Stairs allow creatures to travel across z-levels. They can be dug out or constructed. They need to be connected to other stairs of the appropriate type to function. Up stairs need to be built below down stairs. Up/down stairs function as both up and down stairs at once.
Stairs do not block creature nor fluid movement. Falling creatures ignore stairs and may get seriously hurt if the real ground is several z-levels below them. Floor hatches can stop both falling creatures and liquid. They can also be locked to keep those pesky crundles from interrupting everything your dwarves could possibly do.
Stairs do not block falling objects. Falling objects dropped from above (i.e. a falling stone from a deconstructed floor) can injure a creature several z-levels below, doing really heavy damage.
As with all constructions, stairs can only be removed by dwarves (ordered to do so - never on their own initiative) or cave-ins. Dug out stairs can melt, if made from ice, but are otherwise just as resistant to damage - they can be removed by channelling the stair tile.
Stairs are fully capable of holding any amount of weight above them. They are not as resistant to cave-ins as full walls, though; they won't stop falling cave-ins.
 Planning stairs
Stairs can be created in two different ways, or a combination of them:
- You can use the designations menu ( ) to carve them out of a wall of unmined material (see digging).
- You can use the build menu ( ) to construct them in an open tile using material you have already gathered.
However, a down or up stair will give you sufficient access to the adjacent level to build connecting stairs. This means you can dig directly downwards or even directly upwards using stairs without needing any other forms of access to the area.
You can't designate an up stair on a square that has already been dug out; you have to carve one out of an existing wall oruild instead. You can then build the matching down stair on the level above.
For a basic mineshaft/stair tutorial click here
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