The 2016 Competition
Round 1 of the competition was a written exam designed to challenge the knowledge of the applicants of which the top 12 went on to participate in the fitting trial. The top 6 scores would be the finalists, and these were - Darren Ash from Worcestershire, Michael Atkinson and Mark Smurthwaite both from Cumbria, Paul Finch from Oxfordshire, Nick Hood from the West Midlands and Byron Terrett from mid-Glamorgan (Wales).
The Grand Final was held over two days in the King's Suite at the Flooring Show Harrogate in September and many thanks to all of you that attended the show and came along to cheer on the finalists. The final gave the guys a chance to showcase their craftsmanship by completing a platform that included a hand sewn bullnose and a dual stick carpet installation incorporating a border.
The Competition winner was Mark Smurthwaite who was presented with his trophy by Anthea Turner, as were all the finalists but it was Mark who walked away with £1000 in prize money as well as an iPad and a vast selection of new tools and kit donated by sponsors; So congratulations to Mark and a big thank you to all of the sponsors because without their support this competition would not be able to run. The feedback I have received has been fantastic and the 2017 competition will go ahead with the Final once again to be held at The Flooring Show Harrogate in September.
"I'm still overwhelmed with winning and still can't quite believe it. I felt like the underdog going into the competition, with not knowing what to expect and the fact other finalists have been in the final before, also with being the youngest in the group. I've always strived to be the best at what I do and pride myself on doing all jobs right and to the highest of standards, something that drives my wife crazy! I have made 5 new friends in the other 5 finalists, who could all have won in my opinion. I wish each of them the best for next year" - Mark Smurthwaite, 2016 Winner
"I would recommend anyone to enter. Whatever stage you get to, I guarantee you will walk taller and have a great experience" - Darren Ash, Finalist
A selection of photographs from the 2016 Finals at the Flooring Show in Harrogate are available to view and download in our Competition Photo Album.
As the countdown to this years national flooring show ticks by (and it’s going to be the biggest show to date) the return of the Carpet Fitter of the Year competition also becomes an ever increasing and exciting reality.
The competition was first held more than 15 years ago and is once more being hosted by the NICF with the finals being held at The Flooring Show in Harrogate which run from 18-20 September 2016. To my delight, I was invited to go along to the semi finals held at the FITA (Flooring Industry Training Association) Training Centre in Loughborough. Run over two consecutive days, 12 semi-finalists were put through their paces to whittle them down to the 6 finalists.
I arrived at the training centre early on the first semi-final day when Steve Ramsden and Ian James were putting the finishing touches to the fitting bays. Steve was one of the judges for the semi-finals but will not be involved in the finals as he will be hosting one of the fitting demo zones for FITA. The other independent judges Jeff Hardy and Richard Renouf arrived shortly after me. Jeff Hardy is a retired member and is a former president of the NICF having been in office from 1991-1993. Jeff was also one of the original judges for carpet fitter of the year back in the early nineties. Richard Renouf has no direct connections with the NICF but has been involved with training and FITA over the years; Richard set up the fitters academy at CarpetRight in 2002 and was head of their consumer affairs and customer services department until fairly recently. He now is a consultant member for the Contract Flooring Association (CFA). So I'm sure you will agree all the judges certainly know what they are looking for.
After all the semi finalists arrived they all had a quick chat to introduce themselves and a cup of tea then Steve briefed them on exactly what they would be doing and what was expected. It was a flat L shaped area with a join in it using a plain twist pile carpet. In each fitting bay there was a stair case consisting of 4 straight stairs. Each competitor was given the choice of short, medium or long pinned gripper and a selection of door bars to choose from. The underlay was a PU.
At 9.30am prompt the competition started as the competitors started to prep the areas. The judges walked round inspecting their work closley. The atmosphere was very quiet at first as they all seemed a little nervous but as they got into it the mood changes as they all started to relax a little. They all finished the prep roughly at the same time and started to fit the stairs first, the standard of the work I was seeing was second-to-none and personally would struggle to judge these fitters as the work was to a very high standard by every one of them. The stairs were all tight and then they moved on to joining the carpet. They were allowed to do this out of the bay or as Steve put it "away from site" if they wanted. The good thing I noticed was they all cut the join differently, in a way that suited them. I saw one using a row finder, one using a straight edge cutting it from the back and it was good to see someone using a invisible seamer. As they all started to fit the flat area they used the correct stretching patterns, all using speed cats stretching everything firstly and checking the tension was correct before trimming the carpet and tucking in.
The competitors were not only marked on their fitting abilities but were also marked on their personal appearance, the presentation and appearance of their vehicle, and all their tools checked to see if they all had the required equipment needed to do the job as well whether it was all in good condition and well maintained.
Some finished the completed bays earlier than others so they had chance for a quick sandwich from the buffet provided by NICF. When everyone was finished and all their tools and vehicles checked they had a short comfort break. After the break the judges started to thoroughly inspect the bays. They checked to see if the tension was correct, to see if the pile direction was correct, the appearance etc. Then they started to uplift the carpet from the gripper and check the gripper spacing and the fixings. They even checked the condition of the gripper pins. They checked to see if the correct gripper was used and the condition of the underlay etc. They took the stair carpet up and did the same checks there. All the competitors looked on from the other end of the training centre in anticipation.
After all the checks, the competitors stripped their bays out ready for the remaining six semi-finalists the following day. They all got handed their certificates and wished the best of luck for making the final. I spent the day meeting some great fitters. Some I had met before, some I had spoken to on social media and some had never met before. What I do know is that it was a privilege to be in their company. They had a number of things they had in common - ALL of them were excellent fitters and I would be proud to work with any of them. A passion for the trade and a pride in what we do shone through in spades.
