Instructables

Make Shingles and Siding Out of Aluminum Cans (Beer Can Roof)

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I haven't tested this long term but it seems to work on my chicken coop. Here's the rundown:
Using scissors or tin snips cut the ends off an aluminum soda/beer can and cut down the middle of the can to make a flat rectangular piece of aluminum. Then you lay the flat piece into the forming die and press it by stomping on it or hitting it with a hammer. In this Instructable I'll show how to make the die and then lay out the shingles on a roof.

Making these can be tedious but the end result is gratifying because the old cans are fulfilling an immediate second life. A 24"x24" roof area will use from 36 to 50 cans (excluding drip edge and caps) depending on the vertical spacing and shingle style; that comes to 900-1250 cans per roof square (10'x10'.)
Start drinking now if you plan to try this.

I've recently posted how to build the whole coop at Diylife.com

Materials:
Loads of uncrushed aluminum cans
Piece of 1x6 hardwood board
Two 1-foot 5/16" metal square rods

Tools:
Staple gun
Circular Saw, or Router, or Saw with Dado Blade
Tin Snips or Scissors
Square
Chisel
Hammer
Drill and bits
Gloves
 
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Step 1: Prep Cans

Picture of Prep Cans
sheetbundle.jpg
cutmachine.jpg
Obtain your raw resources at a local party, drinking buddy, or community service highway clean-up. My neighbor is my steady supplier of uncrushed cans. I find beer cans are best because they don't have a sticky residue like soda cans.
This gets sharp, so wearing gloves is important. Use scissors or tin snips to cut the top off the can at the seam where the can bends. Cut down the center to the bottom and then cut off the bottom of the can. You should now have a rectangular piece of aluminum sheet metal. To ease the workload, precut these over time as you get the cans. One of the pics below shows the beginning of a can cutting machine; I hope it works because my hands are tired.

Step 3: Attach Square Rods to the Die

Drill holes in each end of the two 5/16" square rods and screw them to the upper board so they are lined up with the channels on the negative die . These rods come in 1' lengths at my local hardware store.

Step 4: Clean and Add Hinge

Picture of Clean and Add Hinge
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Clean up the cuts with a chisel and hammer.
Add a small hinge or just staple a can (see picture) as a hinge to keep the die halves lined up.

Step 5: Insert Pre-Cut Aluminum and Smash It.

Insert Aluminum and Smash It With Your Foot. There are two types of shingles made here by placing them in one or the other can slots on the die. The shingle with the two ribs will give the strongest cover by providing two layers of aluminum from the overlap. The shingle with the two ribs and a lip will cover more area but gives only one layer of aluminum.

Step 6: Start Roofing with the Drip Edge.

Once you have a few small bundles of shingles, take them, your tin snips, some extra unpressed aluminum rectangles and a staple gun to the roof. In my example, I have a tiny chicken coop roof which measures only 24"x24" on one side.
Loosely fold the Aluminum rectangles in half and staple them overlapping on the bottom and side edges of the roof. On the side edges, make a small 90 bend for the shingles to hook onto; see the picture. Make sure the overlap is correct on the side drip edges.

Step 8: Cap the Top

Fold a lip lengthwise on some more aluminum rectangles so they have a round exposed edge and staple + overlap them across the ridge. The last cap piece will need caulking on the staples unless you try some tricky folding.

When I posted this Instructable, the roof was in operation for a month with a few spring rain storms. It had no leaks!!!!!!?? Crazy; I wonder how long it'll last.

03 Feb 2009- No major problems so far except for a bad hail storm; it has been about a year out in the weather. I had a few loose staples on the ridge cap last month. See the one-year pictures below. The dent damage seen in the photos was from a golf ball size hail storm late last spring that ruined every roof in town.
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67spyder4 years ago
I hate to be a "negative nelly" but you said 900 cans to cover 100 square feet (10X10), Where I live (maybe not where you live) beer and pop cans have a 5cent deposit which means that 900 cans will give you $45 which will easily buy 3 bundles of shingles which will coincidentally cover 100 square feet with much less work.  Otherwise a great idea
masscody 67spyder3 months ago

You do serve a valuable point but aluminum cans are the better pick if your planing on having a rain water harvesting roof and also its a more environmentally friendly way of going about it.

