Making Model Houses

Model houses make excellent school projects, architectural examples and terrain for miniatures, wargaming and railroad displays. House construction ranges from simple one-room buildings to massive multi-family dwellings. Building model houses can be a fun hobby project or a serious professional undertaking. Many important factors are shared by all uses of model houses.

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Basic structure

  • The basic structure of a model house consists of the four supporting walls and roof. The walls should intersect at perfect 90 degree angles to create the greatest amount of support, unless a specific architecture is required. Decoration and materials for the walls will depend on the style of home desired. The simplest homes will be cardboard constructions that are painted to resemble wood or vinyl paneling. More advanced structures can be made of dried mud, or adobe, and thatched grasses. You can even construct small bricks of red clay and make supportive mortar of flour and water. Roofs need to match the design of the walls. The traditional roof is a two piece construction that angles to a point in the center. This requires additional triangles of material to create the attic or crawlspace and connect the walls to the roof. Try increasing the height of the rear walls for a slanted roof; these are popular in snowy areas. If your models are meant for play or room display, attach a hinge on the underside of the roof in an inconspicuous location.

Rooms and Hallways

  • Even when a one-room building isn't the end result, you can still use the same structure as above. The addition of dividing walls can be used to create rooms and hallways that are needed for more advanced structures. As with external walls, 90 degree intersections are the most common and supportive structures. Hallways should be narrower than rooms, typically one-half to one-third of a standard room's width. Special purpose rooms such as family rooms or recreational areas need to be designed with additional space in mind.

Yards and Furnishings

  • To finish a model house, you will need to decorate a small yard and provide furnishings that will dictate the purpose of each room. Yards can be a simple matter of roughed felt glued to a display surface as grass, or a complex mixture of small pebble walkways, static grass and dried lichen bushes. Miniature furniture gives the house the look and feel of a home. You can purchase this from a hobby or model railroad store. Depending on your scale, you can also use dollhouse furniture from a toy store. Alternatively, you can construct your own model furniture. The key to small furniture is to use materials that can support their own weight, even when cut small. Balsa wood is a common material, as is Styrofoam.


  • How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery; Dave Frary; 2005
  • The Art of War; Peter Simunovich, Battlefront Miniatures; 2006
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