SHOU SUGI BAN

Buyer’s Guide

In recent years, shou sugi ban has become popular among those who want a natural, low-maintenance siding option. 

Charred wood siding offers numerous benefits, not to mention a stunning appearance. For some, shou sugi ban is the ultimate natural barrier between you and the elements. For others, it’s a sustainable solution that will last a lifetime and become even more beautiful over time. If you’re thinking about using shou sugi ban for your next project but aren’t sure where to start, we can help.

What is Shou Sugi Ban Siding?

Shou Sugi Ban (called yakisugi in Japan) is a charred wood siding product made from cypress. It is intensely burned as a preservative heat treatment using a traditional process that originated in Japan hundreds of years ago. The end result is a hardened wood plank which is resistant to decay, insects, weathering and fire.

Yakisugi is a low-maintenance wood siding. The soot layer will begin to wear away after a few years, leaving a beautiful patina unlike any other wood siding. It can also be re-oiled every few years to maintain the original color of the product. In Japan, yakisugi is valued for its beauty and unique wabi sabi patina.

Historic Yakisugi in Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan
Buyers Guide Banner Nakamoto Sugi Forest Hiroshima Japan-2070

Authentic shou sugi ban is a natural, sustainable siding product made exclusively from Japanese sugi cypress. At Nakamoto Forestry, we are in charge of our entire supply chain – from the time seedlings are first planted in our forest to the arrival on your jobsite. Learn more about the sustainability of shou sugi ban.

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Types of Shou Sugi Ban

Shou sugi ban comes in all different colors and textures. However, authentic shou sugi ban is always made from Japanese sugi cypress (the “sugi” in “shou sugi ban” and “yakisugi”). Authentic shou sugi ban will always start out as Suyaki, with different surface textures achieved by brushing the soot layer away after charring. This allows for consistent heat treatment in all of our products, rather than a cosmetic burn that doesn’t have any further benefits beyond aesthetic. A pigmented oil prefinish or polyurethane coat can then be applied to the wood to preserve the soot layer and increase color and wood longevity. Some shou sugi ban options can also be left unfinished after charring and brushing if you want to go the traditional route!

SUGI
Sugi is Japanese Cypress

Cryptomeria japonica is Sugi in Japanese and is a monotypic genus in the Cypress family indigenous to Japan.  It is often called Japanese Cedar and is utilized primarily for construction lumber due to high rigidity and quick drying. We specialize in the Hachiro variety used specifically for siding in Western Japan.  Our Sugi is milled and graded for maximum durability in exterior applications and to showcase the inherently beautiful grain.

SUYAKI™
TRADITIONAL CHARRED SUGI

Suyaki is the most traditional and easily recognizable of our yakisugi “shou sugi ban” products. Due to the thick, hydrophobic, UV-inhibiting soot layer, Suyaki has the best color and wood longevity as well as incredible fire resistance.  We apply oil prefinishes to solidify the soot layer, minimizing blemishes, making installation easier, and preventing soot from coming off when touched.

GENDAI™
CHARRED SUGI BRUSHED ONCE

Gendai is the most commonly specified yakisugi “shou sugi ban” surface for exterior applications. A light brushing process knocks down the heavy soot layer and leaves a smooth, silky appearance. The burnt fiber crevasse shadows are subtle, and Gendai can either be installed with or without an oil prefinish.

PIKA PIKA™
CHARRED SUGI BRUSHED TWICE

Pika-Pika is made by passing the yakisugi “shou sugi ban” planks through a second wire brushing process. This removes all loose soot from the softer spring growth rings and leaves the late wood as contrasting burnt ridges. It is a topographic, textured surface that follows the wood grain, and we hand-grade after surfacing to achieve a consistent blend of heartwood and sapwood.

