Tag: carpet-fitting

Chris and James of Southend Flooring


From pies to parquet, flooring fitter James Thurston (right) has had a diverse career. After years selling traditional cockney grub, the Essex boy has returned to his roots laying flooring and carpeting. We met up with him and business partner Chris Shorter to learn how Southend Flooring got off the ground.

Like many tradesmen, James, from Chelmsford, originally got into the business thanks to family – his dad ran a carpeting firm, and James would help out as a youngster. “I was only a kid,” James told us, “going out at weekends and holidays to lend a hand. Then when I finished school, I went straight into it – I finished school on a Tuesday, and was out working on the Wednesday. I went at it hard, doing five, six, even seven days a week, and did that for the next ten years.”




Eventually, the job took its toll on James, and the moment came where he fancied a change. “I did myself in physically,” he said. “The older guys would all tell me I’d regret not wearing knee pads or looking myself, and I never listened. I just wanted a change. I thought catering might be a good way to make some money, that maybe didn’t have all the hard graft.”


Life of Pie


James’ foray into the food world wasn’t as simple as retraining as a chef – instead, he got involved in the world of pie and mash, inheriting a traditional recipe and bringing it into the 21st century. “I’m no chef, but I was smart with the branding and managed to get it into a lot of places, I even did catering for a Madness gig once. We sold them online and had big plans to do things like open the first pie and mash shop in New York city, but in the end, it never quite came about. When that was coming to an end, my wife was running a restaurant that was also winding down, so we found ourselves coming back to Southend looking for something to do.”


James and Chris at work


With £1,000 left in the bank and bills to pay, James turned to what he knew best. “I went out and managed to get hold of an old van, and dug my old tools out of storage – and within a few days, was doing little jobs for friends. I signed up to MyBuilder to see if I could get a little bit of work that way, and was amazed at how many leads were coming my way. It got me back on track.”

It was another twist of fate that took the business to the next level, as James told us. “I was out one day and bumped into Chris. We’d known each other since school, but I didn’t know he also did carpeting and floors. He was working big commercial jobs, and when we met again he was doing betting shop refurbs and he asked me to help out. They wanted them done super quickly, overnight, so you’d go in at 5pm and have to be done by 5am. I told Chris, sleeping on a bookies’ floor is no way to live your life. I wasn’t sure about telling him about MyBuilder because it was going so well for me, but in the end I did – and we decided to start working together properly.”


Taking on the Big Jobs


They set up Southend Flooring and started winning work, taking on a variety of jobs, including residential and commercial fitting, with bigger and bigger gigs coming their way.

“We had a huge project come up,” James said, “for a new build apartment block with a big developer. We tendered for it, assuming we were just there to make up the numbers, but it went from 19 companies in the running, down to 14, down to 10, down to five. I didn’t think it would end up with us, and we heard for a while that another firm had got it, but one day the directors came down and told us they were impressed with us and the efforts we’d gone to to show off what we could do.”

The key, James said, is their passion. “I think we’ve probably upset some other businesses with how we’ve grown. We’ve built up big accounts with suppliers that other people haven’t been able to access. But the developer wanted someone who wouldn’t just see the job as another invoice, they wanted people with passion, and that’s what we had bags of.”


The team now fit carpets across Essex and London


Now, the business has grown to have ten full time fitters, working in five teams: “We don’t have time to get the vans sign-written, because they’re always out doing jobs!”, James said. “It’s great having a team like that though. They’re all people we’ve known in the business for years, or they’ve been recommended by those guys we trusted. We could never just sub a job out to someone to someone we didn’t really know – that’s your reputation on the line. If they get you a bad review, well, I have nightmares about that.”

Since Southend Flooring started on MyBuilder, the firm has maintained a 100% positive feedback rating, with more than 120 jobs completed.

“We get work from a lot of places now,” James said, “but we still take on leads from MyBuilder. It’s reassuring to know that if everything just stopped tomorrow, I could get back on MyBuilder and find new clients. It really worked for me. Even my dad has signed up now, and he’s been going for decades, with thousands of customers.” He added, “I know tradesmen who spend a £1,000 a month on directory listings, and I just think, if they were on MyBuilder, the return would be 10 times better.”

James credits the feedback system with building up success on MyBuilder. “Those reviews all keep you honest,” he said. “No mistakes, no cutting corners. It does you a world of good for your own work ethic, and when it comes to training up other guys.”

With plenty more work on the horizon, James and Chris will be looking to keep up the great feedback. With that under their belts, growing the business won’t just be pie in the sky.





A lot of tradesmen will tell you that it’s not looks that count – it’s about the things you don’t see, the stuff behind the scenes, all the little details that a homeowner doesn’t think about, but a tradesman needs to get right. But that’s not always the case.

“With a carpet”, Wayne Mockble tells us, “it’s all about how it looks.”

Wayne should know. He’s been fitting carpets around Birmingham for 30 years, taking on jobs big and small. In the three years his business, Fast Fit Flooring, has been on MyBuilder, he’s built up 278 pieces of positive feedback – and no negatives. In short, he’s a man who knows his way around an Axminster. But despite what he says about how much appearance matters, after a morning spent watching him at work, it’s easy to see how much effort goes into getting that perfect finish.

