood from rot, insects, and other damaging elements. It’s a beautiful form of wood siding that has been used for centuries in traditional Japanese architecture. Today, it is becoming increasingly popular in modern designs.

Introduction to Japanese Flame Treated Wood

The traditional “flue method” burning process involves binding three planks of wood together to create a chimney and burning the inside to heat treat the wood surface. The modern method improves on this, using a charcoal-filled kiln. The result is a blackened, charred wood surface that has a unique look and texture.

Some producers use a handheld blowtorch to achieve a similar design aesthetic, but this method does not provide the same protective benefits as the others. Shou sugi ban is incredibly durable and resistant to rot and decay, making it a great choice for outdoor projects. The wood is also resistant to fire and can offer an increased level of protection for projects that are exposed to the elements.

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Japanese flame treated wood has a very distinct aesthetic, and it adds a unique visual element to any project. It has a modern, contemporary appearance that can easily be incorporated into a variety of different design styles. It’s also a great option for those who are looking for an eco-friendly alternative to traditional building materials.

Japanese Flame Treated Wood Cost

Charred wood is a beautiful and unique material, but it can also be quite affordable. The cost to produce the wood can be significantly lower than traditional building materials. Shou sugi ban is a maintenance-optional product, see shou sugi ban maintenance, so the lifetime cost of the product over the course of decades can be much lower than other wood siding options that require more frequent maintenance. This type of wood is incredibly beautiful and durable, making it a great option for any project. Whether you’re looking to add a modern touch to an outdoor project or are looking for a more affordable option, charred wood is an excellent choice.

Benefits of Using Flame Treated Wood

One of the most significant benefits of flame treated wood is its aesthetic appeal. When burned, the wood will often develop an attractive dark finish with a unique pattern. This finish is not only visually appealing, but also serves to protect the wood from the elements. Flame treated wood is most often used as an exterior siding material, which makes it perfect for architecture that requires both beauty and durability.

Image via Rafael Soldi Photography

Another benefit of flame treated wood is its low maintenance. Once the wood is treated and installed, it requires very little maintenance. This makes it ideal for people who do not have the time or resources to dedicate to regular maintenance tasks. Additionally, shou sugi ban is highly resistant to fire and rot, meaning that it will not need to be replaced as often as untreated wood.

Different Types of Flame Treated Wood

Although Japanese flame treatment is the most well-known, there are other types of flame treated wood. Some of these include char-wood, kiln-dried, and French-burned.

Char-wood involves burning the wood at higher temperatures, typically ranging from 500 to 600 degrees Celsius. This type of treatment will result in a blackened finish and can be used for both interior and exterior applications.

French-burned wood is a variation of the Japanese flame treatment method. This treatment involves subjecting the wood to higher temperatures, usually between 800 and 1000 degrees Celsius. The wood is then cooled quickly. This results in a much darker finish than regular flame treated wood, making it perfect for applications that require a more dramatic look.

Caring for Shou Sugi Ban

Although flame treated wood is highly durable, it is important to take certain precautions in order to ensure its longevity. First and foremost, it should be kept dry, either through installation of a rain screen with optimal drainage or in a dry environment. This will help to prevent warping caused by moisture. Additionally, it is important to avoid direct contact with standing water, as this can cause the wood to swell and warp.

It is also important to periodically check the surface of the wood for signs of wear and tear. If the wood begins to look worn, it can be refinished with a special oil prefinish. This will help to extend the color and surface lifespan of the wood and keep it looking as good as new.


Japanese flame treated wood is an excellent choice for both exterior and interior applications. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it is also highly durable and requires little maintenance. This makes it an ideal material for both residential and commercial properties. Additionally, the process of flame treating the wood is an ancient technique that has been used in Japan for centuries. This makes it an excellent choice for people who want to incorporate traditional elements into their design.

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