Wood or Metal Shingles?

Scrap metal shingles
Scrap metal shingles

Our next structure will probably be a roofed dome, so we need to decide what’s the easiest and best way to roof a conical or dome shaped roof. Top choices include durable wood or metal shingles. I like the look of wood the most, although metal would probably be easier to install, best at sealing joints and lowest maintenance. Metal shingles are resistant to rot and insect damage, fire resistant, won’t crack, and are lightweight and easy to install. But steel shingles would tend to rust in humid climates such as ours. Coating the metal with paint could poison the water with chemicals. Likewise, the zinc coating on galvanized metal taints drinking water, so it may pay to use more expensive rustproof metals such as aluminum or copper. That’s one of the advantages of building small – you can use higher quality materials and still not break the bank (or even borrow money from a bank). Using recycled aluminum cans, either crushed flat or cut into shingles is feasible. They’d be rust proof and 100% sustainable. In fact, you could even recycle the aluminum again in the future. But honestly, my girlfriend probably wouldn’t like the idea of covering our dome with beer and pop cans. A more realistic option for us might be quality metal shingles with baked on coating. They would be extremely long lasting – possibly 40-50 years or more.

One thing is for sure, I’m way too busy to make my own shingles. That’s just not a good use of my time right now. One option is to pay someone to make shingles in their spare time – say, from scrap aluminum, but what if the quality is off? It might be best to buy from a reputable supplier.

Image credit: ScrapHouse.org

5 thoughts on “Wood or Metal Shingles?”

  1. Ours is a series of domes, but originally we thought about a roof. The plan was to use all the metal from appliances at the dump. Most are white and contain a lot of good enamalized metal. I was going to make a template and cut them all with a nibbler. Dumps near us contain mountains of old stoves, fridges, etc.

  2. I also like the dome. But It needs to be roofed. The real ugly idea was to just create a cement hat, but not all the way down. And have a brim to protect the walls and be able to collect water.

    My other idea was to not build a dome but a vault. A vault can be roofed with a flat metal sheet. There might be some kinks that I have not tough of here. But to build a earthbag vault you need a frame to support the process until you put in the last bag. My idea was not to build one vault but to build a large series of vaults and create cheep housing(dorm) for students near universities or other needing shelter. But this is a far far far away idea.

    But what about thatch roofing. It will still create bad water since its treated. hmm.

    • Earthbag vaults are very difficult to build. More than about 6′ wide and you’ll run into stability problems. Build a rebar frame first and then you have more possibilities.

    • Cal Earth has a vaulted house. I have seen it and it is pretty impressive. The bags are stacked about 5 ft -6ft high. The vault is built on top. All of the fill material is stabilized with cement. I forget the sq footage, but it is pretty big. I am thinking each vault was around 10-12 ft across and perhaps 20 ft long. They are all connected on the ends. If you go to the Cal Earth website, they have a few pictures.

      The vault was a problem to build. They were hoping to build it entirely out of bags. That really didn’t work out. What they did do was construct a form. Set it up between the walls. They then put 6×6 mesh and rebar over the form and sprayed or poured stabilized earth/cement over it. When I was last there they had most of the rough house built. It is now completely finished. They used to offer plans for that house for sale. Later I noticed another company was contracting to build the house. I thought maybe Cal Earth had sold the plans to one of their students and they were going to develop it into a business. I don’t know what happened after that. I did notice from their website that they use the house and it’s prints for study, but it looks like the plans are not for sale.



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