A sukkah roof has to be open to the sky, and made of loose, plant-based material. Practically speaking, this means that everything inside gets wet when it rains.....unless your sukkah has a "shlock," some device that does not stay permanently on the sukkah (so you can remove it when it doesn't rain) and will keep the water out.
You can buy a shlock from some sukkah retailers, but those are either expensive or low quality (i.e. just a tarp).

What I'm looking for is a complete plan to construct your own DIY shlock.
I don't think that the just-a-tarp-shlock is a good idea, because it will just fill with water and break. Hard plastic is better, but difficult to make it that it's easy to remove. A sloped, retractable awning (made out of soft plastic) would be a great idea, but sounds very complicated. (if you could make it simple, that would be a great answer!)

Best answers should come from your own experience, and be well-explained.

  • Does it need to keep 100% of the water out, or is a solution that keeps most of it out ok? Oct 6 '14 at 19:33
  • @MonicaCellio most is better than my current solution (let it all get wet)
    – MTL
    Oct 6 '14 at 19:40
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/46175/5323
    – MTL
    Oct 7 '14 at 14:22
  • A sukkah roof has to be open to the sky Source?
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 10 '16 at 18:34
  • 1
    @mevaqesh Ah, I see. As for rain getting through the schach, I referred to that when I wrote that the schach should "made of loose, plant-based material." I don't have a source for that, offhand. Thanks for clarifying the confusion.
    – MTL
    Oct 19 '16 at 2:31

I made a sukkah with hard wooden covers like the top of a cardboard box:Box sukkah
Either the schach must be wholly within the walls, or the shlak has be affixed to protrusions at each upper corner (yellow) so it covers the entire sukkah.

The hinges (yellow) have to be able to rotate 270°.

The shlak can be covered with tarp (blue) to improve its water resistance.

It only needs a very slight slant for the water to run off, as it does not pool on a solid surface.

I attached sticks (red) at the center corners (similar to those moving high window shades), which are used to swing the covers over the wall and hanging straight down the long walls, thus avoiding being caught in the wind.

  • Wow, thanks for a great answer! I love the ultra-clear picture :) ....unfortunately, this probably won't work for my sukkah due to space restrictions (fences and garage will get in the way) but it's a great design.
    – MTL
    Oct 7 '14 at 13:47
  • Are there halachic issues with this shlak vis à vis building an ohel on Shabbos/Yom Tov?
    – MTL
    Oct 7 '14 at 13:49
  • 2
    @Shokhet The Rema Hilchos Sukkah 626:3 says that one is permitted to open and shut hinged flaps that are used for covering the sukkah when raining. Furthermore, there is no prohibition when the additional cover is within a tefach, as per Igros Moshe Orach Chaim vol. IV page 194.
    – Adám
    Oct 7 '14 at 14:00
  • @Shokhet Now I think of it, this system is actually better than the common tarp-roll on slanted beams, as the latter must be extended at least a tefach before Shabbos/Yom Tov.
    – Adám
    Oct 7 '14 at 14:11
  • Also good to know.....for the benefit of the public, you might want to answer judaism.stackexchange.com/q/46175/5323
    – MTL
    Oct 7 '14 at 14:22

I have not built a cover for my sukkah, but I can draw from past experience camping in a yurt. A yurt is designed to support a small fire inside, in the center, for which purpose there is a smoke hole in the top. Because you don't want to get rained on when not burning a fire, the smoke hole has a cover. The best yurt designs have a domed ring in the center (that the cover goes over), to prevent pooling; you don't have that option with a sukkah, so we'll have to use a sloped approach instead, like for a lean-to.

First, get a pair of 2x2s that are a foot or so longer, per 8' of cover length, than your sukkah is tall. (A one-foot difference from front to back provided enough slope for drainage for an 8-foot-deep canvas lean-to in my camping group this summer. If you're trying to cover 20 feet, though, you'll need more height to get that slope.) In the top of each, set a spike that protrudes a couple inches -- a large nail works. Also prepare two blocks of wood thicker than the spike is long and drill a hole partway through each into which the spike can fit. (Chunks of 4x4 would do.) Sand all exposed cut sides of these blocks, as you'll be pulling your cover over them and don't want to risk tearing it on a rough edge.

Choose one side of your sukkah (you might opt for the one that is "ante-windward", the one the wind is least likely to come from) and attach these poles to your existing vertical supports by screwing, bolting, or lashing. Do this on the outside of the sukkah to avoid interfering with your s'chach. We will call this the "tall side" henceforth. If your sukkah is oblong, I recommend doing this on a short side, so your cover is "longer but narrower" as opposed to "shorter but wider". It'll be easier to roll it on and off that way.

