So a few weeks back I started. I have never built a sukkah and only been in a handful of them. As I sometimes do though I got a few ideas in my head.
One was that the walls should be canvas (because regardless of the truth that seems authentic to me). Another was that the frame should be metal (because it should be strong). And the other notion was that I should build it on my own outside.
My wife did a little research online and found one or two useful articles. The first one sounded good, but it lacked details, so in some ways this is my adding that detail. Also please take note that if you are strict about things, this is NOT a Kosher sukkah.
Also very important: I have no idea what I'm doing.
I am not a trained professional sukkah builder. This may not be a safe sukkah. This may not be legal in your town to have it on a balcony. Also you may be overrun with ushpizin because it's such an amazing sukkah. In short: follow my example/instructions at your own risk. I make no claims as to the safety of this process or sukkah.
Materials1 package of 50 to 100 safety pins
10' to 15' #600 galvanized 18 ga wire
2 12' x 15' canvas drop cloth (actual dimensions are a bit smaller)
0 to 4 1" gas pipe floor flange (optional depending on location)
16 3/4" xclose gas pipe nipple (it's like a piece of 2" pipe that's fully threaded)
4 3/4" galvanized gas pipe tee
4 3/4" galvanized gas pipe 90 degree elbow
8 1" x 10' galvanized electrical conduit pipe
10' nylon string
10 - 12 screws
8 to 16 zip ties (3/16" or larger)
2 10/5' long 2x4s (I didn't use these, but should have had something like them)
suchach (sized to be larger than the top of the sukkah)
( ' = feet; " = inches)
|Some of the needed materials:|
conduit, floor flange, tees, elbows, and nipples
Vice (I used a #4, but anywhere around that size will do and you could make do with 2 pipe wrenches instead)
Drill w/ various bits
Pipe cutter capable of cutting 1" pipe
1 or 2 old rags
Rotary tool with grinding stone (I used a Dremel)
Center punch (optional)
Oil paint marker (optional)
Scissors (for cutting canvas)
Center punch (optional)
Oil paint marker (optional)
Scissors (for cutting canvas)
For the height I decided on around 6.5' since the drop cloth was 15' on its longest side. Half that and allow for a little bit of extra to wrap around the poles and the maximum you can do is around 6.5'.
So I cut 6 of the 8 pipes to those sizes (2 of them were already properly sized at 10'). Keep a bit of the scrap pipe handy as you'll need it in the next step.
|the four corners|
Once you have four corners like the ones above take the remaining nipples and put them into all of the ends. You can put a pipe wrench directly on the threads without worry of damaging them because we'll be removing those threads later.
|adding the first exterior nipple|
(the vice is wrapped in an old tee shirt)
|tightening the second exterior nipple|
|grinding the threads off the nipples|
Once the nipples were done I removed the burs and hanging bits of metal from the threads with a wire brush.
|cleaning up the nipple with a wire brush|
|fitting the pipe onto the nipple|
The next step is to drill holes into the pipes and corner pieces, so you can secure them. A punch always helps drilling (especially with a curved surface like a pipe). Be sure that you drill so that the screw goes into the middle of the exposed part of the nipple. I used metal screws with hex tops because I figured they may rust and be difficult to get out (the nipples aren't galvanized). Do this for the full rectangular shape of the top of the sukkah. Disassemble after building the full frame though because unless you have help you'll want to build this in a set order.
|above secure screw in place|
below drilled hole ready for the screw
To be sure everything would fit together easily, I used an oil paint marker to put numbers on all of the connections between pipe and nipple so I could always match pipe 1 to nipple 1 and 2 to 2. Unless you're perfect with the grinding and drilling you'll likely end up with parts that aren't fully interchangeable, so this keeps that from being a problem.
