Build Mode

The Sims 3 Walkthrough and Guide

by Mike Hazleton  

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The Sims 3 Guide

Build Mode

For some, the Build and Buy modes of The Sims are their favourite feature. Building, decorating and furnishing the house of your dreams may take precedence over practicality and appeal for your family of Sims. The Build Mode in The Sims 3 allows unparalleled customisation and you can create some very impressive and unique structures.

Once you have selected and purchased a suitable lot, you need to go into Build Mode, indicated by a saw and paint roller, and begin constructing your dream house. The formula for building has changed very little since the first Sims game.


If your lot happens to be particularly uneven or sloping and you don't want to waste money levelling the terrain, you can place a foundation. This creates a smooth and sturdy support base for your house, as well as raising it up off the ground by a few feet. This of course costs money however, so don't be afraid to just build from the earth. Foundations are required if you want a basement or decking, however, so it is often worth the early price (otherwise you'll have to demolish your house and start again later to put in a basement, should you want one!).

Walls and Layout:

You will want to begin by drafting out the shape of the rooms with the wall tool. Select the create room tool to build a complete room with just a drag of the mouse, or you may wish to manually place each section of wall. I personally build a square perimeter that I want for the house using the room tool and then lay the walls out between it to create divisions.

When it comes to playing the game single-storey houses are much easier to manage than three-storey town houses, so this is worth considering when designing your structure. It may not be realistic for modern life, but a bungalow is far simpler. Make a choice on matters like these before you start laying walls, as they will begin to eat into your budget if you begin wastefully placing them. Remember though to use CTRL Z to undo careless actions and you won't waste your money!

Dividing up the house with walls to create the floorplan.

Remember that you need a bathroom and kitchen as essentials, and a place to sleep. This is the pretty much the bare minimum for any real house. Of course, you could have a bed-sit, where the bed is in the living room, with a sink and microwave also in the same room for example. You will need at least a shower though, and obviously a toilet, so some smaller separate room will be required. As you begin to go to work and earn money you can start to expand your house from the minimal rooms you may have begun with.

Something worth remembering is that if you have multiple Sims sharing a bedsit, one awake and cooking or showering may wake the other Sim up. With two incomes coming in you should try to build a more private house.

Doors and Windows:

You of course also need doors and windows. While you may think that you can get away with just artificial lighting, your Sims won't enjoy their life stuck in a dingy room very much. Windows also add light in Build and Buy Mode, allowing you to see the real colour of the walls. Wallpaper often looks great until you turn the light on and realise it's a putrid pink, not a stylish beige.

Some of the windows let in more light than others.

Just leaving an open gap instead of a door also won't cut it, as the two connecting rooms will be interpreted by the game as just one large open-plan area.


The roof pretty much builds itself. The game automatically places one for you, or you can manually place it by hand. They range from traditional triangular designs to completely flat or even domed plans should you fancy adding a mosque into Sunset Valley. As the video below shows, manual placement of roofs has its pitfalls, but if you want a more complex design, for example with a variety of roof types such as a flat top with a circular dome offset on one side, you will need to do it yourself.

The computer also struggles with some of the options, such as automatically manufacturing the dome, but to be honest you rarely notice the roof, so if it's too low by a couple of feet only perfectionists may want to go to the trouble of redoing it.

Adding a roof can be tricky, or you can just let the computer do it for you.

Flooring and Wallpaper:

Flooring and wallpaper will be noticed by your Sims, and they will moan if they go uncovered. On the cheap though, this is perhaps a sacrifice you are willing to make. In the flooring department you can choose from carpet, wood, tiles, brick, pretty much any texture to make your room complete. You can tailor every facet of it using Create a Style to make it just ideal for your colour scheme inside the house.

Walls can of course just be painted in standard colours, and to be fair the game's choice of patterns is often fairly repulsive. Using Create a Style to edit them is absolutely essential. Click the Create a Style tool when selecting wallpaper or floors, or click the paint palette icon in Build mode and then select the wallpaper to make changes.

External Paint and Textures:

Make sure you remember to use the masonry styles to effectively 'wallpaper' the side of your house and the sides of the roof in bricks (or an alternative, if you fancy being a renegade). Otherwise you Sim will get a negative moodlet from an undecorated building!

