Building With Cans

“99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer…”

This famous bar chant was clearly not intended to be taken literally, but that’s what some creative and resourceful people have done, in some form or fashion. While they’re not bottles, the famous “Beer Can House” in Houston is just one example of resourceful construction with cans.

The Beer Can House

In 1968, a retired upholsterer named John Milkovisch “got sick of mowing the grass,” tore it up and began inlaying metal pieces, rocks and marbles into concrete and redwood to form unique landscaping features.

When the lawn was gone and replaced, he turned to the house, deciding to use the byproduct of his favorite beverage as siding. Believing it to be “easier than painting,” John set out on what would become an 18-year project of emptying cans through consumption (with the help of his wife and neighbors) and using them in a new home improvement project.

Image courtesy of Beer Can House

Image courtesy of Beer Can House

John used the tops, bottoms, sides and tabs of the aluminum cans to make siding, fences, sculptures, windmills, curtains and chains. Garlands made of beer can tops were hung from roof edges, actually contributing to a significant lowering of energy consumption.

Used in Eco-Building

We recently reported on homes built with used tires, pointing out that aluminum cans usually act as “little bricks” placed between gaps in tire walls. The cans are also used to build interior, non-structural walls, creating a cement-matrix that is actually very strong and easy to build.

Earthships are homes that use natural and recycled materials in their construction, along with thermal/solar heating and cooling, solar and wind electricity, contained sewage treatment, water harvesting and food production.

From Can to Solar-Powered Heater

It may sound strange, but using aluminum cans to build a solar-powered heater for your home is more common than you might believe. A great DIY project, solar-powered heaters using recycled cans are inexpensive and relatively simple to build.

The units are typically installed on the outside walls of houses in a location that gets direct sunlight. Several columns of stacked cans, with holes cut in the tops and bottoms, are placed in the heating panel. Cooler inside air flows through the cans, distributing warm air back in to the home.

Canadian-based Cansolair Inc. has been using recycled cans in its solar panels for years, creating inexpensive and efficient solar heating systems. Each thermostatically controlled unit utilizes 240 aluminum cans and is capable of maintaining average room temperature in 8,000 cubic feet of space.

Other examples of building with aluminum cans can be seen around the world, including Darwin, Australia’s annual beer can regatta where boats made of recycled beer cans race at Mindil Beach.

This article is part of’s Building With series.

Feature image courtesy of frankieleon


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  1. Hi Lori,
    I do not know if any info is publicly available, but I thought this to be quite resourceful:
    A couple of years ago, my parents took me to see a friend of theirs in Slovenia (part of former Yugoslavia).
    Touring the vicinity, we past a house that was built entirely of bottles!

  2. Hi, I´m Pam . I am a third grade teacher in Orange county. Nowadays , most people need to save cash on their electrical energy bills and one of the most popular methods is through using solar energy. What can we, the average people do to aid preserve our Earth? The answer may sound hard, but it’s very easy. Build your own solar panel.

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