Although we knew that building with a toddler would bring some challenges, we had been planning to extend our house since before we even bought it. The fact that it had a bizarrely convenient 13ft side gap down one side of it was at least a moderate factor in choosing to buy it in the first place.
That coupled with the desperation to buy somewhere from someone who actually wanted to move out of their house.
You see, we had nearly bought a more expensive house – the only, very minor, drawback was that the woman living there didn’t actually want to sell it and had an equal say in its sale with her ex-husband who had moved out and was desperate to sell it.
Needless to say, 9 months down the line and having lost 3 of our own buyers due to the time delay, the woman in question was no closer to actually agreeing to move out and had instead managed to convince the courts that the price should go up by an additional £65,000 to what we had agreed on before she started pissing about.
It was an ever-so-slightly frustrating time, which only came to an end when we were told about our current house coming on the market by our own estate agents, given an exclusive viewing and bought it straight afterwards. It was slightly smaller than the other house, but had a potential for a side extension to make a family room. And given that we had more toys in our living room than the average branch of Toys R Us (RIP) a family room sounded like a bloody great idea!
We got an architect in a few months after we moved in and he did some horrifically overpriced drawings, submitted it all to the council and had the planning approved after a few months of pissing about regarding some trees in our neighbour’s garden. Having managed to not get ‘stumped’ by the tree issue, we assumed the next part would be easy – getting some quotes from builders and getting the thing built. What could possibly go wrong?!
Well, aside from the usual stresses of building with a toddler, it turns out that builders in and around the Reading area aren’t really THAT bothered about taking on new work. So the expected rush to give us a quote and the resulting bun fight over who we would pick to do it didn’t really materialise. Instead, from the 15 companies we contacted, only 4 even bothered to turn up to give us a quote – and one of those never actually bothered to ever send it to us!
Long story short, after just under a year of trying, we ended up with 3 quotes, each of which shared one overarching similarity – they were miles higher than we had expected! So instead of having everything done in our one storey side extension, we could only afford to get the structure done – the rest we did ourselves over the following months, paying for bits as and when we could afford to. Fun eh?
Fortunately our builders were generally great and did all the structural bits in around five weeks. Even so, building an extension whilst living with a potty-training toddler did come with its fair share of challenges. Here are some of the challenges of building with a toddler.
Joshua Wanted To Help With Literally Everything
‘Daddy, I help the builders. Daddy, I tidy up with the broom. Daddy, I drive the digger. Daddy, I move the bricks. Daddy, I make the cement. Daddy, I climb the ladder. Daddy, I carry the beams. Daddy, I dig the hole.’
Joshua Wanted To Climb Literally Everything
Whether it’s ladders, piles of bricks or half-finished walls he was desperate to get up them like a rat up a drainpipe.
Joshua Had Chosen His Moments To Need To Use The Toilet
Like on the other side of a half built extension whilst signing for a delivery of bricks. There were quite a few Colin Jackson-esque moments where I hurdled part-finished walls in a desperate bid to reach him before it was too late.
The House Was Dustier Than A Chimney Sweep’s Brush
Dust from building work is a necessary evil and spreads through the air like a cloud of misery, coating everything in its path. Whilst adults generally have the sense / restraint to not open doors into dust-covered rooms or to put on shoes before walking through visibly filthy areas, toddlers tend not to. Building with a toddler is messy!
Discarded Tools Strewn Across The Garden
Whilst adults can generally resist the urge to pick up things like saws / pick axes / shovels, Joshua could not! There’s nothing quite like having a toddler waving a mystery axe at you whilst running towards open holes in the ground. Building with a toddler can be quite a thrill I can tell you.
Builders seems to have a penchant for swearing. Our builder combined that feature with having possibly the loudest voice known to man. We assume he’s a bit mutton from years of lurking next to drills and diggers, but if he was having a heated discussion on his phone with someone the entire street knew about it. In fact the phone itself became almost moot, given the person on the other end could probably hear him just as well without it. We hoped that Joshua hadn’t noticed / heard the bad words, but at the time we had a sneaking suspicion his next nursery report was going to say:
‘Joshua is doing very well and his language is expanding quickly. However, he does seem to say ‘fuck off you fucking idiot’ rather more than one would expect from a 3 year old.’
Money, Money, Money
Last but not least, once you embark on a building project, be it with a toddler or without, you’ll end up with extreme strain in the money department! The cost of everything these days is crazy. So unless you are content with not eating for a few months you might want to look into such options as remortgaging, or saving for a few months / years ahead of starting work, or looking at options for loans.
Looking Back At Building With A Toddler
Fortunately, three years down the track and we’re well past the finish line and have started to focus on all of the other projects we have planned for around the house!
Maybe one day the whole house might all actually be finished – but no doubt by then Joshua will be a teenager and will want a whole different room to entertain friends, play computer games, and maybe even study in!
For more tales of our house and garden projects checks out our Home & Garden section.