Interested in Shou Sugi Ban? You’ve come to the right place! Alluring, long-lasting, and offering unique architectural appeal, Shou Sugi Ban has gained popularity in recent years. In the following guide, you’ll learn all the essentials about Japanese charred wood siding.

What is Shou Sugi Ban?

From interior walls to intriguing furniture to eye-catching exterior siding, Shou Sugi Ban provides magnificent visual charm. Its texture and range of colors (from flowing streaks of red and brown to deep black) bring out a fascinating character that both complements traditional wood elements and makes contrasting colors pop. It’s also a technique that’s natural and extremely robust. But what exactly is it?

Originating in Japan during the 18th century, Shou Sugi Ban is a striking method to preserve and finish wood. This is done through the process of charring. Traditionally, this technique is used on cedar panels for the purpose of weatherproofing and produces a rich charcoal finish. Along with the utilitarian benefits, it also produces an absolutely stunning look. This includes textures that range from subtle crackles to the mimicry of alligator hide.

This treatment has been around for a while, but it’s seen a surge in popularity outside of Japan recently. This has led to a host of innovations in terms of different finishes, textures, and designs. When it comes to patterns, there is an endless list of applications. And with a wider variety of woods to choose from (more on that below), you can go from traditional char to modern wow depending on your taste and requirements.

This results in one-of-a-kind wood siding that can range from black minimalist to rustic charm. Those looking for a natural, artisanal touch that brings out another character of wood should definitely consider this authentic and unique option for exterior siding (as well as interior touches and one-off furnishings).

Quick Facts About Shou Sugi Ban

  1.     Originally from Japan (originated in the 18th century)
  2.     Natural, organic-looking process
  3.     Offers a plethora of textures, colors, and designs
  4.     Highly weather and pest resistant

Types of Wood and Oil to Use

So, what kind of wood do you use for Shou Ban Sugi? As mentioned above, the traditional wood of choice is cedar (with traditionalists utilizing only Cryptomeria japonica, a slender kind of cedar tree). As the years have gone by and the technique has gained worldwide visibility, however, many different types of wood have been used successfully.

Types of Wood

Technically, you can use pretty much any type of wood. But if you’re looking for the best results both aesthetically and functionally, there are a handful of prime picks.

  • Cedar: Of course, cedar is a fantastic choice. 
  • Pine: Pine is another fine candidate (as well as Accoya, which is pine that has gone through a process called acetylation that makes it super strong and rot-resistant). 
  • Siberian Larch: Another great pick is Siberian Larch. This is perfect for those looking for more distinct and deeper textures. 
  • Spruce: And like pine, spruce offers a phenomenal balance of affordability, availability, and sharp looks.

Note that using a torch and propane (the preferred method) can be highly dangerous. If you aren’t a particularly handy person, or you just don’t want to mess with fire, you can always reach out to a pro for assistance.

Type of Oil

Now that you’re acquainted with the kinds of wood, the next question is: what type of oil should I use for Shou Sugi Ban? In general, polyurethane is the top pick for exterior applications (whereas tung oil and boiled linseed oil are ideal for interior projects).

Keep in mind that oil can produce a darker hue depending on wood grain. It’s best to test it out first prior to beginning the official process. Also, less is more. Apply a thin coat either by brush or paint roller, depending on the scope of your project and the size of the panels.

Recap of Wood and Oil

  1.     Top picks are cedar, pine, larch, and spruce
  2.     Assorted variety of textures and depth
  3.     Polyurethane-based oils work best for siding
  4.     When it comes to oil application, less is more

How Long Does It Last?

So you might be asking yourself, how long does Shou Sugi Ban last? The short answer: up to 50-80 years. That’s quite impressive! Of course, it comes down to proper maintenance. Durable and naturally created, the wood siding offers low-maintenance benefits. But that doesn’t mean it’s without maintenance altogether. Let’s take a look at how to care for the prized Japanese carbonized wood treatment.

Offering an assortment of benefits (more on that below), Shou Sugi Ban is a champ when it comes to durability. As interior cladding, without much exposure to sunlight or touching, the wood treatment can be enjoyed without virtually any maintenance. When it comes to exterior use, it does require a bit more attention.

As with most wood treatments, you’ll need to oil the wood periodically. In general, Shou Sugi Ban wood siding should be oiled approximately every 10-15 years. This will ensure water-resistance as well as help to maintain the color.

Other factors that affect its longevity include wood quality, craftsmanship, and installation. You want to start with material that is structurally sound and ideal for your application. As mentioned in the previous section, the traditional choice is cedar but can also range from spruce to pine. Next, you want the finish to be applied in a manner that promotes resistance to the elements and many years of low-maintenance lifespan. And finally, it pays to hire a knowledgeable installer.

Lifespan Recap

  1.     Shou Sugi Ban lasts up to 80 years
  2.     It’s low maintenance but does require care
  3.     Interior cladding (when untouched and unexposed) requires virtually no upkeep
  4.     Exterior siding should be oiled every 10-15 years

Benefits of Shou Sugi Ban Wood Siding

Though its aesthetic is distinctive (and often stark), Shou Sugi Ban offers a nice balance of flexibility, allowing it to shine on everything from rustic tiny homes to modernist abodes. It’s also considered one of the most beautiful methods of preserving wood. Here are some of the pros of using Shou Sugi Ban on your home’s exterior:

Durable & Long-Lasting

This type of siding can last up to 80 years, which is an incredibly long time for an organic siding option!

Range of Colors

Just talking looks alone, Shou Sugi Ban is in a class of its own. Providing deeply charred palettes that range from red to charcoal, the wood treatment also brings out the individualistic character of the wood’s grain. 

Diversity of Applications

This creates a look that is both stunningly chic and intriguingly organic, at home on a rustic getaway as it is on a modern mansion.

Preservation Perks

And when it comes to preservation, Shou Sugi Ban is amazing! The charred character of the wood not only fights against the effects of water, but also mold, fire, and a multitude of pests (including many pesky insects). 


And since it requires a non-toxic finish, the wood siding is ideal for anyone looking for a safe, environmentally friendly option.


Looking for a fully certified, affordable wood siding contractor in your area? Need someone who specializes in Shou Sugi Ban? CLAD Siding makes it simple! Japanese wood siding is a fantastic way to protect your place from the elements while adding super curbside appeal. Click here to get started with beautifying your home’s exterior!