Making Corrugated Metal Roofing
Donald Nute

Many older rural buildings are roofed with corrugated metal. It is easy to make a roofing material for the structures in our garden railways that looks like these corrugated metal roofs.

To make your roofing, you will need a paper crimper made by the Friskars company. These are available from Michael's and other hobby stores. I think I have also seen them at Walmart. The cost under $20. There are a couple of pictures of the Friskars crimper at right. The top view gives a good view of one of the ridged rollers. The bottom view shows the two-part handle. Squeezing the two parts of the handle together forces the rollers together, puting a crimp in any soft material placed between the rollers. By turning the handle at the side, the material is fed through the rollers so a sheet of material may be crimped.

Some people use old soda cans to make their roofing. But the metal in these cans is too hard to go through the crimper easily. If you use soda cans, you need to bake the metal at a high temperature to soften it. Cans are free, but the energy to anneal them is not.

I found another material that is softer and much more convenient. I use aluminum steam table pans. I buy mine at a local store called Party Time where they are cheap - about a buck apiece when you buy a pack of them. But you can get them at Krogers and lots of other places. Unless you use the pans to make casseroles or something and then clean them up, you will have to pay for your metal to make your roofing material. But they are not very expensive. I cut the material from the pans into strips about as long as the width of the crimper and about 3 to 3 1/2 inches wide. Then I feed them through the crimper. Once through usually does it. You need to be careful to start the pieces straight, but otherwise it is easy. You can also crimp a longer roll of material and then cut it into appropriate sizes, but it's harder to keep a longer piece straight as you run it through the crimper and you tend to flatten some of the ridges when you cut the material.

The last photo on the right shows some finished pieces on top of a piece of material cut from a steam tray pan. The small sheets of roofing material on the right show what you get directly from the crimper. But take a look at a few corrugated metal roofs and you will see that they are duller and usually pertty rusty. You will also see all sorts of interesting patterns in the way a particular roof rusts. The corrugated roofing sheets on the left of the photo show some "rusted" pieces. I lay out a bunch of sheets and "rust" them all at once. I start with a spray can of rust-colored primer. One pattern I have noticed often shows heavy rust at one corner and down one side of a sheet of roofing with little rust at the opposite corner. I have sprayed a lot of sheets with this pattern. After the primer has dried, I take a can of flat black paint and spray the entire piece at a distance so the paint just drifts onto the metal. This takes the gloss off the areas that aren't "rusted" and gives the entire piece a dirty look.

The photo below shows one of the first roofs I did with this material. This particular roof has been outside for about eight years. The sheets were attached to thin plywood using silicone sealer. One of the plywood pieces fell apart, and I replaced it with a piece of plexiglas, regluing the roofing. This roof was on a small sawmill on our Lake Town & Shire garden railway. Last fall, a tree branch fell on the sawmill, destroying everythign but the roof! For this photo, I placed the roof on top of a produce shed. There is actually a different roof under the one you see.

I don't like the silicone sealer much for this use. I think in the future, I will use the exterior grade Liquid Nails. I think it will hold as well or better and will be less messy to work with. I also plan to use either plexiglas or corrugated plastic - the kind they use for election campaign sings - for my roofs from now on. Either of these materials should hold up to the weather better than plywood.

So there's how you can make your own corrugated metal roofing material and some tips on how to use it. Have fun!

Top view of the Friskars crimper.

Bottom view of the Friskars crimper.

Examples of corrugated roofing made from aluminum casserole pans.

A produce shed on the Lake Town & Shire roofed with corrugated metal.