Carl's Sims 3 Guide - Skills, Traits, Careers, Rewards, and Lifetime Wishes for Ambitions and World Adventures

The Sims 3 Building Tutorials: Stairs

Spiral Stairs, Elevators and Staircase Designs

By Norma Blackburn

Build and Edit in The Sims 3
Edit TownEdit LotsHousesHouseholdsBasements/MultistoryGaragesRooms
PoolsRoofsSlopesStairs/ElevatorsWall CurvingMovingSwitch 'hoods

Building Stairs and Elevators

If you have ever built a house in Sims 3, then it is probably a certainty that you would have used stairs at some point. Adding stairs can be as simple as placing a few steps from the front door down to the ground or it can be that tricky feat of getting a set of stairs down through your foundation to the basement below.

Let's take an in-depth look at all aspects of building stairs and elevators, from the very basics to tips and tricks to make building a little easier and even advanced staircase building.

First up, let's look at the default stairs available and how to use them. We'll also look at how to use stairs and elevators through foundations and friezes. Later we'll have a look at some creative ways to use stairs.

We'll start with the basics, go into The Sims 3's Build Mode and click on the stairs.

  1. Stairs: This is the default tab when you open the stairs selection. From here you can select what stairs to use, how wide they are and if they will have a railing or not.
  2. Railings: Open this tab to select railings to add to stairs.
  3. Elevators: From here you can select to build an elevator.
  4. Auto-railings: When on railings will be automatically added when you build stairs. Note that the railings added will be the default railing for the stairs you choose. If you would like a different railing, turn off the auto railing and select the railing you want and add it manually.
  5. Stair Width: Use the slider to determine how wide the stairs will be.
  6. Stair Catalogue: From here you can choose what stairs to use.
  7. Spiral Stairs: Click this to select spiral stairs which were introduced in Generations.

By default when we select stairs, they are set to 1 square wide and will automatically have hand railings. We can turn the auto railing off so as not to place a railing and we can chose to make the stairs up to 8 squares wide. If for some reason, you want wider stairs, just add another set beside the first. If you place stairs without a railing, you can select to manually add a railing of your choice later.

Stairs will behave in different ways, depending on where you are placing them.

If you place a set of stairs on a floor, they will automatically place a full flight heading up, even if there is no floor above. These stairs, once placed will have walls around three sides. The walls around the stairs can then be covered in any wall covering just like any other wall. If you don't want this wall, you can remove it with the sledgehammer tool. There is one exception, the Placid Steps which came in High End Loft Stuff, when placed will not have a wall around the bottom.

If you place stairs on uncovered ground, they will build down and lower the surrounding ground. How far down they build will depend on you. If you just left click on a square and hold the button in while you drag across to the next square, the stairs will go down 4 steps, however if you left click and drag the mouse while still holding in the button, they will continue to build down until you release the button or they can no longer lower the ground.

Stairs placed on the edge of an upper level will go down from this level until something stops them, be it ground or flooring. Stairs placed from a higher level down will not have the wall encasing the back of the stairs.

Changing the Appearance of Your Stairs

We can change how the stairs look in a couple of ways. Like most items in Sims 3, we can click on the create a style tool and change the color and textures of the stairs and railings or we can change the railing. To use a different railing, you can either turn off the railing before you build the stairs and then select a new railing from the catalogue or you can delete the railing after the stairs have been placed. If you chose this method, just be careful to select the railing with the sledgehammer tool!

Spiral Stairs

The spiral stairs were introduced in Generations and are a welcome addition. Needing only 2 x 2 squares on each level, they are great in small areas and particularly good when building up on smaller pre-built houses. Note, however that while only taking up 4 squares on each level, you will need an extra free square in front of the lower steps.

In this picture, the placement of the stairs is identical, but only the one on the right can be used as there is no free space in front of the one on the left.

When placing spiral stairs over multiple levels, just place one set on top of the lower one. The game will automatically turn the new set so that it aligns with the lower set. Spiral stairs must be built from lower levels up. You cannot add a new set beneath an existing set. If you want to add some going down a level, pick up the lowest set you have placed and move it to the lower level, then add a new set on top of that one. Of course, if you have a number of levels, you will have to move them all down a level and place the new set at the top.

