Learner’s Building Permit

My kids really love making stuff in Minecraft – I can lose them for an hour or more with ease. They have only fading interest in survival mode, creative really lets them focus on possibilities. They started with the infinite Legos thinking, and have move into more thematic living environments – animals, people, redstone and so on. It scratches that itch of pure build, and there are very few limits to what you can make. Infinite blocks, simple building rules, the sky is the limit.

Most other games that have tried to find a spot that focused on restrictions. Nearly all of them focus on the world trying to kill you – either through hunger, cold, or some animal trying to take you down. The very best of them (like The Long Dark) spin this further by focusing on some underlying story, rather than just a playground. Yet they fundamentally apply the concept of scarcity to move you forward. You always need more and that means you need to continually move out.

Valheim works for me because it doesn’t have scarcity. You can’t die of hunger, cold, or sleep. If you’re low on crafting resources, take down a wall and use that. It has rather simple constructs that can be used in interesting ways to achieve some really amazing things. And these constructs tend to build upon each other, so the content you see in the very first few minutes are still relevant all the way at the end.

Building Basics

While I often gripe about the workbench needing shelter, this sole item is really the fundamental part of building anything in Valheim. Shelter is not just a wall, or a roof, it’s a combination of those things. The broken down huts strewn across the Meadows give you an idea as to what a build could look like, and it only takes a few extra wood to get those stable.

Early you learn about the benefits of fire – it dries you quickly, gives a rested bonus, can be used to cook food, goes out if it’s raining, and if you don’t vent the smoke it can kill you. You learn that doors keep bad guys out, that storage containers are essential, that flooring dramatically helps in any construction. You learn that falling from a roof is just like in real life: it hurts a lot. Same with a falling tree.

Your first real home is the real treat. You need enough room for a bed, some stuff for comfort, chests, and crafting stations. You’re going to have a real roof, and likely learn about overall stability constraints. And given your toolsets (regular wood), the restrictions actually force you to learn what’s possible.

When you do get to portals, remember that being wet and entering the Mountains is a bad idea. Your frost resistant gear doesn’t work while wet. Keep at least 1 portal sheltered.

Ground Stability

When you’re in build mode, you’ll see that items come in various colours. Blue means that it’s touching the ground and fully stable. From there, you will get green to red tones, depending on how far you are from the ground, that indicates if the item is stable. Wood is the least stable of all items, and also the largest amount of craftable items. You can stack them to about 6 pieces away from the ground before it crumbles. So a double wall + 3 roof pieces is the limit. Often more than enough for a basic abode. If you’re just stacking as high as possible, it’s 16m.

As you move into the Black Forest, you gain access to Core Wood. Since the benefits are per piece and Core Wood is longer than regular wood, you get more benefit. A full vertical stack of poles goes 24m (6 pieces).

Stone doesn’t have pieces higher than 2m, so it is just as tough to use as wood – max stack of 16m. It’s why you often see stone as the base of a building, not the walls.

Now it gets interesting. Wood iron poles are 2m high, but can stack up to 50m (25 times!) before it fails. They are insanely strong, and allow for some quite ridiculous builds. The obvious downside here is that they take 1 iron per 2m length. But 1 iron is easy! A 2 story building is going to be 4 posts high, and you’re probably going to need 4 of those. A larger settlement may need 50 or more iron if you need any large open spaces or verticality.

A roof that’s 26 degrees is technically shorter than a 45 degree roof. This can save you a lot of headaches if you need to cross long spans with minimal pieces.

A quick note – you can dramatically raise the ground if you click on the very edge of any piece of land. So if you want to build a dock on solid ground, just walk in a straight line, while only clicking once to raise the ground. I’m not sure where the limits are for this but I’ve gone out 3 boat lengths with this method.

I haven’t even talked about trees yet, which always count as the ground. Plant a couple pines, wait 4 or 5 in-game days, and you have a house on stilts.

Durability and Decay

Wood structure have no true durability. A solid swipe from your weapon, or a sneeze from a troll and the thing comes down. It’s cheap to build and lasts just as long. Stone has massive HP, and a 1 stack wall will protect you against everything but deathsquitos. Trolls, Lox, and Golems can eventually break through – I’d have to test Fuling Beserkers. A 2 stack wall just means deathsquitos can’t get to you. That’s a good trade.

Another note is that wood decays if it is exposed to the sky OR is touching water. It will turn greyish and fall to 50% max HP. The only way to prevent this is with a roof – and roofs are only the straw-looking kind. You’ll know when it’s working if the game gives you the ‘sheltered’ buff. You can build an entire stone castle and not actually be sheltered. This is the largest reason that docks fail, they do not have a roof. Oddly, the rain effects of the swamp do not seem to incur decay, but only a madman builds in the swamps.


Any fire object generates smoke. Too much of it, and it deals damage. You’ll need to think about ventilation, and it could be as simple as raising a roofing tile. If you leave the fire exposed, then the rain will put it out. For smaller buildings, this isn’t too hard to figure out, you have a lot space to extend, maybe with a chimney. In a larger building, say 3 floors, ventilation is a heck of a challenge. Stone in particular is a pain to manage to that it both looks nice and stacks properly – a hearth-sized hole in the roof won’t burn.

