Shou-sugi-ban… I’m in Love!

Shou-sugi-ban… I’m in Love!


The ancient Japanese technique of charring wood to preserve it for use as exterior siding. Traditionally, Japanese Cyprus was used, but now we’re seeing this technique applied to cedar, and other woods. We’re also seeing the wood being utilized in new and interesting ways beyond exterior siding.

I first learned about shou-sugi-ban on HGTV’s Kitchen Cousins, and fell instantly in love. No, not with the cousins! With the distinct and unique look of the wood.

Here’s a close-up.

Delta Millworks on Houzz 

The wood is carefully charred, doused in water and cooled. Once cooled, it’s brushed to remove the dust and loose debris, and then cleaned, meaning washed and dried. The shou-sugi-ban can either be finished with a natural oil or left as is.

Anne and the Architects

Why would you want to do this? Well, its cool factor, for one! But actually, the charcoal barrier preserves the wood and is fire, rot and insect resistant!

Cast Architecture Blog

Here are a few examples of shou-sugi-ban in action.

Colin Conces Photography

Such a great panel look without the nastiness of paneling! Let’s not go back the 70s, okay?

This siding is an example of how the wood silvers once it’s brushed, cleaned, and oiled.

Orchard House Blog

And here you see how it looks cladding a fireplace. 

I can’t tell if the wood has been oiled or not. What do you think?

I love this table top burner.

And the irony behind it and the fireplace… you know, charred wood as a feature where fire burns brightly 😉 But seriously, isn’t this burner pretty awesome?

These stools speak for themselves.

Urban Now Design / Nicholas Wray Photography

 Designed by Steve Hamm and Don Wroth of Urban Now Design, in their words, they “Like to create cool stuff, plain and simple.”

I’ll leave you with this last piece, a table by Materia Designs.

Materia Designs

This is a great example of blending ancient technique with modern design, and topping it off with a little vintage statement… did you guess the table top is made of reclaimed barn board? Hemlock, actually.

What’s not to love?

I’m thinking a shou-sugi-ban headboard would be pretty cool. But, I do wonder how long it takes for the the charred smell to disappear!

So how about you? Have you heard of shou-sugi-ban before? Do you love it… or would you rather leave the charring back at the camp fire?

Thanks for stopping by!

 All image sources credited below each image.

36 thoughts on “Shou-sugi-ban… I’m in Love!”

  • This process is pretty cool I will admit! I saw this on Kitchen Cousins as well…and can I just say what an amazing place this was! So many different ways to incorporate this into a space…esp love those stools and what about that table top burner! So unique! Great take on something different Sheila:)

  • Ive never heard of it! Def looks cool. Love the idea of using is as a fence, maybe stair risers or table legs like in the last pic. I wonder how it feels to the touch? Very cool indeed thanks for sharing Sheila!!

  • I love the last table in your post, but must admit, I have mixed feelings. I have a huge fear of fire, so not too sure if I would be too comfortable with a lot of burnt wood around! That being said I do love the texture it gives. – Enjoy your day Sheila!

    • You know, I never even gave fear of fire a thought. I can totally understand where you are coming from… I received another comment that said much the same thing. Definitely something to be sensitive to. Thank you for your comment, Heather. I really appreciate the perspective…

  • I’ve never heard of it, but I like it! Especially how it becomes silvery after being cleaned and oiled. The charring really gives the wood great texture and character.

    Let’s just hope there isn’t a surge in house fires when people start DIYing their own shou-sugi-ban!

    • You are so quick – a surge in house fires from DIYing made me laugh… but I shouldn’t be too quick to laugh, because I would love to give this a try. I just haven’t figured out the logistics of where! Better take away from the home, right? 😉

  • Oh that fireplace is to die for!!!! Gosh, I forgot all about this look. Not that we would remember too much but wasn’t it cool in the 70’s? Nice revival!!!

