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"Minecraft": Tips for Improving Old Builds (With Examples)

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Dan K is an avid Minecraft player, who has enjoyed Mining, Crafting, Exploring, and turning NPC Villages into sprawling cities since 2011.

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Build Up, Tear Down, or Restore?

What do you do when you come across an old Minecraft build that isn't as nice as you once thought? Do you tear it down and build something else? Leave it as a reminder of how far you've come as a builder? Or should you put your skills to use and improve the build? Considering Minecraft is a game about changing, shaping, and improving the world around you. Any of these options are perfectly acceptable. However, Minecraft is a game that is always evolving; developers are regularly adding new blocks, features, and mechanics for players to add to their repertoires. These changes make it possible for players to update their worlds and improve their builds and building skills.

I have selected three of my own older builds—a museum, a chapel, and a couple of houses—and will be taking you through the steps that I have taken to improve them. Whether it be just a few simple changes, a full restoration, or a complete re-build, each of these builds have had new life breathed into them. Featuring some of my own personal Minecraft builds, these are tips for improving old builds.

Minecraft Museum

Minecraft Museum

1. A Few Simple Changes (Museum)

This Minecraft Museum build isn't that old, having been built in July 2021. This was a design that I had in mind for years before I was able to actually pull it off. Inspired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, I was (and still am) very proud of this build. However, I have improved as builder in the months since it was initially completed. There were a few things holding this build back from reaching it's full potential; while the design is nice, it is a little flat and lifeless. It doesn't feel like an occupied building - more like a building that was just placed in its spot. However, with a few simple changes this has the potential to be a fantastic build.

Creative Mode Changes

Creative Mode Changes

I decided to go to the Creative Mode copy where I first came up with this design. This allowed me to easily play around with some different ideas, until I found the look I was going for. The first change I made was to add some heft to its foundation, by a adding layer of blocks to the bottom, with a decorative trim between the build's foundation and facade. This created an extra layer of depth, and made the build appear far more sturdy and set in to the land. I then added pillars running up the corners, making sure to use blocks that accentuate the build's overall palette. By using wall blocks, I was able to give the build an additional plane of depth without further increasing its footprint. Finally, I added some custom shrubbery to the exterior, giving the build some additional color, life, and vibrancy.

Bringing the necessary changes to Survival Mode

Bringing the necessary changes to Survival Mode

I then brought these changes over to Survival Mode. While I was happy with the results of these changes, I still felt as though it was missing something. Depth and detail don't come from the build's facade, alone; the land which surrounds the build should also be incorporated into the design. By adding some custom trees and an iron fence to the landscape, I was able to add an even greater layer of depth to the build while defining its boundaries. These layers of depth and detail brought the formerly flat, two-dimensional build to life. Looking at the finished product, it is easy to imagine crowds of people coming and going, workers giving guided tours, and groundskeepers dutifully trimming the greenery.

The Final Product

The Final Product

Old Chapel Building

Old Chapel Building

2. Full Restoration (Chapel)

This Chapel is one of the oldest builds in my survival world, having been built just after the release of Minecraft 1.16 The Nether Update. This build had many issues holding it back from reaching its potential; the palette wasn't quite right, the steeple was too square, and it was lacking the decoration needed to bring a build to life. While I considered tearing it down and re-building, I decided that it was too important to the history of my world to make such a drastic change. Instead, I decided that I would restore the original build to bring it up to my current standard.

Front View

Front View

Instead of going into Creative Mode and planning out the restoration, I decided I would freestyle on this build, and just got to work on making Improvements. I knew I wanted to get rid of the birch framework and trim, replacing these with quartz pillars and brick blocks. With this all-white palette, any accentuating colors added will pop more and appear more vibrant. I also wanted to improve the steeple and the blocks which support it. I replaced the diorite walls with calcite blocks to give the impression of greater support.