Stacked Stairs

It is possible to stack straight staircases on top of each other for multi-level buildings, however these stairs must be built a certain way, otherwise they will not work. Every lot that we build on has an orientation, either front to back or side to side. You can see this orientation when you place or move a lot using the World Editor. When you select a lot, it shows up as a grid with arrows, these arrows will determine the orientation of a lot. When building stacked staircases, they must follow the orientation of the lot to work. If they do not follow the orientation, Sims will be able to go down these stairs easily enough, but when they try to use lower stairs, they will go to the top to the stairs then turn around and go back down.

In the left image here, you can see the orientation of this lot is from front to back. Now in the right image, there are two stacked staircases built on the same lot. Only the stairs going front to back will work, the other set will not function correctly. It doesn't matter if the high end of the staircase is at the front or the back, as long as it just points in that direction.


With the addition of apartments in Late Night, elevators were an essential addition to the game; however, you don't need to build a high-rise to use them.

To place an elevator, select the elevator tab in the stairs section when in build mode. There are two different elevator sections. The first is an elevator shaft and is only required on levels where the elevator is not required to stop. The second piece is the actual elevator including doors. You need to place one of these on every floor that you want the elevator to stop at.

When placing elevators, you will need a 4 by 2 space. 2 x 2 for the actual elevator and 2 x 2 in front of the doors. You will also need a wall between the two 2 x 2 sections. You do not need the wall when placing a shaft. You also need to place floor tiles where the elevator is to go on the upper levels even if there is an elevator piece below it.

Building Stairs and Elevators Through Foundations and Friezes.

Foundations and friezes add extra levels to our buildings; however, sometimes we need to pass through a frieze to get to an upper level or through a foundation to get to a basement. Let's look at using stairs and elevators through these levels to get our Sims where they want to be.

The easiest way to build stairs through a frieze to an upper level is to go to the upper level and delete a row of four pieces of the frieze. Then simply build a set of stairs down through the gap. You could just delete three pieces of frieze and your Sim will still be able to use the stairs, but their head will pass through the frieze.

Spiral stairs do not work well with a frieze. If you already have a frieze in place, you simply cannot place a spiral staircase on the lower level. If you have not built the upper level yet and you place a spiral staircase, when you add the frieze, it will not place the frieze over a 4 x 4 area on top of, and surrounding the staircase. If you really want the spiral staircase below, the only option from here is to place a small set of standard stairs up to the next level.

There is an easy way to build elevators through friezes, but it is not aesthetically pleasing. Place your first elevator piece on the ground floor and then come up a level to the frieze. If you try to place an elevator shaft here, you will not be able to because the ceiling is too low. Turn on the moveobjects cheats and you can now place the shaft. Come up to the next level and you can see the top of the shaft on that level. With moveobjects still on, place the next piece of elevator and you will see that it hides the shaft, however on closer inspection you will see some lines on the door of the elevator. The elevator is fully functional, but when the doors open, you will see the shaft and your Sim will actually pass through it to enter and exit the lift.

Building stairs and elevators through foundations to basements below is very much like building through friezes. Spiral stairs cannot be placed in a basement with a foundation above and a foundation built over spiral stairs will leave a gap. Elevator shafts can be placed inside the foundation with moveobjects on and normal stairs can be built from the basement up to the ground. However, there an easy workaround when it comes to foundations that is not available with friezes. If you turn your foundation into a basement before you build a standard basement below it, not only will you have an extra level to work with, but elevators and spiral stairs will all work correctly.

To build a basement using the foundation, start by building the foundation to the desired size. Then delete all but the outer blocks of the foundation. Next grab some stairs and on ground level inside the foundation, build 3 sets of 4 steps going down into the ground. Remove the stairs and level the whole area with the level terrain tool. Now the ground inside the foundation is exactly one floor level lower than the top of the foundation and can be used as any other level, just add flooring and walls as needed plus stairs to the upper level.

Advanced Staircase Building

Using a few advanced techniques and cheats, we can make different shaped staircases to add a unique touch to our builds. These stairs usually need a little more thought in the planning stage and often have to be built before the rest of the house. Because they use cheats, they often have limitations on where they can be used.