Shou Sugi Ban Siding Cost

In terms of lifetime cost, shou sugi ban is actually similar or cheaper than its alternatives. This makes it a cost-effective siding for any project. Shou sugi ban siding never needs to be re-oiled, which makes it unmatched for long-term cost-performance. The average price per sq/ft of shou sugi ban wood is $7-15 depending on the product specs. 

Shown below is a pricing breakdown for Gendai™ in Alkyd Black, our most popular shou sugi ban product.

Pricing, Dimensions and Grades Available
Octothorpe House Nakamoto Forestry Gendai Shou Sugi Ban 2

When Choosing Shou Sugi Ban Siding, Consider the Following Factors:

  • Project details: What’s the climate like where you’re planning to build? How many square feet of siding will you need? Is your project an interior or exterior application? What’s your timeline? Budget? These are all important factors that we will need to know in order to help guide you to the right product for your project.
  • Surface texture: Do you want a traditional, textured surface? Or a matte-black? Perhaps you want to see some of the grain detail? Our three different shou sugi ban surface options (Suyaki™, Gendai™ and Pika-Pika™) available in multiple wood grades offer a wide range of textures before you even need to worry about colors!
  • Color: Most people associate shou sugi ban with the color black, but we offer many more options than that. Once you know what surface you want to use and where it will be installed, you can narrow down your color options and go from there.
  • Wood Grade: Knots or no knots?
  • Wood Profile: Shiplap or square-edge planks?
  • Accessories: Aluminum corners, flashing and black nails ensure that your project will withstand the elements and stay looking fresh and new for longer. 

Important Project Details

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The details of your project lay the foundation for every decision you will make along the way, including siding. The key factors we need to know about your build before you select a siding product are: 

  1. Size – How many square feet of siding will you need?
  2. Interior vs. Exterior – Where will the siding be installed?
  3. Climate – For exterior applications, what is the climate like where you will be building?
  4. Project timeline – How quickly will you need your siding delivered?
  5. Budget – is your budget strict or do you have some wiggle room when it comes to siding options? 

Once you have these details figured out, you are ready to start the product selection process. You can get in touch with us directly, or request a budgetary or formal quote to get the ball rolling. We’ll need the above information from you and then we’ll get some samples sent your way. In the meantime, deciding on a few more details below will help make the ordering process go smoothly.

Product Options

Your project details are all squared away, you’ve got samples in hand and you’re ready to start narrowing down your options. This is where your aesthetic preferences come into play, so have fun with it! 

Surface Texture

All three of our shou sugi ban siding textures as well as unburned sugi are suitable options for exterior and interior applications. 

  • Suyaki™ is our traditional charred, unbrushed yakisugi surface. This is the most commonly used type of shou sugi ban in Japan. Exterior grade Suyaki™ has a leathery texture, and blemishes, weathers and develops character over time. Suyaki™ is a vernacular material and the fine patina epitomizes the traditional wabi-sabi aesthetic. Due to the thick, hydrophobic, UV-inhibiting soot layer, exterior Suyaki™ has fantastic color and wood longevity, as well as incredible fire resistance. Interior Suyaki™ has a coating that hardens the surface and is easy to clean.
  • Gendai™ is our most commonly specified shou sugi ban surface for exterior applications. A light brushing knocks down the heavy soot layer and leaves a smooth, silky appearance. The burnt fiber crevasse shadows are subtle, and Gendai™ can either be installed with or without an oil prefinish.
  • Pika-Pika™ is made by passing the shou sugi ban planks through a second wire brushing process that removes all loose soot from the softer spring growth rings and leaves the late wood as contrasting burnt ridges. It is a topographic, textured surface that follows the wood grain, and we hand-grade after surfacing to achieve a consistent blend of heartwood and sapwood.

Color

We offer over 30 different surface + color combinations, with availability varying slightly based on interior vs. exterior application. If you’ve narrowed down the application and surface type that you will be using, you should have a handful of beautiful options left to choose from. 

  • Suyaki™ is only available in black.
  • Gendai™ ranges from black to deep natural brown to light gray.
  • Pika-Pika™ shows the most color, and can range from black to white in color.