After a short stint in the army as a teenager, Wayne started out as a tradesman when he was only 18 years old.

“I needed to find some work,” Wayne explains. “When I was 18, I already had two kids to feed, so I had to come up with something. By chance I met a carpet fitter who wasn’t able to drive. He said, if I got a car, I could drive him around and learn the trade from him. It really was a matter of watching him do it. He wouldn’t tell you verbally, you just had to pay attention.”


Fast Fit Flooring, Wayne Mockble, Carpet Fitter, Flooring Fitter TOTM


Slowly, Wayne began to pick up the trade, learning as he went. “You come to realise, it’s a very technical job,” he said. “People might look at a room and think, a carpet for that, oh, it’s only a square, but it rarely is. Your preparation is very important. There’s a saying – measure twice, cut once – but you want to measure more than twice. Measure ten times if you can.”

When we catch up with Wayne, he’s halfway through a job fitting a new carpet and underlay for a staircase and landing. As we watch him work, it’s plain to see the attention to detail that goes into what is a relatively simple job.

“If it’s an old house, the stairs are all going to be a bit out,” he says as he measures up. “These two here are bigger than the one above. Then this one here is bigger again. It’s a nightmare sometimes. But some people without any experience will just measure once at the top of the stairs and just get on with it. You’re making problems for yourself then. You can carpet each stair individually if you have to, because the joints are all hidden, but it’s not ideal.”

Wayne works quickly, with simple tools, cutting with a razor-sharp carpet knife and knocking the edge of the carpet into place with a chisel. “My chisel is 20 years old and it’s still going strong,” Wayne says. “It cost me £5 back in the day. They probably cost a bit more than that now.” He cuts and pushes the carpet into place, casually swapping the tools between hands- as he says, “You have to be ambidextrous in this job, it can’t be done all with one hand. And you need to be accurate and confident. You can’t be cack-handed.”


Fast Fit Flooring, Wayne Mockble, Carpet Fitter, Flooring Fitter TOTM


The knife gets a new blade for every job – even between doing his cuts, Wayne swaps out the sharp blade before putting it away. “The first thing anyone asks me when they see what I do is ‘Have you ever cut your finger off?’ I haven’t but I’ve come close a few times. Half the time the biggest problem is nals and things sticking out of floorboards.”

When it comes to cutting neat, long lines in the carpet, Wayne doesn’t need any fancy tools: “A door bar is the best thing for getting a straight edge, and you need a straight edge with your carpet.”

Wayne is insistent on using good quality materials. “If your grippers are no good, it will make things very difficult. I also try and use glue where I can to make sure it all holds well – it costs a bit more money, bit it gets it done properly. Underlay is another thing, some old types had a black rubber back that will just perish into dust over time and leave flat patches under the carpet, you need to use a good one. It’s like any trade, there are plenty of cowboys in this game, I know which shops to avoid. There are also fitters out there who’ll tell you that underlay costs £150 a roll, when actually it was only £20. People don’t know.”

Wayne always encourages people to buy their own carpets, while he deals with the fitting. “I can give them advice, but it’s up to them to buy it. Supplying it can be a minefield – I could buy it all, bring it along, and then they change their mind; what do I do then? If I get my fitting fee, I’m happy. I’ve worked with carpet that was £85 a metre – you can’t go making mistakes with a £3,000 carpet.”


Fast Fit Flooring, Wayne Mockble, Carpet Fitter, Flooring Fitter TOTM


One thing he insists is on getting accurate measurements before starting any job. “If people give me measurements they’ve taken, that’s fine, but I want to go and measure up myself. They’ll have measured wall-to-wall but not take into account the leeway you need. If I fit it as they’ve told me, and there’s a gap or a join somewhere, they won’t thank you. I have to go and visualise the whole job first.”

After his initial run learning the ropes, Wayne has always worked by himself. “I like having the freedom, I pick and choose the jobs I want. Like any self-employed person, you have moments where it goes quiet. You’ve got to have some heart to soldier on when it gets like that. I’m not one of those people who has another job – this is my livelihood”. Thankfully, Wayne has been able to keep on going, even through the rough times, and his reviews on MyBuilder help him to keep winning work for some time yet. “I always ask people to leave feedback. I just ask, if they’re happy with the work that I’ve done, leave a bit of feedback, because it really helps me out.”

After finishing off the last stair, carefully following the curved line of the final riser, this looks like another job that will see positive feedback. We know how much work went into it, but the finished result if effortless. After all, as Wayne says, “it’s all about how it looks”.