Basic U-Shaped Stairs
These stairs go up from the lower floor to a landing and then turn back to continue the rise in the opposite direction. Before you build, you will need to plan where the stairs are going to be placed and they need to be in an open area as walls cannot be built right next to them. Another limitation with these stairs is that you cannot place flooring or a flat roof directly above them. You can however build up another level and then place flooring over them. Any of the other roofs can be placed over the stairs at the lower level.

Begin by building a 2 x 2 room where the platform will be, add some flooring to the top. Now go a few squares to the side and build two sets of steps down to lower the ground.

Remove the stairs and build a small room on the lower level and add some flooring to the top. Turn on the CFE cheat (constrainfloorelevation false) and drag the level terrain tool from the top of the lower wall to the top of the stair platform.

You can now remove the side column and level the ground.

Turn off the CFE cheat. Build a 4 x 5 room around the platform and add flooring to the top of the wall at the front of the stairs on the inside of the room. Note that because the platform has been lowered with a cheat, you cannot build walls right next to the stairs.

Once the floor is added, you can remove the lower wall at the front. Place the stairs from the top floor down to the landing. Before you place the bottom stairs add a railing to the top floor above where the stairs will go (this can't be placed once the stairs are added on the lower floor) Now you can add the bottom stairs and your U shaped stairs are finished. Decorate the stairwell as you like (lots of plants usually looks good) and build the rest of the house around the stairs.

Grand Staircase
What would a stately home be without a grand staircase? This one is perfect for the lady of the house to make that dramatic entrance from the floor above!

This is another staircase that requires a bit of planning before you build your house.

Start by building a room that will be the platform at the halfway point of the stairs. You can make this any size you want, the process is the same no matter the size. I've made mine so that the bottom half of the staircase is 3 squares wide and the two upper sets of stairs are 2 squares wide, so my platform will be 3 x 2. Add some flooring to the top.

Move a few squares away and lower the ground with two sets of stairs. Build a small room on the lower ground and add some floor to the top.

Turn on the CFE cheat (constrainfloorelevation false) and using the level terrain tool, drag from the top of the lower room to the top of the platform. Remove the lower room and level the ground.

We now need to build the upper landing that the stairs will come down from. You will need a space of 2 squares between the side landings and the center platform and you have to have at least 1 square between the platform and the back landing.

You will get some distortion when you place the back landing if it is only 1 square away from the platform. This is normal and you can fix it with the level terrain tool. Once you do that you can turn off the CFE cheat.

Once you have added stairs from the side landings to the platform and from the platform down to the floor, you can build the rest of the house.

Corner L-Shaped Stairs
These corner stairs do not require a lot of planning when building and may even be built into pre-existing houses. They can also be built into homes on a foundation.

To start build two levels of house. Go back to the lower level and build a 1 x 1 room in the corner where the stairs will be. This 'room' will become the corner landing for the stairs. Now build another small room along the wall. Make this one 3 x 1. Add flooring to the corner square and the end square of the rectangle. This will be where the upper flight of stairs will be.

Now go outside and using two sets of stairs lower the ground, making sure that the lower point is in line with the corner square in the house. Build a small room on this lower point and add flooring to the top. If your house is on a foundation, you will need to put foundation under this little room too. Turn on the CFE cheat.

Drag the level terrain tool from the top of this room to the corner landing. This will pull the corner of the house down, but don't worry, we'll fix that later.

Add your desired stairs and any flooring you want on the upper floor. Note that when you add the flooring upstairs you may get some distortion on the stair landing. Just drag the level tool from the outside room to the landing again. Another note with the upstairs flooring is the fact that you cannot have a piece of floor in the very corner next to the stairs.

A nice look is to have the floor diagonally across the corner. Add a railing and we are just about done. You will probably have to remove the lower stairs and replace them after you place the upper railing.

Now we can go to the upper level of the house and drag the level terrain across the entire corner to straighten out those crazy dips in the wall. Once you have done that, turn off the CFE cheat.

