How to Build a Home From Recycled Aluminum Cans
Building a home from recycled materials like aluminum cans can be a rewarding way to reduce waste and create an eco-friendly dwelling. With some planning, creativity, and hard work, it is possible to construct a sturdy and stylish structure using post-consumer aluminium.
Selecting and Preparing Materials
The first step is acquiring a sufficient number of cans. A small cabin or shed may require 5,000-10,000 cans, while a full-sized house could take 500,000 cans or more. Cans can be sourced for free from recycling centers, transfer stations, donations, and personal collections.
Once acquired, the cans must be cleaned and flattened in preparation for building. Be sure to remove any paper labels and wash off adhesives or food residue. Work gloves are recommended for this process as the aluminum edges can be sharp.
A can crusher or other strong tool like a hammer can be used to flatten each can. Flattened cans are easier to transport and stack. Try to flatten cans uniformly to approximately 1/4-1/2 inch thickness.
Design and Foundation
Careful planning is required to build a robust aluminum can structure. Consider consulting an architect or engineer if attempting a full-sized home.
Factor in important elements like:
- Floorplan and dimensions
- Number of stories
- Openings for doors and windows
- Roof slope and overhangs
- Climate and weather conditions
Most cans homes are built on top of a traditional concrete foundation or basement. This provides stability and protection against moisture and pests.
Be sure the foundation design can support the weight of stacked cans, which can weigh 2-4 lbs per square foot.
Framing the Structure
A framework gives an aluminium can structure its shape and strength. This is traditionally made from wood or metal studs, similar to regular home construction.
The framework should include:
- Floor and ceiling joists
- Corner posts and wall studs
- Door and window headers
- Roof rafters and trusses
The framework dimensions will match the cans stacked around them. Studs are usually placed 12” to 24” apart to support the can walls.
Stacking and Securing Cans
Once the framework is in place, the cans can be stacked to form the walls and roof. There are a few techniques for properly stacking the cans:
- Overlapping rows: Each row overlaps the row below it in a shingling pattern.
- Vertical stacks: Cans are stacked vertically without overlapping. Requires infill like concrete or adobe.
- Cords: Cans are filled with sand or concrete, stacked on rebar cords and tamped into place.
The cans must be compressed tightly together and secured to the framework as they are stacked. Some common methods include:
- Nailing: Hammer nails through the can rim into the studs.
- Wiring: Wrap and tighten wire around bundles of cans.
- Adhesive: Apply construction adhesive between layers.
Proper compression and security is vital for strength. The stacks should be straight, level and uniform.
Exterior and Interior Finishes
Once the main can structure is complete, finishes can be applied to protect and beautify the home.
On the exterior, a waterproof stucco or concrete coating helps seal out moisture. The cans should be coated individually before stacking for maximum protection.
For interiors, the cans can be covered with drywall or adobe. Vapor barriers and insulation may be added within wall cavities. Trim, floors, fixtures and paint or wallpaper can provide finishing touches.
Consider adding tinted window glass, exterior paint, or aluminum siding to give the home an attractive, conventional look.
Benefits of Building With Recycled Cans
Constructing a home from aluminum cans provides many benefits:
- Sustainable: Repurposes waste material instead of landfilling.
- Affordable: Cans are free, and other building costs can be low.
- Durable: Aluminum resists corrosion, rot, termites, and fire.
- Energy-efficient: Well-sealed cans provide effective insulation.
- Customizable: Cans allow creative designs and self-built homes.
With thoughtful planning and hard work, an aluminum can home can provide unique eco-friendly housing. Get creative with your own recycled building project!