EZ-Bild Sukkah

The E-ZEE-BILD Sukkah

(for a more diagrammatic presentation see EZsukkah)

You can build this 8' x 16' x 7' high sukkah (seating 14) in 1 1/2 hours for less than $150 including schach.  Go to Lowes or Home Depot and purchase the following materials: 36 - 8'x1x4, 3 - 8'x2x4, 4 - 2x4 joist hangers, 1 box of 1 1/4" exterior sheetrock screws, and 2 rolls of 6' x 16' reed matting.  Pay about $75 more to buy pressure-treated wood, which will last longer.  The lattice panels showns above will cost about $100, but any kind of wall material including cloth or canvas will work.  (See for comprehensive halachic discussion of the suitability of "reed fencing" for schach.) .  To put it all together you'll need a battery-powered variable speed drill and any kind of saw.  Precision is not critical, but you should use a tape measure for what little measuring is needed.

Start by laying out with chalk an 8' x 7' square on your garage floor.  Use adjacent walls or a curb and a wall for two sides so you can lay out the pieces along a square and straight template.  Mark the 4' high point on the 7' sides.  Take 12 1x4x8' and cut off 1' to create 7' long uprights.  This allows an uncut 1x4x8' to be used as a diagonal brace. The lower height makes the sukkah feel more cozy and is much easier to assemble and decorate.

Now begin laying out a typical "side" panel of which there are 5...the "front" doorway is the only exception.  Lay down 3 - 8' pieces  starting at the base, at the 4' mark, and at the top.  Lay 2 7' uprights on either side, overlaying and nicely lined up on each end of the 8-footers.  If you use adjacent walls, you'll be fairly sure each frame is square...which looks nicer among other benefits.  Lay 1 additional 8' piece diagonally as shown in the picture so the two ends align with the top and bottom 8-footers.  Now place one screw at each of six square junctions typically marked "A," and drive them in deep because they're not coming out.

It may be a good idea to have  your young helper(s) hold things in place while you drive in the screws.  After screwing a panel together pick it up and move and store it upright off to the side.  Without the wall material it will only weigh about 35 lbs.  Try to be consistent in placing the diagonal so the panels look neat.  Place screws at the 3 diagonal junctions at the top, bottom, and 4' point typically marked "B." 

The doorway panel is constructed without a base.  Lay out 2 uprights, a top piece, and cutting 1 8' piece in half 2 diagonal braces, and screw together.

In the illustration below you see Jack, our master of all trades, admiring the amateur construction performed by a child of six.  You can also see the assembly and construction of the roof supports marked "E" at an end of the latitudinal support on the right, "F" in the center of the longitudinal support, and "C" at an end of the longitudinal support.

It's time to put it all together.  You will need the cutoffs, which we'll use as splice blocks to attach the panels to each other, between adjacent panels and to hold the longitudinal and latitudinal roof braces on top.  Take 4 cutoffs and partially screw joist hangers to the center of each, taking care to align the bottom of the hanger with the bottom of the piece of wood.  Then take 2 and place at the midpoint of the top horizontal member of the front (doorway) and back (short side) of the sukkah marked C."  Screw all screws securely to firmly attach the cutoff with its mounted joist hanger to the top rail. 

It should look like this when the 2 x 4 roof brace is later mounted in the joist hanger and is typically marked "C."

Now start assembling the panels starting with the back or short side of the sukkah opposite the doorway.  You'll definitely need some extra hands for this unless you're a proficient circus juggler.  Stand up the back panel with the horizontal members facing the inside of the sukkah, then stand up an adjacent long-side panel with the horizontal members facing outside the sukkah.  Place a screw at the top, mid, and bottom points through the long-side panel into the short-side panel nestled neatly against it.  The cutaway below shows the back or short-side panel to the left and the long-side panel to the right...note how the horizontal members are reversed, facing either inside or outside the sukkah.  This is typically marked "D."

To attach the long-side panels to each other we will use the other 2 cutoffs with joist hangers attached.  But, this time they will be mounted 3 1/2" below the top of the top horizontal member so the top of the cutoff is aligned with with bottom of the top horizontal members of the panels.  Note how the cutoff acts as a splice between the adjacent vertical members.  This is typically marked "E."

This will allow the longitudinal roof brace to pass over and be supported by the shorter latitudinal brace below, as is roughly shown in the mockup below.  Use an additional cutoff to slice the long-side panels at the bottom as well as the top.

Continue with the assembly of panels until all four sides are complete and the whole is roughly rectangular, not a parallelogram.  Two sets of joist hangers should be opposite each the midpoints of both the short and long sides of the sukkah.  Take 1 8' 2x4 and if you've done everything right it should fit as is between the joist hangers on the long sides.  If not, cut off a little until it does.  Otherwise put one screw on each side to secure the latitudinal roof brace in place.  Inorder to assemble the longer roof brace we're going to scarf or splice two 8' 2x4's together.  Take the remaining 8' 1x4 and cut in half.  Butt the ends of the 2x4's together as they lay on their sides.  Lay one of the 4' 1x4's on top and align so that 2' overlaps one 2x4 and 2' the other.  Place at least 4 screws staggered on each side of the splice, turn the whole assembly over and repeat on the other side.  Take care that you do not screw the screws through the 1x4 so tightly that you crack it.  Your finished splice will look something like this, although the splice blocks you'll use will be much longer than what's shown here.  This is typically marked "F."

Pick up and lift into place.  If too long, cut a little off so it fits snugly.  Finish by putting at least one screw through the joist hanger and into the brace on each side.  You'll almost finished.  Roll out the reed matting down the length of the sukkah, overlapping along the longitudinal brace.  If you use the HomeDepot matting, you must do it this way because otherwise the wire binding material will constitute a maimid and posul your schach. 

Finish the walls anyway you want.  You only need to fill half the panel as the intermediate horizontal brace is set at ~48" or a bit more than the 10 tefachimheight required for kosher walls.  We've shown 4 x 8 lattice panels because they can be attached without much modification and are easy to find.  We prefer shade fabric in the south because it's often hot as it cuts the strength of the sun and keeps out bugs, but any kind of fabric or lattice will work.  If it's cold where you are, use heavier fabric or even plastic.  Never use plastic where it's hot or you'll cook!

To put away roll up the schach, take down the roof braces, remove the splice blocks on each of the long sides, then back out but don't remove the rest of the screws holding the sides together.  Be sure someone else is helping so the sides don't clatter to the ground as they are loosened.  If you have a blank side of your house or garage at least 20' long with an overhanging eave, you're in business.  Get 4 long brackets (type used to store bicycles, etc.) and attach to the wall at least 7'-6" off the ground to hang 2 sets of panels.  Hang 4 on one set and 4 on the other, draping the roof braces over both.  Hang the schach rolls from the hooks.  Don't bother to remove the wall material and it will be ready to go when you set up your sukkah next year. Get a plastic tarp (or just a roll of black plastic) long enough to cover everything, tuck and/or tack in the top and sides but the leave the bottom open for ventilation.  It will last for many years as long as it's stored out of the sun and stays fairly dry.

Ordinarily we'd warn you to beware of cheap imitations, but this sukkah is so cheap no one will bother to imitate it.

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