New palette

New palette

While these changes definitely improved the build, there was still a lot of work to be done to bring the Chapel to life. I decided to change the design of the steeple and the symbol that sat atop it, doing so by utilizing a technique I learned through watching videos by YouTuber BDoubleO100. I changed the shape of the steeple slightly and used wall blocks and iron bars to give the impression of a smooth, sloping cone rather than a stepped pyramid shape. I also changed the symbol atop the steeple from iron bars to copper lightning rods. Replacing the cobblestone foundation with stone brick blocks enhanced the build's palette and provided the illusion of stability and strength to the design. Finally, I added some custom shrubbery and trees to the landscape, in order to settle the build into its surroundings and add color and vibrancy to the overall build. The final result is one that I am very proud of, and would be happy to show off to anyone willing to see it.

Final Product

Final Product

Final Product (Front View)

Final Product (Front View)

Old Houses Blocking the View of City Hall

Old Houses Blocking the View of City Hall

3. Tear Down and Re-Build (Poorly Placed Houses)

While I was mostly happy with the design of these two houses, they were completely blocking the view of my City Hall build, and just didn't quite fit into the area they were built in. I decided that the best way to improve these builds would be to tear them down and start again. I had an idea for a strip of touristy shops bouncing around in my head for a while, and thought that this would be the best direction to take the build due to its proximity to my town's zoo. I went into creative mode and played around with a couple of designs before settling on one based, in part, on the tourist shops of Mackinac City, Michigan; a town famed for its many artisan fudge shops.

Rough Design in Creative Mode

Rough Design in Creative Mode

I decided that I wanted to build a few different shops, while maintaining my town's bed count by including some apartments built in to the shops themselves. The shops I decided on were (from left to right) a gem shop, candy shop, t-shirt shop, bistro restaurant, and a lookout tower. After finalizing the exterior design in creative mode, I then went into survival mode, began the demolition on the old houses, and made sure I had enough room for the new design by creating a wool framework, properly centered on the space available, in order to ensure that the new build wouldn't block the view of my city hall, which was the whole reason for the tear-down in the first place. Proper planning is an essential part of building in Minecraft, a lesson that I learned the hard way from this experience.

After setting my plan, I then began the process of building the new design in survival mode. This process included gathering, smelting, and crafting all of the necessary materials needed for the build. Organizing the materials in shulker boxes, I set up a temporary base in the area that I prepared for the build. I then got to work building up the exteriors of each shop.

Exterior Complete

Exterior Complete

After completing the exteriors of each shop, I was much happier with the new direction of the area, but wanted to complete the scene of a tourist town promenade. In order to complete this concept, I decided to switch the walk-way from cobblestone to calcite blocks with a stone brick outline, added some more merchant stands and benches, and designed unique window displays to give each shop its own personality. Finally, I added some flowers, custom trees, and bushes to the front and backside of the build to give it that extra dimension that brings a build to life.

Front View

Front View

Rear View

Rear View

Final Take-Away

Part of the beauty of Minecraft is that even a "completed" build doesn't have to stay that way forever. Much like other art forms, a build is only truly finished when the creator is happy with the final result. There are so many things to do within the game, that players can set a build aside knowing that they can always come back and make changes and improvements later on. As a player's skills improve, so to can the builds that they have created.

There are many ways these improvements come about, but there are some principles to keep in mind when doing so. A build's design, color palette, and decorations are important to the atmosphere of the overall build. Utilizing multiple layers of depth and animation by playing around with different block types can add details to the build without becoming too busy or distracting. A builder can also draw attention to certain aspects of a build by using of these techniques in combination with one another. Making use of the land around a build can create the illusion of life and animation, transforming a simple build into a scene. Working out these changes in creative mode before transitioning them over to survival can save a lot of time, effort, and resources; although sometimes it can be just as beneficial to just go for it in survival mode - especially if you already have a design in mind.

Finally, if you find yourself struggling to come up with a design or if you're not sure what to build, it helps to take inspiration from the real world, movies, TV shows, other Minecraft builders, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Learning from others and implementing their techniques and strategies can help you become a better builder and overall Minecraft player. Give credit where it is due, and always try to add your unique twist to make the build your own. And remember, you can always come back later and improve on any build, at any time.