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What is Shou Sugi Ban?

The ancient Japanese heat treatment of Shou Sugi Ban is the latest trend in wood homes.

Photos: Nakamoto Forestry
If you’re into log and timber homes, chances are you’re obsessed with wood. But even the most ardent wood devotees seek noteworthy ways to show off this most natural of building materials. Sometimes, the best way to introduce something new to the log and timber home realm is to look to the past. Enter Shou Sugi Ban.
This traditional Japanese process of burning wood at high heat has been adapted over hundreds of years. In 21st century North America, the practice has found new life, and Nakamoto Forestry is leading the charge.
Nakamoto achieves Shou Sugi Ban’s (also called Yakisugi, which means “burned cypress” in Japanese) distinctive black color and pronounced texture by charring half-inch thick cypress planks in a kiln at intense temperatures, between 1,500 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, for several minutes. The planks are milled and air-dried before being placed in the kiln, and, once charred, a number of finishing techniques, from brushing to oiling, are applied to create a range of color and texture variations.
“The burning process makes the wood weather and insect resistant,” explains Bill Beleck, Nakamoto Forestry’s North American general manager.  “In the process, the wood cellulose is ignited. Cellulose is a carbohydrate, and that’s what bugs eat and fungi grow on. Burning it makes it pest and fungi resistant. It also casehardens the surface, which keeps it from eroding. And, believe it or not, it’s fire resistant.” These attributes also reduce maintenance and prolong its lifespan. Exterior siding can last 100 years with minimal upkeep.
Shou Sugi Ban can be used to clad the entire exterior of a timber home or as an accent. On a log home, it’s a great siding option for additions, second stories or dormers. Inside, it’s used as paneling on walls and ceilings.  And it’s even price competitive, costing $5 to $13 per square foot, potentially leaving you with a little extra budget to … well… burn.

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