Modeling with Repeated Elements in SketchUp

By Aidan Chopra

A staircase is a perfect example of an object that’s composed of several identical elements. If, when you hear the phrase “several identical elements,” a big, flashing neon sign that screams “COMPONENTS!” doesn’t appear in your head, you’re not using SketchUp enough. In the following example, (A) demonstrates how you might use components to model more efficiently, and (B) shows you the smartest way to build a set of stairs.

The Treads Are Components method involves (you guessed it) making each tread (step) in your staircase into an instance of the same component. Basically, you build one simple tread that’s the right depth, make it into a component, and copy a bunch of instances into a full flight of stairs. Because every step is linked, anything you do to one automatically happens to them all.

1Model a single step, including the tread and the riser.

You can make this very simple at this stage if you want to; all that matters is that the tread depth and the riser height are correct. You can fiddle with everything else later.

2Make a component out of the step you just built.

Make your step into a component instance.

3Move a copy of your step into position, above the first one.

Move a copy into position above the original, and then create an array.

4Type the total number of steps you want, type an x, and then press Enter.

You’re creating a linear array, meaning that you’re making several copies at regular intervals, in the same direction you moved the first one. Typing 12x generates 12 steps the same distance apart as the first step and its copy.

5With the Select tool, double-click any one of your steps to edit all instances of your component.

Everything besides the component instance you’re editing fades out a little.

6Go nuts.

This really is the fun part. Having your staircase made up of multiple component instances means that you have all the flexibility to make drastic changes to the whole thing without ever having to repeat yourself.

Add a nosing (a bump at the leading edge of each tread), a stringer (a diagonal piece of structure that supports all your steps), or even a handrail by getting creative with how you modify a single component instance.