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How to preserve wood using Yakisugi

Yakisugi is a traditional Japanese means of charring cedar in order to preserve the wood. It dates back to earlier than the 1700’s mainly with residential and commercial exterior siding and fencing. It is also referred to shou sugi ban.

One of the main reasons that this tradition began was because they needed a more sustainable option of preserving the exterior of the home. Originally, Japan was using wood that had been naturally weathered by wind and salt water from trees along the coasts. Because of the limited supply and abundance of Japanese red-cedar they moved toward using a different method of treating the wood.

Benefits of using yakisugi:

  1. Fire Resistant Although it sounds strange, to burn something to make it fireproof, this is what actually happens. Removing all of the moisture and basically creating charcoal on the outside prevents the house from catching on fire later. Think of how easier it is to use regular dry wood in a fire as opposed to previously burned wood. Is it 100% fireproofing? No, but it is preventive.
  2. Water Resistant. Similarly, after the charring and hardening of the exterior, this creates a water-resistant foundation.
  3. It Repels Termites, Snails, Slugs etc. The burning of the chemicals and carbohydrates in the wood, which is basically insect food, creates a natural repellant for various insects. This is the key to the longevity of the wood siding.
  4. No chemicals needed. Since the process doesn’t require chemicals it can be used even if you are building in a grid or supply-line down situation.

How to DIY Yakisugi

1. Plan Your Space

The first thing you need to do is to think about the area where you plan on charring the wood. Make sure that it is in a highly vented area or outdoors. You will need a few cinder blocks or short wooden frames to keep the boards off of the ground. Ideally you can do it on concrete or a dirt-covered area, grass will burn and singe and possible catch fire. You should also have access to water, preferably a spray hose and a few buckets of water on standby just in case. Also, don’t forget a pair of gloves and a mask, especially when brushing

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