Procure (or assemble) a covering of the right size plus a few feet in length. A plastic tarp is easy but can tear, particularly once you add grommets (below). Canvas will do a better job of keeping you dry, but you'll probably have to sew as the widest canvas I've seen for sale is about 58" wide. If your canvas didn't come pre-treated, apply water-proofing (and it's a good idea to seal your seams too). Set grommets at all four corners. (Note: if setting grommets in canvas, it's best to do it through a leather patch -- sew leather to canvas and put grommet through both. This helps against tearing in high winds.)

Next, position two of the corners on the opposite side of your sukkah at the top (get somebody to hold them in place for this step or tie them down), and spread the cover over the top until you reach your new poles. Mark the places on the cover where they meet the spikes, and set grommets there. (Feel free to give yourself some extra length if you want a bit of overhang at the lower side.) You should have a couple feet of cover yet on this side, enough to hang down past your s'schach.

Attach a rope to each corner, long enough to reach the ground from where the cover will sit, plus a foot or two. Quarter-inch rope is sufficient. Use actual rope (like hemp), not something that stretches like clothesline.

Position the cover over the sukkah, with the non-corner grommets going over the poles with the spikes. Once the cover is in place, put one of the blocks over each spike; this will protect your cover from the spikes when you fold it back.

If you are setting your sukkah up on grass, pound a tent-stake near each corner, make a loop in each rope with a slider-knot (err, I wasn't a scout, sorry -- a knot that you can slide along the rope to lengthen or shorten it), put the rope loops through the stakes, and tighten. To pull the cover back, loosen the ropes on the short side, remove from the stakes, and walk the cover back, guiding it with the ropes, until you've pulled the cover back over the tall side. It will hang down the outside.

If you are setting your sukkah up on pavement, you'll need something on the sukkah itself to attach the ropes to. Assuming your sukkah has a "baseboard" (something that sits on the ground to which the uprights are attached), you can tie a loop of rope around it at each corner with a very small amount of "give". If you don't have a "baseboard" you'll need to rig something on your corner posts. Once you have something on the frame to attach to, either tie off your ropes like above (threading through those ropes instead of tent stakes) or attach a trigger-snap hook to each rope. I highly recommend that you use the hooks for the ropes on the short side, as you'll be fastening and unfastening them a lot (assuming you're keeping your sukkah covered when not in use).

Here is a low-fidelity side view:

side view of cover, ropes, grommets, and tall poles

This won't keep 100% of the water out, because there's space on the sides between the s'chach and the cover, but it will keep most out.

  • +1, thanks for the very detailed answer! I had a plan in my head something like this, but I hadn't considered the use of grommets....those could make things a lot easier than what I had in mind.
    – MTL
    Oct 7 '14 at 2:37
  • You're welcome. BTW, since you asked about a cover for the s'chach I'm assuming that you've got coverage for the walls and doorway. You could obviously make the cover longer if you need to, e.g. if the "short" side is a side that's otherwise open to the wind. Oct 7 '14 at 2:40
  • Not a bad idea. I don't think it's necessary in my case, as the walls and door are made of marine-grade lumber, and (AFAICT) do their part in keeping the rain out. ( up to you if you think that belongs in the question, to help other people looking for DIY sukkah covers )
    – MTL
    Oct 7 '14 at 2:44
  • I tried to answer the question you actually asked, which doesn't call for walls. :-) I think it's fine as it is and people who need a longer cover will see that they can make one. Oct 7 '14 at 2:46

This plan was originally made for a sukka where the schach mat was just a little too short for the frame.

  1. Take a heavy-duty tarp about the size of your sukka and a length of PVC pipe about 2 feet longer than the width of the passul spot on the end of your sukka
  2. Lay the tarp flat on the ground and place the PVC pipe so that it sticks out on both sides (fold the tarp if necessary)
  3. Roll the tarp up around the pipe (think a roll of paper towels) and tie with a couple pieces of string so it stays in one piece.
  4. Put your schlock roll in the passul spot. (If you don't have a passul spot, just put it on the schach.
  5. Cut the string.

Pros: super simple
Cons: difficult to roll the schlock back up for reuse.
If I had to do it over: Punch holes in the pipe and tie the tarp to it.