Advice for Tradesmen:


  • Don’t cut corners: As Wayne showed us when he worked on the individual stairs, taking one quick measurement and assuming that’s good enough might leave you with a poor quality result. “At the end of the day, if there’s something wrong, you can’t go and blame your materials or the fact that the house is a bit wonky – it’s just poor workmanship.”
  • Explain everything up front: “People want to know what the finished job will end up like,” Wayne said. “Everything has to be explained, how it will work, what you’re going to do. You need to be open about what you’ll be doing and the materials you’ll use.”
  • Be careful when supplying materials: As Wayne says, supplying materials can be a minefield if you’re not careful – while it can be a profitable part of your business, it pays to be sensible about how you approach it. “You don’t want to be stuck with a piece of carpet you can’t use. You can’t drag money out of people.”


As Spring draws closer we can hear the sound of shed doors opening and tool boxes creaking back into life… but alongside DIY comes the inevitable difficulties and horror stories.

At MyBuilder we’ve come across a lot of botched DIY over the years and in every case it was clear the job could have been made easier and safer with the intervention of an expert. We present to you MyBuilder’s DIY You Thought You Could Do… But Can’t!


Tiling seems quite straightforward. It’s the familiarity that does it – all that time spent staring at the tiles while in the bath or by the wash basin. How hard could it be? After all, it’s just sticking some tiles to the wall, right? The first challenge is that the surface needs to be perfect. A wavy or bumpy wall looks much worse when tiles are covering it. Secondly, laying tiles is not easy – it takes a lot of practice to get it right. Lastly, once you make a pig’s ear of the tiling, the professional tiler will likely break the tiles trying to get them off. Buying the tiles twice won’t be a nice end to your DIY experiment.

Carpet Fitting
Carpet laying can’t be that hard, right? Just roll it out, measure around the fireplace and.. uh oh, it’s too short! Remember, once you’ve cut the carpet too short there’s no attractive way to fix it and replacing the whole thing is an unnecessary cost. A skilled fitter has the experience of measuring and cutting awkward shapes; they are also much more likely to have all their fingers left after using the troublesome stanley knife!

Building Garden Walls
Everybody knows that bricklaying is a proper building trade. But when it comes to garden and boundary walls, somehow it changes in our mind from building to tinkering in the garden. What gives? It might not seem too important because it’s just in the garden, but white mortar smeared all over the faces of your crooked bricks won’t impress the other half, or your guests. It will also (hopefully) annoy you for the rest of your life and remind you of the value of a professional job. If that doesn’t convince you, think about the time spent. A good bricklayer can lay 1,000 bricks a day to perfection whereas a good DIYer will be lucky to lay 100!

Hanging Doors
Hanging a door is a lot trickier than it sounds. If you screw the hinges into the door frame and it’s slightly off, it’s practically impossible to adjust it. In addition, planing the door is a difficult business; too long and you’re dragging it across the carpet, too short and you’ve got a draught. Getting it wrong will remind you every time you walk through that door why you should have got an expert in. Your hopes of a quality doorway all hinge on a seasoned carpenter.

Tree Surgery
Chopping down trees is lots of fun. It might seem tempting to buy your own toy, errr – chainsaw for the price you’d pay a tree surgeon, but you might regret that decision once you cut your leg off. Chainsaws are seriously dangerous and even trained professionals use protective clothing and special helmets. Even if you’re just pruning a tree with a hand saw, you might do more harm than good to your tree. Knowing where and when to prune is the key – which is why tree surgeons go to college to learn their trade!

Redecorating is an often underestimated task, taking a lot longer than most of us anticipate. One of the trickiest tasks is wallpapering, especially if you want the patterns to look seamless. In a way, wallpapering is an art form, after all it will be adorning your walls for years to come. The last thing you want is a drunk-looking floral pattern or scruffy ends – have a painter and decorator help you with your fancy feature wall.

Cleaning Gutters
Sunday morning in the rain, with a ladder on a rooftop – something tells us this isn’t going to end well! Heights can be dangerous and any kind of roof work should be left to experienced roofers if at all possible. Yes, it may ‘just be a few leaves’, but is it really worth a tumble from a ladder? We don’t think so!

Laying Turf
You stand there with rolls of turf and a vision of Wembley stadium’s pitch in your back garden, but the outcome looks more like a field after a festival. If turf is not laid correctly you risk uneven surfaces, yellow grass or even bald patches – not a good look for impending summer barbecues. Let a professional take care of the planning, preparation and laying – then you won’t be looking at your neighbour’s lawn ‘green’ with envy.

Demolition is not just ‘fun with sledgehammers’. Well, it might mostly be fun with sledgehammers, but dangers lurk in every corner. From broken glass to electricity to smashed fingers, it’s definitely a skill to know which tools to use, when to get people to stand clear, and how to dismantle something. Let the tradesmen have some fun for once!

OK, this one might seem a bit unlikely. It would seem that there aren’t many DIY architects. But architecture isn’t just designing a new building. Any changes to the layout of your home is by definition architecture. Many people don’t think of consulting an architect for en-suites, loft conversions or even extensions. Even a badly planned en-suite bathroom can ruin a bedroom by creating dead space and an awkward layout. Builders are usually more than happy to build whatever you ask them to, but you’re going to be the victim of your own bad decisions. A good architect need not be too expensive and what’s the good of having that new extension if you hate living in it?

Do you have anything to add to our list? We’d love to hear your stories.


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