Build a Simple Succah - Directions
Traditional requirements: A succah must have at least 2 and 1/2 sides, one of which can be the wall of an existing structure. It should have a roof of schach -- natural materials dis-attached from their source (i.e, cut tree or bush branches, not a living tree), dense enough so that at noon it provides more shade than light but not so dense that you can't see the stars through it. The sides should not move.
This sukkah will take 2 or 3 people about 3 hours to build the first time and about 40 minutes to disassemble and reassemble in later years. It can be beautiful, won't put your back out, is easily stored, does not require buying a kit, and is sufficiently sturdy to withstand a moderate fall storm while still retaining the essential fragility of a proper sukkah.
- drill with 1/4 or 1/2 inch bit
- hammer or mallet
- adjustable wrench
- permanent marker
Materials - Frame
Have the lumber yard cut your 2x4s and 1x4s to size.
- (4) 2x4 -- 7' long (A) for the corner uprights -- if you are tall, you may wish to make these 8', but remember that you will need to place the schach (roof covering) on top.
- (7) 1x4s -- 8' long (B) for horizontal (top and bottom) of sides and back, plus one extra for the top front. To make your succah longer (or shorter), change the dimensions of the 4 side 1x4 boards.
- (3) 1x4 -- 7' long (C) for center uprights for sides and back. If you make the succah longer than 8', you may wish to have 2 center uprights on each of the long sides, spaced 4' from each side.
- (6) 1x4s -- 4' long (D) for diagonal supports on the sides and back.
- (2) 1x4s -- 3' long (E) for diagonal supports on the front.
- large stove or carriage bolts and nuts. Fatter the better -- just make sure they are a size or two smaller than your drill bit. You will need: (14) 2.5", (12) 3.5", (6-9) 4.5", (4) 5.5" bolts, (4) 6.5" bolts and 40 nuts.
- about 90 washers for the stove bolts. Get the largest diameter ones you can find that'll fit your bolts.
Directions - Frame
- Assemble the sides and back. This can be done by one person.
- I've specified identical back and sides, which makes a succah 8'x8', big enough for a table for 6. The dimensions can be easily adjusted by changing the lengths of the horizontal and diagonal 1x4s.
- Arrange on the ground a square with its two sides made of 2x4s (A) and the top and bottom made of 8' 1x4s (B). All the boards should be resting on their wide sides -- don't try any fancy balancing acts. This will be the left side of the succah as you face it.
- At the corners, overlap the 2x4s on top of the 1x4s. In each corner, drill a hole through both boards and then bolt them together using the 3.5" inch stove bolts. If your holes are larger than the bolts, this will be easy and -- importantly -- will continue to be easy if the boards warp before next year. Use washers on either side of each board to stop the nut and bolt from enlarging the hole in the wood. (screw head, washer, 1x4, washer, 2x4, washer, nut). Using your marker, label the 2x4s "left side front" and "left side back" and the 1x4s "left side top" and "left side bottom".
- You will now have a quadrilateral, loosely bolted together.
- To give it some additional strength and to give you something to mount the sides on, bolt (using 2.5" bolts) a 7' 1x4 (C) vertical upright brace to the middle of the bottom 1x4 (B) and the middle of the top 1x4 (B). If you've lengthened the side, place this brace 4' from the right 2x4.
- To help it keep some shape, add two diagonal 1x4s (D). Take one of the 4' 1x4s and label it "left side right brace". Drill holes in the top and bottom of the brace (D). Now place it at the top right corner, diagonally stretching from the top 1x4 to the vertical 2x4. Be sure the sides and top are all straight before you drill, so that you are creating a square rather than some odd shape. Mark where it meets and drill holes to match; bolt it together. The braces should be on the inside of the succah, so that they do not interfere with your outside covering.
- Repeat to make a second diagonal brace on the left.
- You should now have a square or rectangle with a center bar and 2 diagonals at the top corners. It should remain square when moved. Be sure all pieces are labelled.
