Introduction: Roof Tiles From Aluminium Cans

About: I work voluntarily to help develop the community where I live. I like to explore new areas and experiment with making things myself. I am extremely passionate about making the change to a future where we real…

These are very easy to make tiles that you can use on simple buildings or where you need a covering. you need:

Lots of aluminium cans, all the same size.

Various pieces of leftover wood to make the mould that they will be pressed in.

A few nails and a hammer

4 screws and a drill

Strong gloves


This is an adaptation of versions by other people that I've seen on here so thanks to them for giving me the inspiration to have a go.

Step 1: Working Out the Size for the Mould

The first thing to do is cut the main part out of your collection of aluminium cans (I found some thrown into bushes, etc. so it reduced the amount of waste in the environment). Make sure you wear strong gloves when doing this as it can be very dangerous with the sharp edges. I also trimmed off the corners to make them a bit safer. Then, you need to fold the ends as shown in the photo so you know how big the tiles will be.

For this to work, it's best to use the taller drinking cans that are all the same size.

Step 2: Making the Mould

For the bottom part, once you can see how big the tiles will be, find or cut a piece of wood that is the same size as the main flat part of the tile. Then get a larger piece of wood to nail it onto as shown in the second picture. Make sure the nails you use won't come out the other side as they can puncture the can when you press it. The piece in the centre should be a bit longer than the height of the can so that it will all be moulded.

Important: Make sure the raised pieces of wood that you fix onto both parts are all the same thickness. I found out that if they aren't, it won't shape the tile well enough because this will lead to a bigger gap than you should have.

Step 3: The Top Part of the Press

For the top part, get a piece of wood that is the same width as the moulded tile. This is important so that the two parts will fit together. Then, get some thin pieces that will fit into the groove part of the tile, one for each side. As they are narrow, it's best to screw these on as nails would probably split the wood.

These narrow pieces need to be screwed onto the edge of the wood that is shown, making sure that the wood from the last step will fit tightly between them. I learned by trial that you really need to keep the top and bottom parts as tight as possible so that the aluminium will just fit between them. Otherwise, it won't bend very well when you press them and will just be rounded rather than defined.

Step 4: Finishing the Mould

You can also use the narrow pieces of the top part to work out where the last two pieces need to fit. These are those longer pieces which are nailed onto the base as shown.

The second photo shows how the two parts should look when finished. You can see how they fit into each other in the other two photos.

Then it's time to start pressing the tiles out. Once you've got this far, it becomes really easy.

Step 5: Pressing the Tiles

So all you need to do is take one sheet of aluminium, place it on the base part, making sure it's as symmetrical as possible. Then simply place the top part over and press it down with your hand or foot. It needs hardly any pressure as it's so thin so once you've got the cans cut, you can press out one tile every 5 seconds!

My plan is to collect some cans whenever I have some free time and do another batch. You will of course need a lot to make any decent sized roof so might want to spread it out as the cutting of the cans is a bit boring and tedious to do a lot in one go.

I haven't fixed them onto anything yet but they can be fixed on with a staple gun or with small nails with wide heads on. Do this at the top of the tiles so no holes will be visible to the elements.

As you can see in the last photo, they will need to be overlapped and can either be fixed onto a wooden roof or a frame that will fit the tiles. Once you've done the first row at the bottom, the next row will need to overlap the first to stop any leaks. As the tiles are bent like this, there's not much chance that the wind will be able to bend them back.

Another option, if you live in a windy area, would be to get a long roll of wire and fix it over the tiles vertically to stop the wind lifting them.

Thanks to the other people who have tried this. I've taken on what you've shown and adapted it for myself.

Step 6: Making the Roof

After making lots of tiles but not having any use for them, I realised I was still needing a roof for the gazebo in my community garden so decided to use them for that. It's quite large and I calculated that I'd need 432 tiles!

So I got collecting more and once I had a good amount (around 250), I got started on it.

for the roof frame I used beams taken mostly from pallets and cut them so they would fit together in an apex form and have pieces cut out of the corners for it to sit on the metal fence panel that was currently holding it all together.

The distance across the metal panel was 174cm and I had 100cm beams so I worked out the angel needed to fit them together, which was 20º and cut that off the ends of the beams and the corners, which would be fixed on later.

You can see how it fits into the frame. The beams were fixed together using trusses, which are great for putting things side by side. you'll need one on each side.

Step 7: Making the Slats

I had found some sides of babies' cots which I thought would come in useful at some point and stripped out all the wooden slats as well as finding other thin pieces of wood and cutting them to the same length (60cm).

I drilled holes into each end of the slats so that when they were nailed to the beams it wouldn't split the ends. The nails I used were about 4cm long which is long enough to stop them coming out easily.

As the tiles are fairly small, I measures that the distance between the slats had to be 12cm so they would be able to overlap enough.

I first of all fixed them onto two sets of beams and put them on the gazebo. They fitted nicely so I got making the other beams for later.

Doing it this way means that it can be done in sections, which is a lot easier if you're doing it on your own one with only a bit of help.

I put three sections of the roof frame up first and as I had enough tiles to cover most of that, I got on with that.

To hold the beams to the metal panel, I cut up an old bicycle inner tube and nailed that on as it needs something to bend round the pole. you could make a metal piece but I felt that was enough.

Step 8: Fixing the Tiles On

As the tiles are made from very thin metal, it's easy to staple them on with a staple gun. You should first of all start at the bottom row in the outside corner and staple the first onto the bottom slat. I put staples in the top of the flat part, one at each side, overlaid one to the side and did them same until the first bottom layer was filled.

Then you move to the next row up but this time, staple on at the bottom of the tile. This is so that it won't lift up in the wind and let the rain in. If the tiles don't sit too snugly over the joins, put some more staples in. At the ends of the roof, on the outside beams, you can bend the tile over the edge and staple it down to the side to avoid and leaks.

The underside of it will become a huge mosaic of lots of colours but as they are cans mostly thrown away by heavy drinkers, it looks a bit like an ad for strong lager and cider!

Step 9: Where the Apex Meets

The tricky bit is how to join them up at the top of the apex. This is because even though the (now, flat) tiles are still overlaid, the rain could get through the sides. In the photos you can see I used plastic tape to cover these joins but I quickly found out that they peel off again in the sun.

What I'm going to do instead is cut long pieces of tarpaulin that are the same width as those flat tiles and staple them on top. That should solve the problem but if you have other ideas, please post a comment.

Anyway, I put all the tiles I had on and got about 3/4 of it completed. I was hesitant to test it with the hose as, after all this work, I expected it to fail....

But it didn't! No water came through at all so I'm looking forward to getting the rest of it done.

The total cost of this roof was nothing as I had all the materials anyway. Well, you'll probably need to buy some staples but that was about 2 pounds!