Upstairs and Downstairs:

Adding an extra floor to your house can be difficult, mainly because of the placement of the stairs. It's best to plan from the beginning if you want an additional floor, to be sure that there is enough room below to fit the stairs in. A good idea to subvert this problem, however, is to create a corridor on the side of the house, like a fire-escape, to allow access upstairs.

If you are having problems placing the stairs, ensure both the upstairs and downstairs floors have been laid i.e. carpet them both before trying to put the stairs in, as this can cause problems. You also want to place the stairs from the lower of the two floors. Stairs also look ugly, so make sure you use wallpaper to cover the side of them and use Create a Style like anything else to get them to fit in with your décor. You can also see a video for placing stairs in the Building a Basement section below.


A garden also shouldn't be ignored when planning, designing and building your Sim's house.

The terrain deformation tools allows you to model stunning outside areas. Adding water is easy with the pond tool, while more affluent Sims may choose to add a pool for that extra splash in the back garden. Trees, bushes, shrubs and flowers will all dramatically increase the beautification of your house and make yous Sims more content. Some of the external items can get really expensive however (such as the Fighter Jet or Fountain), so should rightfully be left until last.

You can raise, lower and level the terrain, as well as adding water. By far the most striking tool for outside areas, however, is the ability to add massive trees and rocks. This can create a real feeling of individuality for your house and make it look much more at home in Sunset Valley than just a boring lawn or a few shrubs and ornaments.

There is also the terrain paint tool which allows you to create sand, mud or stone designs to replace the boring grass, and completely for free. You can also pick out designs with small flowers in. This makes a much more appealing view and saves the time of covering your garden with flowers and bushes, though these should be used to finish off the look. Terrain paints are a great, cost-effective way to create an interesting garden without the need for expensive plants and trees.

Expanding Your House:

Once your Sims are flourishing in successful careers and with plenty of friends you can begin to expand. As well as new rooms you can add balconies, basements, decks and completely separate annexes (perhaps for elderly Sims you don't want cluttering up your youthful home anymore?

Building a Basement:

Foundations, while essentially only appearing useful in the early house-building stages to level the ground do have other, more important uses. If you build your house with a foundation early on you can create a basement with minimal fuss. Draw a foundation around where you want the base of the house to be, then hold CTRL and hollow it out by dragging an area inside.

The terrain deformation tools let you lower the level inside the hollow foundation and create space for an extra room. You can then use the level terrain tool to create a smooth surface which a floor can be built on. Make sure you don't drop the level down too low, you can't build a bat cave and the steps won't reach!

Use a hollow foundation to allow you to dig down and create a basement.

Then make sure you have pasted a floor both downstairs and up, and place in some steps to allow your Sims to go backwards and forwards between the levels. Finally, finish off the decorating and you have yourself a secluded and hopefully beautiful hidden floor.

Building Decking or a Porch:

There is a specific decking foundation tool. Select it and you can add things like a base for a porch, or indeed a deck in your back garden. If the whole house is built on foundations (as is best if you want a good deck), use the decking to create a new floor area jutting out from the side of the house. You can then place a small set of steps to allow access to the garden, or perhaps to the road if you are creating a porch.

Building a Balcony:

Balconies can add a lovely little seating area to the front of a house, usually in the master bedroom. They are easier to install than decking, but require more thought in terms of presentation. To build one, when placing the upper floor, simply leave a space over the floor below where you want the balcony to be.

So for example, if you have two large rooms downstairs, you would build the walls for two identical rooms upstairs, except one would have an indentation in. You can then place a different floor outside the room, such as a stone design, put up a railing and a sliding door into the bedroom!

You can also use columns to create an extended area from the upper floor – great for balconies and creating overhangs over porches.

Adding a gravity-defying balcony to the bed-sit that is shown being created at the end of this guide.

Loft Conversions and Gables:

Surprisingly you can't do a loft conversion in The Sims 3. If you try to build an extra layer where the roof is, or to use floor tiles to cover the ceiling under the roof it pushes the auto-roof up another layer. You can create gables in the roof however. To do this, just make a small box room at the front of the house and you can then use the roofing tools to build a section of additional roof around it. This can really give a mansion-look to your house.


Comments for Build Mode

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75 comments, latest first.
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How do I get rid of a second floor from an already made house?