Collecting Materials

If you’re building with wood, then you’re going to need trucks of it. Core wood too, most likely. Get a portal, a workbench, the Elder power and find a meadows or black forest to plow through. When you are filled up, make wood piles near the portal. You want a LOT of stacks. With all the Beech seeds you end up with, I do suggest you plant a new forest in an open meadow. You want them about 4m apart from each other.

Mountains are great for stone. If you dig under a giant rock, eventually it will fall to pieces. If you planned a bit while mining silver, you probably have a lot of stone piles around anyhow.

Now a neat bit. While you can’t jump while over-capacity, you can use a portal. Load up ALL the stuff in your inventory (manually click) and you’ll be closed to 900kg. Go through the portal and lay down the stacks again. Wood isn’t too bad to build with – but any walls made of stone are going to eat through your stock like crazy.

Thinking it Through

Like most large projects, you need to plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and because the pieces themselves are relatively small an uniform, almost any shape will work. I’ve made some UGLY attempts, but no matter how much I try, I’ve never mucked it up so bad I couldn’t put a roof on it. Knowing how space is utilized is quite important.

A workbench requires 3x the space to have all the upgrades about (and close to a wall). A forge needs 4x the space (and a wall). You probably want a kiln, smelter, and blaster all close to each other – along with a chest for coal storage. Windmills need wind. Spinning wheels need a roof. Your comfort bonus extends in a 5x5x5 area – so a 2nd floor if it’s 2 walls high. You’ll probably want a wall of stacked chests too! And close enough to the crafting stations.

And importantly, you’re going to want to build a safe space to construct. Most enemies cant get through moats that are ‘YOU’ deep. Dig a square/circle around your building area and you’re good. Deathsquitos will cross in the plains though, so a wall 2 high is usually enough – wood is fine if you have a moat.

Oh, and you’re going to need a bed and sheltered workbench to get through the days/repairs of any construction. Either have a portal to that, or build it in a small spot out of the way.

Putting it Together

My technique is to put a floor and door down first, then add flooring for the rest of the building, with my big pieces laid down as I go. I’ll have a crafting section, a place to eat, a place to store, a pace to cook/ferment, and then a place to sleep. Outdoor crafting is obviously outside, as well as my portals. I only make it ground level to start, then imagine the verticality of a 2 wall high floor (3x chests fit easy).

Alternatively, you could just lay down floor and make stuff fit. Most roofs can cover 10 floor units of width without too much trouble, so a 10×10 floor is a great starter.

The last option is to build rooms that branch out. A 6×8 main hall can fit most key items, including a hearth. Then have some side rooms to cover the rest of your needs.

My Build

I opted for a seaside castle in the plains. I started with the walls, then dug a water filled moat (until I was forced to swim) all around. I laid down stone flooring, then a 4 corner tower structure 3×2 floors high. The hardest part was putting up a roof, since it was so far from the ground. Iron posts got that done. The dock was fun to make, in particular making a roof high enough for a longship mast to fit through. The end result is a practical abode that took about a week in-game to construct (and multiple deaths from fall damage). It’ll take me twice as long to tweak the design to have sufficient lighting, division, and practical use.

When I’m a tad happier with the overall design, I’ll update the pictures. The wall-o-chests needs a tad of prettying up, and the main dining hall needs a higher roof to allow for braziers. It is impressive how dark this place can be, so there’s finally a need for the 400 resin I have stockpiled!

This was an incredibly fulfilling process. Well beyond what I expected.

2 thoughts on “Learner’s Building Permit

  1. Some very useful details in there that I didn’t know, particularly on the height you can build. I’m increasingly interested in going down rather than up. I like to put my portals underground but now i’m thinking I might like to live down there, too. It’s incredibly secure. Mobs just don’t seem to understand there can be anything benath their feet. It’s also very cosy, especially in the mountains when you tunnel into a giant rock.

    I’d definitely contest the idea that a single wall of stone is any good for stopping trolls. I’ve watched one destroy a curtain wall and then knock down a tower in a couple of minutes. In fact, that troll took the stone down faster than I’ve ever seen one go through a wooden pallisade. If there are trolls I’d put a moat, as you said, or a wide outer curtain wall. If they can’t get close they lose interest very quickly.

    I’m quite looking forward to the point where I’ve done all the exploring and progression I’m going to do. Then I’ll pick somewhere to build a proper home base. Currently I have something like a dozen or more that I use regularly and maybe another thirty or more that I use as and when I’m in the area. I make a new one every time I have to stop for the night and I can’t resist repairing anything I pass that’s in a good location. I mark them all on my map and it’s amazing how many times I come past and spend another night.


    • True on the stone wall, in that a troll will eventually get through it, but it’s also the only type of wall that gives you time to defend. Wood walls are like ribbons to trolls (Lox too!) and I lost TONS of building progress due to that. Now it’s a moat 2 wide, then stone walls on the other side – with the moat going all the way into the ocean.

      A note on digging – the game has an ocean level that permeates. If you want to dig deep, you need to start higher up. The mountains don’t allow gardens, and the windmill needs to be outside, so you’d maybe have a second base? It’s on my bucket list anyways, and sure would be interesting to build a chimney in the stone!

      For now, it’s all about tweaking the current castle. I’ve fleshed out my docks, and trying to get the dining hall to look semi decent. Food + item holders gives a neat effect. And benches apparently have a direction…


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