How to make buildings from cardboard boxes

Updated February 21, 2017

You can quickly create a cityscape with a handful of household materials. Whether these buildings are for a class project, stage scenery, a model railroad or for fun, there is almost no limit to the sizes and styles of buildings you can make.

Design your building on a sheet of paper. Decide on a scale (such as 1 inch represents 10 feet), the height of the building and how you will cut your cardboard. Use real-life inspiration, or find pictures of skyscrapers and other buildings.

Measure and mark the building on cardboard. Use the yardstick to draw straight lines. For small buildings, mark the cardboard to be folded instead of cutting on lines for each panel. If two sides will be glued together, be sure to leave a tab on one edge.

Cut the building panels out of the cardboard with a utility knife. Use the yardstick to keep your cuts straight.

Score the cardboard by pushing the yardstick into the upper layers of cardboard that will be folded. This will make folding easier.

Assemble the building. Fold or staple the sides together, and glue the pieces together using tabs wherever you added them. Use a clothes pin or clamp to hold pieces together while the glue dries. For larger buildings, saw lengths of 1 by 1-inch wood to reinforce the corners and then staple the cardboard panels to the wood.

Allow the glue to dry overnight.

Draw decorative panels for your building on construction paper or print out designs. Use your original diagram and the cardboard cut-outs as templates.

Cut the side decorations to fit the building.

Spread glue on the backs of the decorative panels, and stick them in place on one side of the building. Allow the decorative panels to overlap by about 1/8-inch. This will give the building a more complete look. Rest the building with the just-glued side face up, and allow the glue to dry for about 10 minutes. Repeat for the other sides of the building.

Set the building upright.


If you are using a scale such as 1-inch represents 10-feet, small die-cast cars will be fairly close to scale. You can add them for realism. Add any other decorations you want for the structure when complete.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil and paper
  • Cardboard Boxes
  • Yardstick
  • Marker
  • Utility knife
  • Glue
  • Clothes pins or clamps
  • Saw (optional)
  • 1 by 1-inch wood (optional)
  • Staple gun and staples (optional)
  • Construction paper or building skins
  • Die-cast toy cars (optional)
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About the Author

Grahame Turner has worked as a freelance writer since 2009 and a freelance reporter since 2010 for Wellesley Patch and Jamaica Plain Patch in Massachusetts. He also works part-time as a bookseller at the Northeastern University bookstore. He is a Northeastern University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English.