- Repeat for the right side and back.
- Now for the house raising!
- With an assistant or two, stand up the left side and the back to form two sides of the succah. Pick a comfortably high spot and drill a hole through the left side back 2x4 (A) and the back left 2x4 (A) and bolt them together using the 6.5" bolts. Then pick a comfortably low spot and repeat. These are the two most difficult holes -- they go through 2 2x4s, one in the wide direction -- and if the wood warps, you may need a hammer or mallet to get the bolts through in later years. So put them at comfortable heights -- 2 ft and 5 ft, not 1 ft and 7 ft.
- Stand up the 3d side, drill and bolt it to the back in 2 places. You should now have a 3 sided structure that will stand on its own but -- especially if your bolts are loose -- will wobble disturbingly in front.
- The remaining 8' 1x4 (B) runs across the top of the front of the succah. With your assistant, hold it in place, mark the appropriate location to drill, drill holes through it and the front 2x4s of the sides, and bolt into place, one 5.5" bolt at each end. Label it "front top brace"
- To stiffen the front, now use one of the 2 short 1x4s (E) to make a diagonal, running from the front top brace (B) to the left side front 2x4 (A). The exact angle is not important -- just be sure you've measured correctly by drilling the holes in the diagonal first, then marking the exact spots in the top brace and side front 2x4. Drill and bolt, using 2.5" bolts at the top and 5.5" inch ones below. Repeat on the right side and label the diagonals "front left brace" "front right brace".
- You now have a completed, stable, succah frame. At the end of Succot, you can dismantle it entirely, or, if you have sufficient storage space, you can just remove the front brace and the four bolts holding the sides to the back, leaving the side and back frames intact. Just be sure all pieces are clearly labelled -- as the wood ages, it will become nearly impossible to reassemble the frame unless you use each piece in exactly the same configuration.
Materials and Directions - Sides
- There are many options for sides.
- If you have strength and storage space, bolt on thin plywood pieces (4'x8'x1/4" pieces, cut to 4x7, mounted vertically).
- If you like to see the view, buy 4x8 (cut to 4x7) rose-lattice pieces and tie them on vertically with string.
- Or tie on canvas, indian print bedspreads or bamboo blinds.
- In picking your sides, think about how you are going to decorate your succah: it is difficult to attach pictures to cloth and bamboo. Machmirs will also want to consider halachic rulings that cloth should be tightly fastened so that it does not move in the wind, and lattice sides should be more solid than empty.
Materials - Roof
- (6) 1x4 9' long.
- (6) 1x2, 9' long.
Directions - Roof
- Place 6 1x4s on top of the succah frame, running side to side and evenly spaced. Be sure they stick out beyond the frame at least 1 foot on each side.
- Place 6 1x2s running front to back on top of the 6 1x4s.
- You now have a light weight lattice suitable for holding schach.
- Skhakh is the roof covering. It can be made from any form of branches or leaves, so long as it is natural plant materials dis-attached from their source (i.e, cut tree or bush branches, not a living tree). It should be dense enough so that at noon it provides more shade than light but not so dense that you can't see the stars through it. Trim your backyard or buy palm fronds or a bamboo blind. Palm fronds and pine branches are particularly nice since they last the entire holiday without wilting. Virginia creeper looks great at the beginning, especially if it is beginning to turn red, but it tends to drop on to your head by the end of the week.
- Pile the skhakh on to the roof and you are ready to decorate.
- Please note that the roof is not fastened down, as is traditional. In windy areas, this means there is a chance that it will blow off or down into the succah. Be appropriately cautious.
Directions - Decoration
- Traditional decorations seem to emphasize fall fruits and vegetables - grapes, winter squashes, pomegranates, popcorn & cranberries - hanging from the roof rafters, but anything goes. My kids insist on a carved pumpkin Succah Lantern on the table
- The Simple Succah should be reasonably stable even in a moderate storm, but I wouldn't sleep in this in Florida during hurricane season.
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