Anyone can get plenty of free, empty cans. You wouldn't have to spend a dime. If you can't figure out how to collect some for free, you probably shouldn't be building a roof.
Hmm, my neighbors would object to me "making money" off the deposit refund, but would be proud to contribute to a dog house or a shed that "beer built!" Some states have draconian tax and identification requirements which deny some people the right of refund. Maybe the beer-u-crats on the state payroll think the homeless are getting rich from cleaning up trash? That was the idea after all, was it not? Reduce the litter by making it valuable?

One or two layers of non-degrading aluminum will withstand the UV for decade after decade. My asphalt and mineral surface shingles always need replacing before their projected lifespan is up. Metal is more permanent.

Besides, this is all about re-purposing and DIY.  :) 
Good method, good results, good for RobbToberfest!


Don't get me wrong this is a fantastic idea.  Also I have been thinking a lot about the refund issue.  Although it motivates the uninitiated to be environmental it does discourage re-use which is better than recycling.  In a state where there is no deposit there are usually easier facilities for recycling the aluminum based on weight which you can still do after you cut the top and bottom off (the heaviest parts) once you cut up a can it is no longer eligible for the refund.  Mabe the bounty should be placed on the can top?? (RobbToberfest, Sorry about hijacking your excellent instructable with a political discussion)
robbtoberfest (author)  67spyder4 years ago
 I'm lovin the discussion.
robbtoberfest (author)  67spyder4 years ago
 I would definitely go your route; but in Kansas here we're like a decade or two behind in recycling and incentive things like that.
Wragie2 years ago
A lot of good instructibles really don't have any real world use, this does!

Pure alum corrodes literally instantly when exposed to oxygen and will shortly turn to powder. There are some mixes such as the 6000 series they use for believing ocean going boats as it doesn't corrode. If whatever was in there is acidic like tomato juice or oj its going to be corrosion resistant. If you can find galvinized steel tins thats another long term shingle in the making.

So has anyone figured out how many beer you have to drink to reshingle a roof? :-)
So, a bit late to the party, but I think aluminum beer cans have a corrosion resistant coating which makes this even more enticing.

When solid aluminum oxidizes in contact with oxygen, it forms a stable coating of aluminum oxide which prevents the remaining aluminum solid from being exposed to oxygen. That's why aluminum doesn't rust. It coats itself with rust-proof aluminum oxide.

My husband drinks about 72 Diet Dr Peppers a week. (No, that isn't a typo, and yes, I've nagged him about the health risks). I think this might be a great way to reuse all those cans that he promises to recycle but that end up in the garbage. About half get into the recycling but this would be something better to do with them I think. Thanks for sharing.

kagu6324189 months ago

Way to labor intensive ....

Any chance you could electroplate these? Using say pennies or bare copper wire? I like the idea of these but, love the idea if an oxidized copper roof just as much!
robbtoberfest (author)  Green_Primus1 year ago
That's an awesome idea! I think the issue is getting the plastic coating off the aluminum somehow; maybe heat them to burn it off.
MWebster681 year ago
I'm not sure about all states but, where I live only carbonated beverages have a deposit on the can. You could still do this project with cans from juice, tea or other non-carbonated beverages to avoid the extra cost. I guess you could set up a neighborhood can collection so you wouldn't have to drink so much tea or juice (or just raid the curbside recycling bins before the truck gets there, haha). I love this project! Great job!
Not all States have a can and bottle deposit. Personally I'm not driving 4 hrs to get a 5 cent can or bottle deposit on my empties. This seams like a good way to use something that I GIVE to the recycling plant in my big blue bin every two weeks.
art_mogul3 years ago
I have worked with a man who has used flattened beer cans for roofing and siding on a couple of shed-like structures here in Huntsville Texas (70 mi north of Houston). The problem he ran into is that strong UV exposure breaks down the integrity of modern aluminum cans much more quickly than aluminum specifically manufactured for this application. Someone else has eluded to this as speculation in a comment below and I can confirm that this is true. That said even in South Texas the cans will comfortably hold up for 5 yrs or so. Wind can also be a problem in areas with strong UV exposure since the cans begin to flake apart when they break down. The older galvanized steel used in beer cans that are found in vintage beer can house construction hold up many magnitudes better. He has experimented with a number of materials, including plastics and the limiting factor is UV as opposed to other types of oxidation. This is a cool idea for small projects in less sunny places though. I have found that I can buy excess aluminum roofing scraps from a local scrap recycler which could be used as shingles. I hadn't thought of making a shaper. This is being discussed here http://www.phoenixcommotion.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=5 if anyone would like to chime in.
robbtoberfest (author)  art_mogul2 years ago
It's been over four years now, and they show no signs of wear. Just a few dents from hail damage.
Thanks for the update. How are they holding up five years in?