Now it's time to assemble the frame. First build a short side by putting two corners on a pipe. Remember that each tee should have a nipple facing down for one of the vertical pipes to go in. It should look something like this:
|pipe with two corners attached|
(and all the scrap pipe pilled to the left)
|corner with two top pieces of pipe|
|at this point things get a little wobbly|
While holding the assembled parts up with one hand, put a leg on the other corner. With both legs in place, you'll have them and the one top pipe on the ground and it won't be so wobble (for now).
|putting the second leg in|
Grab the top pipe that's resting on the ground and raise it up. Put one of the legs into the tee on the corner that had been on the ground. Although not very stable you have three legs at this point and it should stand. This is where having the railing on the balcony is great because you can use the zip ties to hold the pipes in place. Be sure to move the frame to where you want it to end up before zip tying it. Put at least one zip tie at the top of the rail and one at the bottom. Add more for a little extra stability.
|zip tied leg|
While holding that pipe with one arm to support it, attach the last corner, and then put the leg on it. Now you have just one more top pipe to put in place. Because there's some give to the frame you should be able to pull it apart a little, place the pipe into the nipple, and then pull it shut. Hopefully you have a frame like this:
For me I was able to secure 3 legs to the railing, but the last one had nothing to be secured to, so I put a 1" floor flange on it. This should just screw into place onto the leg and give it a little more stability, but mainly keep it from digging into the surface of the balcony too much.
|leg with floor flange|
Now it's time to secure the legs with screws in the same way that the top pipes all have securing screws. Since the one leg was free floating I put a level on it to be sure I was attaching it at a right angle. I chose to only put securing screws on two legs (at opposite corners), but putting a screw on each leg is probably smart.
|assembled corner with painted connection points|
(A goes to A) and securing screws all in place
Check that all of the securing screws are tight and the frame feels solid. It should give a little, but not much.
Now it's time to make walls. Take the drop cloth and fold it over along the 15' side (hopefully you can clear a space big enough for this). Cut along the fold line and you will end up with two equally sized roughly 7' x 10' pieces of canvas. Repeat this on the second drop cloth and you'll have 4 identically sized pieces.
Hopefully you can find a time with no wind to put the canvas on. Decide where you want the door to start and make that where you start with the canvas. Wrap the canvas around a top part of the frame (not a leg) so that the cut side is parallel to the pipe (and ground). Start securing the canvas with safety pins.
One thing that helps this process is to take the far end of the canvas and drape it over the top of the frame. This makes it so not all of the weight of the canvas is on the section you're trying to secure.
Work your way around the top of the frame securing the canvas. A safety pin every 4" or so seemed to work well. When you have one piece secure, put another piece on, but overlap it by 4' or so which will allow the canvas to flap open some in the wind without exposing the inside of the sukkah except in high wind.
I only needed 3 pieces of canvas as was able to cover 3 sides and most of the other side. The sukkah is positioned such that the part without canvas is right around the door into the apartment, so it feels like the sukkah has 4 walls.
Once the canvas it up, go around and lash the corners with the wire tie. You can punch it through the canvas and wrap around the bit of canvas that is wrapped around the pipe. You may want to get the wire tight by using pliers to twist the wire together (like a wire tie for a trash bag). Just keep in mind that the wire isn't very heavy and you can twist it to snapping. You want it to have just a little give. My theory is bamboo bends and doesn't break so I like the sukkah to have just a little movement in all joints.
Use the wire tie to secure the bottom of the canvas to the railing. This way it won't blow around in the wind. Where you are able tie the nylon string to the top pipe and to the rail. This way if the sukkah gets wind under it and starts to lift, hopefully the nylon string keeps it from sailing off your balcony.
The final step is to put a covering on and secure it. We order special Kosher suchach. There are a few options out there but what we got was cut bamboo held tightly together with interwoven nylon string. I put it on top of the sukkah, unrolled it, put two cross members across the width of the sukkah (technically you should do the length, but I didn't have long enough cross member) and secured it with wire tie. It was certainly the easiest part since we bought that preassembled.
I prefer a less tightly woven roof because you can see the stars and it's easier to hang decor from, but I must say the suchach we had made it easy and looked great.
|the completed sukkah (from inside)|
notice how the top of the canvas is wrapped around the pipe