Added 29th Nov 2015, ID #629598

Are there any styled rooms? I've watched someone before playing The Sims 3, they found styled rooms but I can't find the option.

Added 12th Dec 2014, ID #483688

se my house that I just bought needs to be raised 3 or 4 cinder blocks "safel'./
Now I have done this before but that HIGH, .can I use old wood beams, or new ones I a figuring six jacks and jack it up

Added 6th Nov 2014, ID #468021

Help i want to make a half high floor how can i do that?
If you watch videos from simtastic builder you kniw what i mean
Sorry fir my horrible englisch im from germany

Added 8th Jun 2014, ID #395718

I used foundation on my house but I can't place a door because it's up, off the ground! Now my sims can't live in thier 1.5 million simoleon house!any help?

Added 31st May 2014, ID #391511

is this for PC? the reason I ask is because you can build a basement a lot easier without a foundation using the basement tool in the "build" selection of tools. I have never built a basement doing what you said about hollowing out the terrain but I have found to build a basement with a foundation is a bit more difficult but can still be done using the basement tool if your stairs start at the ground level. I am not good with lowering terrain and it all ending up the same size. I'm only good at leveling it to one size by clicking and dragging. I was hoping there was a tip on using the curved tool with pool or pond

Added 29th Apr 2014, ID #379926


Added 24th Mar 2014, ID #367716

How u by a crib

Added 16th Mar 2014, ID #364900

if you people want to know how to make a basement its so easy you just make a 3 story house and at the bottom level you put cheap furiture so it can seem like a basement and at the second level it can be the living room and kitchen and a bathroom and at the top level you could add bedrooms its easy hope it helps

Added 5th Aug 2013, ID #302770

where is community objects D:

Added 9th Jun 2013, ID #288916

how to have children

Added 22nd Apr 2013, ID #276716

HELP! im trying to expand onto the edge of my house but there are little plants on the ground that i cant delete. What do i do? i want extra rooms but i cant build any with those stupid plants!

Added 22nd Feb 2013, ID #257409

Thnx 4 the basement guide!

Added 22nd Feb 2013, ID #257258

I ate my sims 3 disc how do i get it out of my digestion system?! PLEASE HELP!!!!!

Added 1st Feb 2013, ID #248612

This guy Curtis Paridis made a celebrity mansion but I couldn't figure out how to raise my land like he does please watch the video and tell me how I can raise my land like he does.

Added 22nd Jan 2013, ID #245543

But When I go to build mode and I go to terrain tool. But It don't appear the square shape or circle shape. What is happening? please tell me

Added 5th Jan 2013, ID #237586

How do you make a pool that is not a rectangle on Xbox 360 and how do you make public buildings?? Please help me!

Added 1st Jan 2013, ID #234165

Yes u need to get money and go to buy and buy a llama a sofa and a tv

Added 4th Dec 2012, ID #215196

i need help.. Everytime i buy a new object or add a new wall the blue plus sign (+) stays there ! And when i delete those objects the little ball of light that appears also stays there.. After a while i can't even see what i'm building ! And it's causing the game to run slower in the Build/Buy mode. Help Please, thanks !

Added 20th Sep 2012, ID #187628

press ctrl+shift+c and type in mother lode you will get 50,000 dollars

Added 29th Jul 2012, ID #169808


Added 20th Jul 2012, ID #166614

What happens if you run out of money when you are still building a house.

Added 17th Jul 2012, ID #165383

Is there a cheat to build as much as I want without there being a fire warning or without it making me stop on PS3?

Added 9th Jul 2012, ID #161910

Is there an unlimited build mode or creative mode? Because I really want to just create epic houses as if in sandbox or something. I NEED AN ANSWER....PLEASE?

Added 24th Jun 2012, ID #156320

I've been trying to build an upstairs recently, i have built plenty before. BUT for some reason it's not letting me put stairs anywhere in the living room and when i look at the floor tiles upstairs some are missing. PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!

Added 13th Apr 2012, ID #132933

my doors and windows keep getting painted over by the wall paper. how can i fix that

Added 24th Feb 2012, ID #117951

Can you have 3 floors and how do you buy an empty lot? Oh and thanks soooooooooo much for the guide for making a house

Added 19th Feb 2012, ID #116625

[color=red][/color] dowload

Added 17th Feb 2012, ID #115682


Added 17th Feb 2012, ID #115680

How can you build cool house i did download one and install it but it didn't work please give me some pics.

