When thinking of classical Japanese architecture, rustic dark-hued facades likely pop right into our heads. The technique behind the simple, yet elegant aspect of these constructions, and the reason why they’re still intact to this day, is a technique called Shou Sugi Ban or Yakisugi. It means “burnt cedar plank,” and was super big in the early 1700s as a way to protect the exterior of houses and ships. Although it lost its popularity as new materials for exterior cladding started emerging in the 1900s, contemporary architects and designers are successfully bringing it back. Nowadays, you can see this unique method used for siding, flooring, decking, fencing, furniture, and other types of wood projects worldwide.
Shou Sugi Ban: Timeproof Timber
Yakisugi uses fire to preserve and enhance the properties of wood. Let that sink in. Although flames have the reputation of being wood’s worst enemy, the Japanese discovered burning actually helps enhance the wood’s fire resistance. Sounds unbelievable? Try lighting a bonfire with already scorched logs. The carbon layer generated by charring acts as a shield that protects the timber from easily catching on fire in the future.
Another quality found in Shou Sugi Ban is its resistance to water and mold. When burning, the natural pores of timber tend to shrink as moisture starts to decrease. This way, when exposed to humid environments or heavy rains, charred timber is less likely to sip back any moisture. Yakisugi comes in handy on exterior cladding because it prevents it from rotting. This process also burns out all the carbohydrates found in timber, making it naturally resistant to insects.
Given all of these superpowers provided to wood by fire, burnt timber facades are known to last for centuries with little to no maintenance. All you have to do is dust your cladding off and coat it with a layer of natural oil every 10 to 12 years to keep its appearance flawless.
This is How It’s Done
The first step towards getting a genuine Shou Sugi Ban look is picking the right wood. Traditionally, the Japanese masters used red cedar for Yakisugi, hence the name, but nowadays it can be performed on a wide variety of species, most commonly pine and Siberian larch. Any naturally resilient softwood with a porous surface will do.
Once we have the right timber, the fun can begin. The traditional method begins by making a tipi-like structure with your planks and setting it over the fire. A more practical way is to run flames over each board with a propane torch until you achieve the desired thickness of char. When your burnt wood is ready, all that’s left to do is brush off the excess soot and varnish with a single layer of orange or flaxseed oil.
Is Charred the New Black?
Shou Sugi Ban checks all the boxes when it comes to beauty, durability, and sustainability. This, among several other reasons, has made Yakisugi an antique turned modern staple in contemporary exterior and interior design, and we expect to see more and more of it in the years to come.
To find quality charred wood products for any project you have in mind, visit Degmeda.eu. You will find only the highest quality timber in our catalog, including Accoya, pine, cedar, larch, and spruce. We also provide wood charring services and worldwide shipping.