These stairs cause a few issues. Because they pull the upper walls down at an angle, you are limited with what wall coverings you can use. Any wall coverings with horizontal or diagonal patterns are affected the most. The flat painted wall works the best. Another point to remember is that because the game does not render upper walls, when you are in live mode and on the lower floor, there appears to be a huge hole in the wall where you can see the outside world!

Square Spiral Staircase

This staircase keeps turning as it goes up.

You will need an area that is a 3 x 3 square for this staircase. In one corner of this square build a 1 x 1 room and add flooring to the top. Some of the walls of this room will eventually be removed and this will become the entry level for the stairs. Next put a 1 x 1 foundation piece in the next corner. This will be the second platform, so which corner you put it in will determine whether the stairs go clockwise or anti-clockwise.

In the next corner, we need a foundation that is twice the height of a normal foundation, so we have to raise the ground to just the right height. Let's halt the stair lesson for a few minutes and have a quick look at heights so that we can better understand what we will be doing with our stairs when we continue.

A normal wall is 16 units high from floor to ceiling and stairs, when placed between floors will have 16 steps. A foundation sticks out of the ground 4 units (when the ground is raised as high as possible around the foundation) and stairs, when dragged just one square down will lower the ground by 4 steps which is equal to one quarter of a wall height or one piece of foundation.

Now back to our stairs! Our next piece of foundation needs to stick out of the ground for eight units, so to place it we need the ground to be 4 units higher than the rest of the ground. We also need a foundation that is 12 units high and for that we'll need some ground that is 8 units higher. We'll start on the higher ground because it is easier to work down than it is to work up.

So to the side of where your stairs will be, add another piece of foundation. This one should be a few squares away and level with the 1 x 1 room. Turn the CFE cheat on (constrainfloorelevation false) and drag the level terrain tool from the top of the room to the top of the foundation.

We now have a foundation that is 16 units high and if we drag the ground up around it, that ground will be 12 units high (don't worry, it will all make sense shortly). Before we pull the ground up, we need to turn the CFE cheat off. Now using the raise terrain tool, raise the ground around this bit of foundation as high as it will go and level it out. Remove the piece of foundation. This raised ground is now the height that we need our taller piece of foundation to be, so we need to lower it by 4 units. The easiest way to do this is to grab some stairs and drag them down one square. Level out the ground from this lowest point.

Now we can build our 12 unit high foundation.

We still need an 8 unit foundation so grab some stairs and lower the land again and build the fourth piece of foundation. Level the ground around these for columns.

Choose some stairs to use, I'm using the Altitude Quantizer and changing the railing to the Placid Steps Railing. This is because I want to use the Glassic Fence byLoftlabs later and it matches the Placid railing. Whatever stairs you decide on, decide early as later it can be quite tricky to replace them. Now remove the walls from the room and add stairs up to the first level of foundation, then from that piece of foundation to the next. Continue until you have four sets of stairs.

Now add two sections of wall to each corner piece and then add a piece of flooring to the top of each section. You can now continue adding stairs. Continue in this manner until your stairs have reached the desired height.

When you have placed the last lot of stairs, add walls to all four corners and some flooring to the top of each. Turn the CFE cheat on again and drag the level terrain tool from the highest corner across the remaining three. All four corners will now be the same height. Turn the CFE cheat off and you can add some roof to the tower.

Now you can decide which levels are going to be attached to your building and remove the walls where a walkway will be. Note that you will have to join the stairs to the building with a piece of flooring; you cannot build walls right up to the stair tower. If you want the stairs to be enclosed within a building, they will have to be in a 5 x 5 room.

Build and Edit in The Sims 3
Edit TownEdit LotsHousesHouseholdsBasements/MultistoryGaragesRooms
PoolsRoofsSlopesStairs/ElevatorsWall CurvingMovingSwitch 'hoods

Comments (4)

Andrew says...
I can't get my spiral stairs to stack. It just says "can't intersect another object" and stays red. any advice?
2nd August 2014 9:09pm
supermolk says...
Wit, do you need an expansion pack for elavators? they're not in my game. I have sims 3 + sims 3 pets. Please reply A.S.A.P!!!
26th July 2014 10:51am
supermolk says...
26th July 2014 10:52am
jijbear says...
Yes. You need to have the Sims 3 Nightlife.
26th July 2014 7:11pm
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