Added 15th Feb 2012, ID #115108

How can i download this i don't have the game i just want to mess around and just build i don't want to play i just want to build.?

Added 12th Feb 2012, ID #114213

How to you create a corrider?

Added 4th Feb 2012, ID #112080

Well i came on this website to find out if sims3 had three floor

Added 1st Feb 2012, ID #111202

To make a ton of money I use cheats. Go to start hold LT RT RB and LB and it should bring up a choice to enable cheats then buy magic llama in miscillanious decor and it will have a choice of cheats like adding $50,000

Added 30th Jan 2012, ID #110812

To go up a floor you have to hold LT and press up on the D-pad.

Added 30th Jan 2012, ID #110808

Im building a second floor and for some reason on that second floor it wont let me put any doors in, it say my ceiling is to low. Im getting extreamly frustrated, can you help me?

Added 13th Jan 2012, ID #105546

How do I get out of the fire zone so I can purchase things

Added 4th Jan 2012, ID #102734

One more question from my last comment (Jan 3rd 2012 comment)
How do you earn more money fast? Like, specifically, do you have to take jobs that make more money, collect things with pets/sims, sell stuff, or whatever else you could do? Suggest something on how to get more money, Thankyou!

Added 3rd Jan 2012, ID #102327

For "The Sims 3 Pets" for Xbox 360, I'm trying to make a second floor on a furnished house, (which I know how to already) but the game won't let me put stairs anywhere. Where would you suggest to put stairs and how? Also, when I expand my house, there is a small problem. I have holes in my ceiling! I don't know how to work the roofing thing, it's really difficult..but if you put it on "Auto Roof" will it just put the whole roof on your house for you? One last thing, do you know the "House on fire" icon? I have that, but my house is too full, so if I expand my house out bigger, will I have more space to put things? By the way, for my second floor, I might build a library for my bookworm sim, an animal playroom for my animal lover sims, and probably a few other rooms, but I don't know yet!! Anyways, sims 3 pets for xbox 360 is a fun game!! I have a dog that finds gems, space rocks, and cool relics which I get 500-1000$ from the museum, and my cat is almost at the peak of his hunting skill so I'll be able to hunt ghosts soon!! (There's alot of haunted places in my town lolz) Well, thanks for the guides, it's pretty helpful! Oh, and try to answer my questions please, thankyou!

Added 3rd Jan 2012, ID #102326

how do you get upstairs to furnish it in build and buy mode for the wii please answer

Added 2nd Jan 2012, ID #101887

If you have problems with your sims game I would like to help but maybe you can email the sims people............
Just Saying...........................................................................................................................................................

Added 29th Dec 2011, ID #100382

i have the same problem as the person who put this
"Thanks for the guide! Very helpful to new players. I have a bit of a problem, and would really appreciate it if anyone could take the time to answer. I was making a new room in Build Mode, and for some reason on top of the 'walls' is this little lining that stretches across the room. It makes the whole grid (On which you can place new items) rise up to that level above the actual building. I can't put anything in the rooms now, and can't view in Live Mode with the walls down because of it. I'm pretty sure it's some kind of molding, but I can't figure out how to delete it and I've tried nearly everything to make it go away. Any help would be amazing!"

Added 29th Dec 2011, ID #100284

How do you exit the build mode?

Added 28th Dec 2011, ID #99491

How do I get into my build mode ???? It says to press
'x' but I have and all that comes up are my sims details ???

Added 26th Dec 2011, ID #98919

this is not giving me what i want i want to know how do access the create a sim after i saved my game

Added 16th Dec 2011, ID #95591

I need some help. How can you re-decorate other buildings? (Like the Gym ETC. ETC.

Added 14th Dec 2011, ID #95028

How do I delete a platform?

Added 25th Nov 2011, ID #90157

Can i make a platform or stage on the second floor of my sims3 house,if so please tell me how.
many thanks Alanah x

Added 5th Nov 2011, ID #85205

this game is highly addictive and should not be sold to people over the age of 16

Added 4th Nov 2011, ID #85013

on xbox 360 how do you put stairs? i've been trying for ages and it gets me annoyed

Added 19th Oct 2011, ID #81362