  • +1, thanks for the speedy answer!! .....if the tarp is laying flat on the schach (which, if I understand your plan properly, it is), doesn't it fill with water?
    – MTL
    Oct 6 '14 at 19:02
  • It follows the contours of the schach. If your schach is concave (as most mats will be) you get puddles in the tarp which mostly run off as you roll the tarp up. Rolling it up can be messy if you aren't careful, or even if you are.
    – Yitzchak
    Oct 6 '14 at 19:53
  • I don't use mats, but there was no reason for you to know that.....the bamboo poles that I use come out to be more or less flat, but I'm considering taking your idea on a sloped PVC track....we'll see.
    – MTL
    Oct 6 '14 at 20:42
  • I have some pretty elaborate plans for a schlock on rails but I've never tried them out
    – Yitzchak
    Oct 6 '14 at 21:20
  • Same, although mine never included anything like yours....maybe this year will be the year! :P
    – MTL
    Oct 6 '14 at 21:28

I built a Shlock this year for a Succah on a deck measuring 8x18 feet that worked perfectly. It was corrugated plastic roofing on a 2x2 frame on wheels that slid on a track made of aluminum studs (cost about $3.00 each at Home Depot. It can be opened and closed by one person inside the Succah. Please contact me if you would like more details. atendler@juno.com Total cost was approx. $200- the most expensive item was the roofing which was $14 per panel 8footx26 inches. I needed 10.

  • 2
    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for your answer! I recommend our tour to learn more about how the site works. This answer will be seen by many people for years to come, so I highly recommend that you include (or at least summarize) your plans in the answer instead of having people e-mail you for them. I look forward to seeing you around the site.
    – msh210
    Oct 21 '15 at 7:04

Addendum from R' Aaron Tendler:

Just realized that there is another important piece of information that should be included. If you look at the frame holding the panels, you will notice that the corners are connected by putting the 20' length over the side 2x2 with the wheels, with a single long bolt going through both. That bolt must be extremely tight (use a pliers even if you use wing nuts like I did) to hold the frame rigid.

Two important advantages of attaching the corner this way-

1) It is much easier to take apart after Succos :-)

2) You now have a 2" space between the Shlock plastic panels and the 2x2 the wheels are on. Because the panels will inevitably sag, you can run the 1x2 (that I've been mentioning over and over again) from one side all the way to the other beneath the panels, with the 2" side sticking up. I would even run 2 of them. This will hold the panels rigid with no sag at all, and the rain will run right off. Obviously, to get 20' I need to attach two of them together.

  • 1
    You should combine the two answers that you made by editing one of them. Oct 10 '16 at 18:52

This is a tentative suggestion - haven't built it yet and don't know if I'll be able to this year. I'd be happy if others amplified it and improved on it. I own a prefab metal bar Sukkah Depot sukkah, so I'm assuming that the shlock needs to be completely stand-alone. My sukkah is 10'x12' and stands on an uneven grassy lawn, but I hope that won't matter. Ground rules: Easy to build, take apart, store. Easy to raise and lower. Hopefully cheap.

The idea is to make the shlock out of pieces of 2'x10.5' plywood (cut a 4'x12' in half - is this available?). You could use maybe Rabbi Tendler's polycarbonate for a better, lighter, stronger product, but this would be lots cheaper. One may want to spray the plywood with something to make it more waterproof. The plywood is not load-bearing at all, so the thinner and lighter the better. The pieces are going to lie across in the 10' direction of my sukkah, so they'd stick out on both sides a few inches. To each piece you attach a 1"x1"x11' piece of wood, running exactly down its middle line (i.e., at the 1 foot mark of the plywood). I'd guess you could glue it on with wood glue and maybe some wood screws. This wood will be load-bearing, but the plywood hopefully stiffens it and there isn't that much load, just the plywood and its own weight. These pieces of wood would stick out a few inches past the plywood on both ends. Call this combo the "roofing".

We now take a couple of 2'x4's, which will go on each side; the "roofing" pieces are going to hang on these. For each 2'x4' we'd need to drill a circular hole big enough so that the 1"x1" wood ends can turn within it easily. (>=1.5" bit) These 2'x4's are going to be suspended on a wood frame somehow (e.g., just four standing boards at the corners outside the sukkah, other boards between the corners for more strength. The 2x4s will be above the sukkah, more than one foot above, and at a fairly good angle so rain will run off the roof. The "4 inch" part of the 2x4 is vertical, for strength. For the same reason, I'd drill the big holes closer to the top edge of the 2x4 rather than through the center.

The holes in the 2x4s are spaced evenly along the length, so the roofing pieces are spaced out. But - the roofing pieces must overlap a couple of inches. That way, when they lie flat, they form a surface for the rain to run off from one end to the other. For that to happen - you need to picture this - the roofing pieces are going to need to lie "flat" with an angle, with the lower edge of a given piece lying on top of the upper edge of the next piece down the slope. (You need a decent slope for the whole thing for that to happen, as the roofing has some thickness.)

At this point we could put the roofing through the 2x4s, and they should rotate without problem. When the roofing is perfectly vertical we have a kosher sukkah. When it is turned flat (and a little more down, as I said), we have a working roof. The plywood is just hanging on the 1x1 piece of wood, so only the 1x1 carries weight, and since the 1x1 runs right up the center of the plywood there shouldn't be twisting stress on the plywood even if it's windy. It's all completely above the schach.

