It’s inexpensive. It’s durable. It’s beautiful. It’s wholesome.
Yakisugi, also known as “shou sugi ban” in the west, is quickly becoming known worldwide as a great option for exterior siding. But how does a vernacular material used by farmers and fishermen in Western Japan for centuries suddenly become a luxurious must-have in the world of western architecture within about 15 years? There are a vast number of siding options available to us today, including cement, resin, metal, and wood, all offering a good lifespan at a viable budget and with desirable appearance. In our experience there are several reasons yakisugi is chosen, including the siding selection trifecta of cost+durability+beauty, plus alpha. Here they are listed below in common owner priority:
- 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. The rigid millwork traditions necessary for stable heat treatment cause yakisugi to have standard dimensions, the wood must be air dried instead of being kiln dried, and the intense surface burning makes it unnecessary to face or sand the planks, all lowering manufacturing costs. Apples to apples yakisugi is actually on-par or cheaper than most stain-grade alternatives. Add to this that yakisugi never really needs to be oiled or re-oiled, and the long-term cost-performance is a no-brainer for custom homes.
- 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. Quick dry time corresponds to improved longevity with 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 there is a protective soot layer, both characteristics which cause yakisugi to repel water and have maximum UV protection.
- 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 to the public. Siding is also a large line item 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, which translates into even color and grain patterns over the wall surface. It can be left unbrushed and textured (Suyaki), gently brushed smooth (Gendai), or wire brushed (Pika-Pika), and these three surface treatments can be combined with different oil finish colors for unlimited 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.
- 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 #1 for sustainability among all exterior cladding material options, and 2 kilograms of carbon are captured for each 1 kilogram of lumber produced. Yakisugi heat treatment improves long term durability and negates the need for painting or oiling, so it is a less energy-intense cladding material than regular wood siding. Wood siding has 15x the insulative value of cement board and 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 think about using yakisugi as your siding or paneling material.