Dwarf Fortress: How to Build Above Ground Floors

In Dwarf Fortress, building your actual Fortress isn’t so straightforward all the time. If you’re tired of being stuck in a mountain and want to build a multi-floor fortress, you’ll need to understand how to build ascending staircases and floors. 

Chances are, if you’ve booted up a few worlds in the 2D-settlement simulation Dwarf Fortress, then you’ve probably already experimented with building in a mountain. After all, it is the first location the tutorial will likely put you in, and it is ultimately an ideal location for a fortress. However–that being said, there may be a time when you want to build up into the clouds and construct a giant tower. 

Surprisingly doing so took me a few dozen hours and playthroughs to understand how to do–because building up isn’t exactly intuitive. Luckily, I’ve stumbled through it, so you don’t have to. Here’s how you can build above-ground floors in Dwarf Fortress. 


How to Build Above-Ground Floors in Dwarf Fortress

Building above-ground floors in Dwarf Fortress is not difficult once you understand what you’re doing. To build multiple floors, players must construct ascending and descending staircases, then create a floor in the Build (b) menu. The floors will act as a roof or ceiling for the floor under it.

Building Ascending and Descending Staircases

Players may be initially confused because building staircases in the mountains is found under the Mining (m) menu. When building above ground, however, to build an ascending staircase players must hit Build (b)Constructions (n), then Stairs (t), or a Ramp (r). Then, use mouse-scroll up to the second floor and click to place your ascending staircase. 

Building an Ascending and Descending staircase, Dwarf Fortress
Building Ascending/Descending Staircase

When you build an ascending staircase, a descending staircase will automatically be constructed, so there is no need to place one. 

Building Floors

Once the ascending staircase is constructed, build floors by accessing Build (b)Constructions (n), and Floor (f), and click and drag around your staircase to start constructing the second floor. 

You can now repeat this process to build your Fortress as high as the game lets you. 

Benefits of Multi-Floor Structures in Dwarf Fortress

While building inside of a mountain will always be superior due to the ore and other materials that can be mined there, multi-floor structures in Dwarf Fortress also serve a purpose. Here are a few of the reasons you may want to build up instead of down in the game: 

  • Floors that act as roofs can provide shelter from rain–this is especially useful for grazing animals. 
  • Players can use Fortifications (F) under Constructions (n) to construct battlements from which ranged units can fire on sieging enemies. 
  • Multi-floor structures can provide additional space for Workshops or Bedrooms. 
  • Higher floors can serve as a safehouse during sieges. 

Ultimately, I don’t suggest building too high into the air, as it stops serving a purpose and may put some dwarves out of range of Stockpiles or important workshops you have underground. However, building 2-3 stories up can significantly expand the space in your Fortress with a small resource investment, so you should check it out, especially if your main settlement is near the surface. 

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