Yakisugi, known as “shou sugi ban” in the west, is quickly becoming known worldwide as a great option for exterior wood siding. It's inexpensive. It's durable. It's beautiful. It's wholesome. But how does a traditional material used by farmers and fishermen in Japan suddenly become a must-have in the world of western architecture?
There are a vast number of house siding options available to us today, including cement, resin, metal, and wood. All of these offerings have a good lifespan at a viable budget, not to mention their desirable appearance.
In our experience there are several reasons yakisugi is chosen, here they are listed below in order of owner priority:
1. It's inexpensive.
On most low and medium-rise construction projects, budget compliance and cost performance are the ultimate priorities.
One of the biggest misconceptions we run into when speaking with new customers is how much using yakisugi will cost them. Due to the change in the wood that takes place during the traditional yakisugi heat treatment, each board will have standard dimensions. It is air-dried instead of kiln-dried; the intense surface burning means that it does not need to be faced or sanded. All of this lowers manufacturing costs.
Yakisugi is on-par or cheaper than most stain-grade alternatives. Add to this that yakisugi never really needs to be oiled or re-oiled. The long-term cost-performance is a no-brainer for custom homes.
2. It's durable.
When asked how long yakisugi siding will last, we sometimes tell people to let their grandchildren worry about it.
Sugi is a porous, tannin-rich species with high weathering durability in exterior applications. The millwork necessary to survive heat treatment also means that the growth ring orientation is optimized to shed water and dry out quickly. The quick drying time means improved longevity with wood siding.
The intense heat treatment burns off cellulose in the wood so that fungi do not grow in it and bugs do not eat it. The surface is case-hardened and has a protective soot layer. Both of these characteristics help yakisugi to repel water and provide maximum UV protection.
3. It’s beautiful.
Siding is one of the most cosmetic and noticeable design elements of a structure. It is what the owner faces every day when they return home or relax on their porch, and it can make or break curb appeal. Siding is also a large cost on a construction project, so owners demand that it looks good.
Yakisugi is made from wood, and wood has an undeniable natural beauty to it. Optimizing the millwork for yakisugi heat treatment requires rigid plank and grain consistency. This then translates into even color and grain patterns over the surface of your wall.
Yakisugi can be finished differently and is available in three different surfaces. It can be left unbrushed and textured (Suyaki®), gently brushed smooth (Gendai®), or wire brushed (Pika-Pika®). These three surface treatments can be combined with different oil finish colors which means you have plenty of options to match the project design.
It can be re-oiled periodically to keep it looking fresh and new, or it can be allowed to weather into a unique patina as has been the tradition in Japan for centuries.
4. It’s wholesome.
Sustainability is important. Healthy living is important. All Japanese yakisugi comes from forests that have been carefully planted and harvested for many generations. Wood siding ranks number one for sustainability among all exterior cladding material options. What's more: two kilograms of carbon are captured for every kilogram of lumber produced.
Yakisugi heat treatment improves long term durability and negates the need for painting or oiling. This means that it is a less energy-intense material than regular wood siding. Wood siding has 15 times the insulative value of cement board. Not to mention the porous species absorbs and expels moisture to moderate weather fluctuation, lowering energy consumption. Non-toxic natural oil finishes don’t stink and don’t off-gas harmful chemicals. Exposed soot absorbs impurities in the air.
Yakisugi is a unique material with benefits beyond beauty. At Nakamoto Forestry we’re obviously biased, but we know our industry niche very well. We are confident that wholesome natural materials are always the best choice, and we are dedicated to our customers' health, value, and the planet. Next time you’re planning a project we hope that you consider using yakisugi as your exterior wood siding material.