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




About: Dad and hubby, good food enthusiast, solar energy, boating, making stuff, melting stuff, and raising chickens.
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

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

Staple gun
Circular Saw, or Router, or Saw with Dado Blade
Tin Snips or Scissors
Drill and bits

Step 1: Prep Cans

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 2: Mark and Cut a Die

Use a pencil and square to mark the 1x6 board to the measurements in the picture. This should be hardwood so it holds up to the abuse; If you have the resources you could have this machined in metal for durability.
Using a circular saw I cut the receiving die (negative?) grooves as shown below.

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

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 7: Attach Shingles

If you were doing this on a big roof where you had to walk around, avoid stepping on the shingles by working from one end of the roof up to the caps and then across. When attaching, staple the shingles about 1/3 of the way down from the top; I used two staples per shingle.

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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    256 Discussions


    4 months ago on Step 5

    When I was a child my grandfathers garage and boat house had oil can roofs. The oil cans had been cut, flattened and attached to batten boards. I used to love looking up and seeing all the colors and names of the oils.
    This is the same idea, just a modernized.

    Jake Opstad

    8 months ago

    I can think of a few distinct advantages to using aluminium cans over regular shingles:
    1) The environmental benefit of reusing the cans that would have just gone to the landfill probably.
    2) The cost-effectiveness of using material you didn't have to buy because you can find cans all over the place.
    2) The lighter weight and less material used overall.
    3) As far as I know, aluminium shingles will probably outlast regular shingles.
    4) Being reflective, it will also help to cool your house in hotter climates (whereas regular shingles absorb heat).

    The only possible disadvantage I can think of is is you live in a place prone to high winds like hurricanes or typhoons. Being so light, the wind would probably yank them off like dry leaves.

    All in all, this is a great idea! I've been working on one for a while now. I have gathered about 500 cans and am currently trying to figure out a way of interlocking them instead of stapling to the wood since I don't have wood and it's a bit expensive here.


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    Does it have to be bent or can I just use flat cans? (Maybe requires more overlap?)

    1 answer

    1 year ago

    here in Oregon that would be a very expensive roof at 10 cents per can.


    1 year ago

    I seriously wish the building code would allow me to do something similar to my house! Or, make the shingles from aluminum flashing material.


    1 year ago

    I love this. I happen to live in one of those places where beer cans are more available than proper construction materials. (New Orleans) I'm going to try this


    2 years ago

    I don't know about where you guys live, but where I live, no one cares if you dumpster dive at the local Walmart where the recycle bins are to reuse the materials. I have gotten boxes to use the card board. I cover the inside of my chicken barn during the winter to cut down the airflow. I get metal from the dump for projects, and chairs to paint for my yard. That would be a perfect place to score some "free" cans for your projects. It would save the city some of the gas and man-hours to carry one of the dumpsters to the dump. Happy project working!


    2 years ago

    I deleted my post about corrosion as it was wrong/misleading. Not sure what I was thinking when I posted it but it was really off. The replies to that post are spot on correct. My apologies to the OP and other posters.

    ./shame mode ON

    Pure alum or a 1xxx series does corrode instantly but only on the surface. This surface layer then stops any further corrosion. Other grades of alum do the same but at different speeds. Some like 6061 are considered corrosion resistant which is why 6xxx series is used in salt water and fresh water boats and all sorts of places.

    Alum does suffer from a few forms of destructive corrosion and these either look like bubbles under the surface or a white powder. The nice thing about the instructable is replacing any bad shingles is soooooo cheap. Lol. If you don't experience any of these destructive corrosions you should get many years out of a pop can roof!

    Years later I still think this is a great instructable!

    Nate Cougill

    6 years ago on Introduction

    So, a bit late to the party, but I think aluminum beer cans have a corrosion resistant coating which makes this even more enticing.

    2 replies

    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.

    No aluminum can't rust because rust is Iron oxide. Aluminum form's it's own type of oxide too but oxidation it is not a protection because it is corrosion and will corrode through sooner or later.


    2 years ago

    I LOVE this! Thanks so much. I definitely can recruit some friends to help me out with "materials" for this project!

    Talking my husband into the idea might be another story! But hey,'s FREE basically, and the water runoff aspect is awesome too. I am so excited to even think about this.

    Thank you smart man!!!! :-)

    Chicken whisperer

    3 years ago

    Thank you for this. I read a bunch of comments and I have to say that this will be perfect for my chicken tractor. It needs to be as light as a tarp since it is pvc and chicken wire.


    3 years ago

    DIY-Guy Do you think that coating this type of roof with the Silver Coat (waterproofing material) that is used on Manufactured Home metal roofs would work to make it last longer?


    3 years ago

    DIY-Guy Do you think that coating this type of roof with the Silver Coat (waterproofing material) that is used on Manufactured Home metal roofs would work to make it last longer?


    9 years ago on Step 2

    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

    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I've looked at the asphalt "three tab" roofing and watched it weather away over the years. Aluminum would seem to last longer as long as chlorine is not applied to it. Does anyone know for sure if there is a lifetime limit before thin aluminum degrades into becoming porous and useless?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    sorry wrenawild, but i think you misunderstood 67spyder in the point that you can sell cans to recycling centres for 5c a can, rather than buy them for the same price, as they´re most definitely available free practically everywhere in the world. hope this helps.