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Sukkah from Pergola

We have a pergola next to our house. Can I convert it into a Sukkah? What do I need to know? One reason I’m concerned is because we park a car under it during the rest of the year. Can something which was not built for a Sukkah and is not used as one during the rest of the year be used for a Sukkah now?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In essence yes. On Sukkot, we may use a structure which was not built specifically to be a Sukkah so long as it was built to provide shade. In such cases it’s preferable to “renew” the structure slightly, by lifting up a small portion of the s’chach (a square handbreadth) another time for the sake of the obligation. (Assuming your pergola has a very sparse roof, the issue is not relevant to you as you will certainly “renew” it when you cover it with s’chach.) This is also true if you have a Sukkah up from year to year. Every year you should lift up a little of the s’chach for the new year’s mitzvah. (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 635:1, 636:1, Mishna Berurah 636:4).

Note that there is no obligation at all that the walls be made for the sake of the mitzvah (MB 636:1).

Here are a few other issues to keep in mind when converting a pergola into a Sukkah:

(1) For a Sukkah to be kosher, the walls must be put up before the s’chach. Thus, you should set up the walls before you cover it (Rema to 635:1).

(2) Walls must be constructed from a solid material which does not blow in the wind. Thus, it’s not sufficient to attach sheets around your pergola (Shu”a 628:2).

(3) If the pergola has a wood roof, then its roof can be used as s’chach. In most cases, more s’chach is required to ensure the Sukkah provides more shade than sun. Bamboo mats and the like can simply be spread on top of it to complete the roof.

(4) If the roof is made of another material, then it will also be valid if covered with kosher s’chach, provided there is more kosher than non-kosher s’chach (Shu”a 626:3). However, preferably the s’chach should be supported by another material which is kosher for s’chach (Shu”a 629:7). Thus, if for example the pergola’s roof is made from aluminum, wooden slats should be placed on top of the aluminum and the s’chach should be spread over them. (It’s preferable that the slats hold the s’chach up in a way that it would fall down if not for them.)

See this article for more details about building a Sukkah.

Happy Sukkot!

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