We still need: a way to keep the roofing pieces from sliding in and out of the holes in the 2x4s, and a way to "raise" and "lower" them. There are probably a lot of ways to keep the roofing from sliding; a bolt through the 1x1 next to each of the 2x4s would do it, but maybe there's a better way that won't scratch the 2x4 when you rotate the roofing pieces.

For raising and lowering (these things are fairly high up by now, a minimum of a foot above the schach on the lower side), I was thinking of the way you see some slats on wooden window shutters: a single piece of wood runs up the shutters and is attached to each of the horizontal slats. You could put a piece of wood like that here on top of each of the roofing pieces; when it lies down (at a slant), all the roofing pieces would fold down under it. And how do you get them vertical: Maybe lift that piece of wood to maximum height so all the slats go vertical, and hang it on something up there. Might be annoying to manipulate that piece of wood way up there, though - attach a pole on the end(s) hanging down? As an alternative, I wondered about using a piece of rope instead. Make a little hole near the edge of each of the roofing pieces, put the rope through them (or put something else small through the holes and attack the rope to those), and make a knot in the rope at the right place for each roofing piece. If you don't get it right, move the knots along the rope a little this way and that afterwards to adjust. Now you can pull the rope one way to make everything lie down for a roof, and the other way to get everything vertical and kosher. For the latter, mark the exact place on the rope where that happens (or do something to make sure the roofing can't go past vertical?). Now you can use a pulley to adjust the rope each way.

Any of these may make the roofing not fit together as well when lying down, so again make sure it has a really healthy slant so water runs down anyhow.


Follow-up on R' Aaron Tendler's answer. I contacted him and got some pictures (there are six but I can only post a single link to the folder containing them), and a description [https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipO-Rydlqf15LKdUu2600SUfR10dOnlHmzH4ThqvBVl4LuEeLmJZQjFSwetmruRvug?key=bUxKaTFGZTNyVWlsRUpaczlhTHc1a3I4MGE1Y3pB ] [I thought the fourth picture was confusing, but that's just because someone else's sukkah is in the background; ignore it.] M Reach

Here's his description (in three separate emails, so you'll have to figure out which picture he refers to in each):

The Shlock is off the Succah, so the Succah is ready for use. Please note the 20' length of 1x2 going the width of the frame in the middle, supporting the panels in the middle from sagging. I did not fasten it in past years, but it can be fastened with a single wood screw or bracket on either end- I intend to do so this year. The ropes at the corners are for tying down the Shlock in extreme weather after it has been rolled back onto the Succah. The end is attached to the poles holding my balcony.

OK- here are 3 pictures that I asked someone to snap with their phone. At this point, only the frame of the Shlock is up and in its track. I laid one panel of the plastic corrugated roofing across the frame, so that you can see how it will lay when I'm finished connecting it. I am going to put up the Succah itself after the Shlock is up, as the way I did it it is independent of the Succah, supported by the 2x4 upright poles (back ones are slightly higher than the front ones.) If your Succah is sturdy enough, you can rest the track for the Shlock directly on the walls, although you will need to figure out a way to elevate one side so that the rain will drain off. My porch is 7'7"x18'6", and I made the Shlock to cover an area of 8'x20'. The roofing does come in 12' lengths as well. (I believe each sheet is 26 inches wide- definitely the most expensive part of the whole project!) In the second picture, you can see the top part of the wheels attached to the 2x2 supporting the roofing. The bottom part is inside the track, which is screwed to the 2x4. In the third picture the roofing is laying across the frame. After the roofing is attached to the frame, I will be running 2 1"x2" (across the 20' length) poles under the roofing, to prevent the roofing from sagging. How did I manage to create a 20' long 2x2 pole to support the roofing? That took a while to figure out. In Home Depot they sell steel 8' lengths of garage door track. I took 2 of the and fitted them together, creating one 8' tube, and inserted 8' lengths of 2x2's into each end, with 6' extending on either side, and put a bolt on both ends to fasten the wood into place. You can attach ropes and use pulleys to move it back and forth. In my case, I just use a pole with a hook on it that attaches to an "eye" bolt on the front 20' pole, and I just roll the Shlock back and forth. My Schach placement allows me to leave a 2" "groove" that allows this. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the wood being PERFECTLY straight when you are selecting it!! Otherwise, it will not roll if there is any warping at all. This does not apply to the 2x2 longer ( in my case 20') pole, which just supports the roofing. Hatzlacha! Aaron Tendler

Ooops...forgot to mention that before putting up the tracks you need to put a small metal bracket or screw protruding at the end, to prevent the frame from rolling off the wrong end if you push it too far!

ADDENUM: fixed url link

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