Also, has anyone tried this in an area with significant snowfall? I live in Canada where if the snow melts slowly on the roof, then freezes overnight it backs up under the bottom lip of shingles and curls them up.
robbtoberfest (author)  LScrimmy1 year ago
I left this structure at my old house which I sold. Next time I'm back there (maybe October) I plan to peek in on the condition and let you know.
As far as the shingle heaving goes; that may be an insulation issue. It may be better with these slippery shingles since the ice isn't grabbing and pushing up as it refreezes in the evening.
Okay, I'm a believer! I'll be roofing and sheathing my chicken coop in beer cans. I'll post the results.
I really, really doubt it''s UV. It's some sort of corrosion, particular if there's any salt in the air (there's always some salt), or other chemicals, some of which will be produced naturally by the atmosphere (particularly when it's sunny!)
I live in Australia where the sun would be a huge issue. Is there not a UV protective paint on the market that could protect the roof longer?
robbtoberfest (author)  jofuji3 years ago
Three years strong and it still looks fine without paint. Unless you live on the coast where salt can cause problems, I wouldn't worry about it.
I know I'm late to the discussion, but something I noticed in the video you posted is that you put the cans on with the label down. This probably has contributed to the longevity you've experienced. The lacquer inside of a pop/beer can is quite strong (it has to resist the acidity in cola, which is quite strong!). The side with the label isn't afforded such protection, as the ink used to label the cans doesn't require the same resistance.
would painting them after applying them help to block some of the UV?
robbtoberfest (author)  ThorsMitersaw2 years ago
These shingle don't look any different (except for the hail damage) than from the day I attached them on the roof. I think they are reflecting back most of the UV and painting them would only add unnecessary maintenance and absorb UV.
shawnt1 year ago
I used aluminum printer plates for my chicken coop. Simply attached them with silicon adhesive. Even after the walls of the coop started rotting away (OSB did not last very long) the top aluminum cover was still working fine. I am not sure how available these plates are now.
foobear1 year ago
the only thing that scares me is the super bloody razor sharp edges you get when cutting up cans. If there were some easy way to roll the exposed edge and crimp it, that would be good.
dxanith1 year ago
It's too bad the video listed here was marked private:(
rwarrich1 year ago
Nice idea, though like some, tar paper under would be a good plan. also, if you stapled/nailed at the halfway point of the can/shingle, you should be able to go through the top of the row below giving more strength to the fastening. with only one fastening point I would be worried about the wind 'peeling' them off.
park472 years ago
Thanks..It's inspiring..:)
patron_zero2 years ago
Another great recovered-re purposed material DIY project, kudos and thanks for sharing such !
meritsetgo2 years ago
great instructable, and might try with the steel coffee cans instead just because that is what i have available...mine come already "paintedblue with the coffee logo and what not on the facing side so that should provide an extra layer of protection even if it fades fast in a few months....

salt corrosion on thin and sheet aluminum is fairly nasty, a friend of mine who lives by the coast, replaces his window air conditioner unit every year and a half because the thin aluminum fins in the radiator just turn to dust,

Seeing the gauge of the cans are thinner or similar to the thickness used on radiator units, this might pose a problem long term but hey year and a half is plenty time to keep making replacement shingles!!!\

kudos for making an awesome instructable that is truly applicable in most parts of the world....
lafnbear2 years ago
"Start drinking now if you plan to try this."

Just about the only Instructable where this sentence is acceptable...
danava00562 years ago
I'm building a tiny house on a couple acre lot in a remote location and trying to do it with as much reclaimed/found materials as possible. The roof had me stumped until I found your awesome plans. I am definately doing this. Would you sell me a die? I don't have the tools to make that and run all my lights, etc off a small solar system so I don't think a table saw would work. I'll start picking up cans while I wait for your reply :). Thanks.
batonas2 years ago
Nice recycle man. RESPECT!
CJSudduth2 years ago
How about using coffee can lids...or cans of any kind... ??
robbtoberfest (author)  CJSudduth2 years ago
They are thicker metal and may be hard to form with this system.
Maybe with a press and stronger die. Good luck with it.
brynda5 years ago
does anybody know how to make a coke can baseball cap out of coke cans? i would like to make one for myself. i love coca cole memorabilia, and would love to know any other ideas.
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