Wood is about as classic as you can get for siding material for your home, but that doesn't mean you don't have plenty of creative finishes to choose from. Wood siding is exceptionally versatile and often quite easy to alter. The two most common ways of customizing wood siding are to play around with the board pattern (mixing vertical and horizontal, going diagonal, decoratively-shaped shingles, etc.) or to use unique surface treatments.
Rather than picking out a paint or a stain, consider going for something slightly exotic by borrowing the traditional Japanese technique of burnt wood siding.
Shou Sugi Ban: A rare and stunning surfacing option
Though it may seem counterintuitive, charring wood siding can lead to a one-of-a-kind home with increased durability. It isn't clear just how long the practice of Yakisugi, or Shou Sugi Ban as it's known elsewhere, has been around, but the technique has become more popular in Western architecture and design over the past century. Interestingly enough, the demand for Shou Sugi Ban is increasing throughout North America and the UK while declining in Japan.
The art of Shou Sugi Ban is quite varied depending on the desired outcome you'd like. Typically, burning or charring the exterior of the wood is the most common technique used. A light char will give a more gentle look to the wood, seeming more like a pre-weathering treatment than a burn. A deeper, darker char can look quite intense and black, if you're going for a bold, modern look. The third style would be a brushed exterior, which involves either a hard or soft brushing across the charred wood to give it a cleaner finished look.
As you can see in the above photo, there are quite a few different looks you can achieve with Shou Sugi Ban. Additionally, the process of charring the wood also increases the longevity and durability of your siding. The burnt outer layer protects the boards from insects, weather, moisture and decay. Combining the Shou Sugi Ban technique with Kebony modified wood is an even greater step towards a low-maintenance, tough exterior.
Kebony modified wood meets Shou Sugi Ban
(Black Ridge House, by Neil Dusheiko Architects, photo by Tim Crocker)
Kebony modified wood is real wood that has undergone a special enhancement process to increase durability, moisture-resistance and longevity. The raw wood is first impregnated with furfuryl alcohol, which is a non-toxic, bio-based liquid, and then is cured and dried. The end result is a beautiful, smooth wood that offers the aesthetic appeal of wood siding, without the demanding care needs.
The Shou Sugi Ban style is an ideal pairing for modified wood. The Black Ridge House featured above is a lovely example of how this material and the surface treatment work together. On this home, the boards are laid in a vertical pattern. This, combined with the rich charcoal color of the charred Shou Sugi Ban style, results in a chic home with a contemporary appeal.
Pre-weathered Shou Sugi Ban with diagonal placement
(Shou Sugi Ban, by Kebony)
If you feel like Charred Shou Sugi Ban is just a bit too dark for your home's style, or perhaps you live in a fairly warm climate and wish for a light exterior, the Pre-Weathered surface treatment is an excellent choice.
The Oak Hill house is a prime example of how Pre-Weathered is attractively neutral and soft in appearance. It makes a statement without being too overwhelming. You'll also see that the boards were laid in an eye-catching diagonal pattern. Diagonal siding isn't all too common, especially covering entire walls. The lighter tones of the Pre-Weathered are great if you're playing with board placement, as it's still light enough to let the pattern show through easily.
A contrasting but complementing addition to traditional home
(Architect Home, by David Stanley Architects, photo by Adelina Iliev Photography)
Another design idea for incorporating Shou Sugi Ban into your existing home is to clad an addition or extension in it. This traditional London home blends in well with the surrounding neighborhood, but that doesn't exactly make it special. The owner of this residence, who happens to be an architect, opted to side their new addition with charred Shou Sugi Ban.
Charred Shou Sugi Ban might be prominent visually, but the neutral color means it can actually work quite well with existing color schemes. Whether you have a brick- or stone-clad home or one that is painted in a bright color, Shou Sugi Ban siding on an addition, or even accent wall, will often work perfectly.
Ultra-dark Shou Sugi Ban to make a lasting impression
(Colorado Guest House, by Character Builders Colorado & Delta Millworks, photo by Patrick Fleming)
This Colorado guest home will surely leave a lasting impression with family and friends. When it comes to charred timber cladding you can get quite a dark, deep finish that comes close to being a solid black. Although this style would look incredible on any house design, it's clearly a perfect match for flat-roofed, modern homes that have a minimalistic construction.
Shou Sugi Ban siding is an unusual, but favorable approach to classic wood siding on homes where the owner wishes for a look that really pops and stands out from the rest of the neighbors, without looking out of place. Not only will you be rewarded with a very sleek, handsome exterior, but by opting for Shou Sugi Ban on modified wood you'll also reduce your maintenance needs to nearly nothing while also ensuring that your siding will outlast standard wood exteriors.