All of our surface + color combinations will weather differently over time depending on the product selected, the climate, and the amount of UV exposure on each side. If you have special considerations about color, get in touch with our team and we will happily answer any questions you have.

Nakamoto-Forestry-Secondary-Product-Pika-Pika-Armstrong-Rustic-Brown-1

Wood Profile

Do you prefer shiplap or square-edge boards? Both have their pros and cons, but we typically recommend shiplap siding for a majority of projects due to the ease of installation and regular maintenance. Both shiplap and square-edge profiles are available in 6” and 8” widths.

For Gendai™ products, we offer an additional 6″ S4S (burned on both sides) profile for fence and louvre applications. Contact our sales team directly to specify Gendai S4S for your next project.

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Wood Grade

All of our siding product options with the exception of Suyaki™ are available in Standard Select grade (visible knots) or Premium Clear grade (no knots). There is no difference in performance between the two options, it is simply an aesthetic and budgetary choice. Note: Clear-grade boards are only available in 6” shiplap profile.

Standard Select Grade

Select Grade Sugi

Premium Clear Grade

Sugi Unoiled Clear Grade Wood Siding

Accessories

Once you’ve settled on a product, the final step is to determine which accessories your project requires. We stock a variety of aluminum corner, flashing and rain screen accessories that are designed to fit the aesthetic of our products, make regular maintenance a breeze and last forever. We also stock a variety of black-painted face nails that will blend in with shou sugi ban siding beautifully.

Putting It All Together

Use this checklist to ensure you’ve taken care of each step:

  • Project Details Submitted – Project Size, Exterior or Interior application, Climate, Timeline and Budget
  • Product Selected – Surface Texture, Color, Profile, Wood Grade, and Accessories
  • Quote Requested – online Budgetary Quote or by contacting our team directly

Once you’ve filled out your quote our team will be in touch to get everything wrapped up shortly. Our process may feel long and overly-involved, but it’s designed to ensure that you get exactly what you want, with proper product and maintenance expectations catered specifically to your project. We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality shou sugi ban available in the world, and we wouldn’t be doing it justice if we didn’t pay extra care and attention to every single order. Thank you! 

Questions? Contact us at any point in the process and we’ll happily walk you through each step to get you the right siding for your job! 

FAQ

What is your minimum order size?
400 square feet for the first line item.

Is yakisugi (shou sugi ban) suitable for all climates?
Shou sugi ban is time-tested in Japan, a long skinny country with climates ranging semi-tropical to Siberian, and almost all abrasive coastal marine. Shou sugi ban will probably outlast any other softwood in any climate. Just make sure to install it over screen walls and with face nails to prevent rot and minimize movement.

How does shou sugi ban weather in appearance over time?
Yakisugi, just like any natural wood siding, will patina over time. Color change can be slowed down by applying oil finishes, and the original color can be brought back in the future with a maintenance coat of oil. However, the heat treatment is originally designed to negate the need for an oil finish, and therefore the traditional aesthetic embraces a gradual patina. Unbrushed Suyaki will stay black until the soot layer erodes off in about 50 years, and then will start to change color. Gendai and Pika-Pika products will weather in color similar to any natural wood siding. All products can be re-oiled any time in future to freshen up the color and sheen as desired. There are no fast rules for how wood weathers in color since every site has different conditions. However, in general over time siding tends to mellow reddish brown on south-facing elevations and bleach to a gray tone on north-facing elevations.

Is Nakamoto Forestry’s shou sugi ban more expensive and does it have a larger carbon footprint due to being imported?
We are actually able to offer a lower price point apples to apples since we control the entire manufacturing and distribution process, and production is to economies of scale. In terms of shipping cost and carbon footprint, 99% of the trip between our coastal mills in Japan and Portland distribution facility is by efficient ocean freight–then intermodal direct to your jobsite.

Learn more about our carbon footprint & sustainability