    • I think this wood treatment would have to be in the right setting, for sure! And outside would definitely make sense to me. I do wonder how long the char smell takes to disappear. I couldn’t find any information on that aspect, so an outside project would be a safer bet to get started…

    • Awe, so nice to see your name pop up Karianne! Thank you 🙂 I really want to give this a try, and I’m also curious about the charred smell. I have a small project in mind, but I’m going to wait until the Spring before leaping in… that way the weather will be nicer so I can leave the wood outside for a bit!

    • I had another comment as well about the negative reaction to the charred wood. I really appreciate this feedback, because it’s definitely something to be cognizant of…

  • Hi all, I am trying to gather more information about the technique , like papers,etc. I need to know if it is only possible to do it with cedar or other woods also would work? How can I test to see what is the quality of the result? Walnut, Russian,white? I need to use a cheap wood and can’t afford cedar for the current project, what is the suggestion?

    • Thank you for your comment! I don’t really know where to point you for more specific information and choice of woods, etc. The information I shared was a combination of google searching and from the Kitchen Cousins makeover on HGTV. It’s a very old technique, so you might also find information in books on the subject. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful. Good luck with your project!

  • Sorry, but I can’t understand where is YOUR point of view: wood appearance is not good and you burn it? You enjoy destroying something to make it look “nice”?You want to look at things around you which are half-burned? If you can spare a moment and email me a note for this blog, or evenmore write an answer, I will be honored, andwill be shown why this burning is so nice.

    • Hello Dimitri,
      I appreciate your confusion and will try to answer your question.

      Shou Sugi Ban is not a method for destroying wood, it is by contrast an ancient Japanese technique for preserving exterior siding by charring it. After charring the wood it is cooled, cleaned, and finished with a natural oil. Shou Sugi Ban is an environmentally friendly way to preserve the timber and also makes it fire resistant. Treating wood in this way makes chemical preservatives, paints, and retardants unnecessary. Today we are seeing the look created from Shou Sugi Ban being applied to interiors as a design aesthetic. I personally like the look of the charred wood, but it is not for everyone. I hope I have helped explain the fundamentals behind Shou Sugi Ban for you.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      • Thank you Sheila. It may be a way of preserving the wood for exterior use. As far as taste is concerned, I should only say I don’t like it. On the other hand, one should first see and use such things before deciding on the matter, and I have not experienced the method apart form these few pictures on the internet.

  • Sorry I cant see the attraction,I can understand the principle regarding preservation of timber, as an art form no. I prefer the natural beauty of wood, polished, oiled or varnished. I might use the idea for my compost bin though and see if the timber lasts longer.

  • The world takes all kinds to go around. I’m really passionate about my woodwork projects and creating something beautiful out of some really unique and uncommon pieces of nature’s gold. I am unfortunately not in favour of the “chargrilled ” look on display here. Almost anyone can take a piece of lumber irrespective of the species and set it alight.
    Just a thought? After a few years, how does one clean the fine dust particles that will settle between the charcoal? Or does that add to the “Character” in your art works?

    • Hmmm. Thank you for your feedback and sharing your thoughts on the Sho-sugi-ban method for treating wood… I don’t really know how it gets cleaned. Good question with no real answer. I just know I love the look!

      • After watching Chip & JoAnna Gaines on Fixer Upper on HGTV from what I saw after you burn the wood and let it cool then you take a wire brush and scrape all the burnt wood off to where it is smooth again. Then rinse thoroughly with your water hose. Then let dry thoroughly and put a natural oil on it. After that you are done.

  • I had never heard of this before until Chip & JoAnna Gaines used it on Fixer Upper on HGTV. I LOVE HGTV! They had done a guy’s house boat in it. It is really neat looking and especially since it is resistant to bugs, weather, etc. So, I am wanting to put up an exterior gate at the side of my home made out of the dog ear red cedar boards that have this shou sugi ban finish and the trim be black wrought iron. But I can’t find anyone here locally in North Little Rock, Arkansas who even knows what I am talking about. Any suggestions?

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