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Can’t Build Stairs in Dwarf Fortress (Here’s How)

Can’t Build Stairs in Dwarf Fortress (Here’s How)

If you’re a seasoned Dwarf Fortress player, then you’re no stranger to the occasional glitch or problem. This is notoriously a complex game. An issue many new Dwarf Fortress players run into is the inability to build stairs. Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered on why this happens and what to do!

You can build stairs by either digging them out or constructing them manually. To build stairs in an empty space, construct them manually from the Construction Menu. Even so, you can run into the Empty Space Bug if you’re not careful.


To learn more details about how to build stairs in Dwarf Fortress, read on! I’ll also discuss the various rules that govern building Stairs in Dwarf Fortress.

How To Build Stairs in Dwarf Fortress

Building Stairs - Dwarf Fortress

If you’re new to Dwarf Fortress then you might not know that there are two methods of building stairs. The first involves that you dig the stairs out of an existing material. Often times this material is stone, and you essentially carve out stairs from the material space already available to you.

The second method involves constructing the stairs manually. This means that even if you do not have the material space to build the stairs, you still construct them in a location. The main issue, however, that you might face is when you try to dig out a staircase when you should be constructing it.


You see if you’re trying to build stairs in an empty space. You have to make sure to construct the stairs manually from the Construction Menu. If you do not do this, you will only be wasting time trying to dig them out from the stone.

This confuses many of you, new players, at the start of the game, and can be quite frustrating if not dealt with appropriately.

The Empty Space Bug

Empty Space Bug - Dwarf Fortress

Sometimes though a bug might occur even when you think you’ve done everything right; you might even have constructed the stairs manually, but there might be a bug that is preventing you from building in that location. This is the Empty Space Bug.

The Empty Space Bug occurs when the level above where you’re trying to build the stairs hasn’t been dug out yet. This causes quite a few troubling interactions in the game’s code and results in you being unable to make your stairs.


Unfortunately, there is currently no solution to this bug. Our previous tip simply does not impact this particular bug. If you’re dealing with this issue then your best course of action is to dig out the level above first before you start building the stairs.

Note: It’s important to be careful because your dwarf might take a nasty fall and receive a troubling injury. Always prioritize the safety of your dwarves!

Solving Carved-Out Down Stairs

Types of Stairs in Dwarf Fortress

You might also experience a problem downstairs. This usually occurs upon using the Designate tool when you carve out. The solution is simple, channel out the stairs instead of using the Designate tool. You will have to remove the floor tiles and crate a vertical channel so that your dwarves can walk through.

Let’s explain how you can do this:

  • Designate the Area where you want to create the Channel
  • Use a mining Dwarf to dig out the door tiles
  • Upon the Channel’s completion, you can manually construct up/ down stairs
  • Go to the Construction Menu
  • Select the type of Stair you want
  • Place it where you want the Stairs to exist
  • A mason will come and bring stone or brick and then construct the stairs.

And voila! That is all you have to do to build stairs successfully and without problems when you run into the carved-out downstairs issue.

How to Remove Constructed Stairs

Let’s talk about constructed stairs as our last topic. If you’ve already built the stairs but need to remove them for some reason, you can do so using the Designate Menu. To delete a construction, simply select it and press the “X” key.

The same method can be used to build new stairs after the old ones have been taken down. Just remember to channel out the area first if you’re dealing with stairs carved out using Designate and use the Manual Construction method if you’re building in an empty space.

It can be challenging to master Dwarf Fortress, but with a little perseverance and patience, you can get past any challenge, even the dreaded stair-building bug. Remember to put safety first, avoid those stairs, and continue digging!

If all else fails, just point the finger at the elves. They always seem to cause trouble anyway.