Having reached the semi-finals of this competition they are already defining themselves as some of the best in the country and should shout about that in their businesses and advertising. Now I can’t wait to see what defines the best of the best. That really is going to be something very special.
See you at Harrogate if you are interested to find out too.
Brian King, FITA instructor and NICF Council member
The 2016 Finalists
I have been fitting carpets and flooring for 34 years, running my own successful business for 30 years. It was somewhat inevitable that Iwould enter the flooring industry after helping my late father - a highly respected contract and domestic fitter - through my teenage years before leaving school and the fact that my paternal grandmother was also a highly-skilled carpet seamstress. You could say it's in the blood.
I have fitted for two Chelsea FC players and a host of TV personalities and celebrities as well as a top Berkshire public school on a regular basis before moving from Windsor (Berkshire) to Malvern, Worcestershire.
Looking to establish a customer base in this new area, I joined the NICF and successfully took the master fitter assessment.
I currently proudly holds the master fitter accreditation in both carpet and domestic sheet vinyl as well an NVQ in carpet fitting and I have also attended various courses in carpet and luxury vinyl tiles.
I am a committed family man with one teenage daughter; as a family we enjoy a variety of interests.
I would like to thank the NICF, especially Ian James, for reinstating the Fitter of The Year competition.
Good luck one and all.
I have lived and worked in the town I was born all of my life, married to Lesley we have two children James and Jennifer.
I started my flooring career straight from school with the family carpet business. My father was my trainer and mentor and was always very conscious of doing a good job and leaving the customer satisfied which must have made an impression on me at the time. One of our sub contractors was an Approved Fitter and introduced me to the NICF .
I became an Approved Fitter in the early nineties working in the business and also sub contracting in South London while pursuing another career drumming in a rock band with my brother and the lads from school, aiming for fame and fortune which obviously never happened.
I became a Master Fitter in carpet in May 2000, and a Master fitter in laminate in 2013. My father retired several years ago selling the business. I currently work with my son who is in his fifth year. We achieved our NVQ2/QCF recently and have been on a number of courses together. We run a 'Home Choose Business' covering the South Lakes Cumbria.
My career in floor laying spans over 28 years. My first opportunity to do so came via the family business; my parents owned an interior design business, which involved supplying and installing floor coverings. During many a school holiday I would spend most of my time on site and at the age of 14 fitted my first carpet.
Before even leaving school I had made the decision that I would pursue a career in the floor laying arena. I had the privilege to work alongside Mike Whale, who represented the UK in the European Carpet Fitter competition (2004).He taught me many skills during this time. Having this experience reinforced my desire to make this my career choice. On my professional journey I met up with Tim Nicholas along the way, who imparted to me further skills that have made me what I am today.
I have gone on to achieve my NICF Master Fitter qualification (carpet and laminate categories), Quickstep Master fitter, Karndean approved installer also obtaining an NVQ level 2 in textile and resilient floor coverings.
I take great pride in what I do and have begun to focus on transferring those skills to others and as the main fitter within the family run business I have begun up-skilling our fitting teams.
I have great passion for what I do and embrace any opportunity I have to broaden my skill set and evolve, here's to another 28 years in the job!
I joined the NICF over 20 years ago as an approved fitter.
In March 1995 I passed my master fitter assessment and in the following year entered the Carpet Fitter of the Year competition. After that I took part in the 1998 and 2000 competitions to find the Floorcovering Fitter of the Year. Along the way I have met some really good, like-minded people.
Life changed in 2002 when my first son was born; work/life balance changed. Another three children later and things definitely changed, all work to put food on the table etc.
As life has levelled out now and I saw the competition advertised as being re-launched I was unsure as whether or not to enter and put myself and my work out there to be assessed, marked and scrutinized. I knew the experience would be good for me for keeping standards up, meeting good people, promoting our trade and public awareness.
I think the NICF is in a good place with the people running it and also with NICF having co-founded FITA (Flooring Industry Training Association).
It's great that Carpet Fitter of the Year is back and I feel lucky to be part of that.
My name is Mark Smurthwaite from Whitehaven, Cumbria and I have been a carpet/flooring installer for 14 years since I was 17.
I have been an NICF member for approximately 13 years starting as a trainee carpet installer and have worked up to my master installer qualification in both carpet and laminate.
I have also attended other training courses throughout my career and pride myself on keeping up with current standards as they develop, to ensure a high standard of installation on all my work. I have been self-employed for just over 10 years and my business MS Flooring has grown from strength to strength and in April 2015 I opened a retail premises in my home town.
I was born in January 1975 in Moseley, Birmingham to parents Gerald and Marilyn and brother Carlton. My family ran a carpet business which was started by my grandmother in 1939 in nearby Kingsheath.
I left school at 17 to join the family business as the 3rd generation. I had spent countless school holidays learning the trade before finally doing it full time and getting paid!!
I joined the NICF in 2000 and started to see the benefits of setting yourself apart from all the other carpet fitters around and in 2005 was selected to represent the UK in the European Team Fitting competition which took place at the Domotex Exhibition in Hanover, Germany and come away with 1st place!
Now time to concentrate on more than carpets - I met my wife Mary whilst on holiday in Cornwall. Result! We have 2 daughters Neve and Megan. I decided in late 2015 to leave the family business and set up on my own in order to spend more time with my girls and Nick Hood Flooring Installations was born.
I saw in CFJ that Carpet Fitter of the Year was being re-launched and thought I'd see if I've still got what it takes. Result pending ...
All semi-finalists participating in the practical trials