William Byrd graduate Billy Stickney and his Marine Corps buddy, Matt Blackmon, launched Patriot Chimney, their chimney sweep and repair service in June 2018.
They run the operations side of the business. Blackmon’s brother Mitchell does the marketing. While there are several chimney sweep companies in the region, they are unique in having more certifications for their line of work than anyone within a 100- mile radius. They both learned their trade at the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) in Plainfield, Ind,, and are certified in chimney sweep and dryer vents, with course work in gas appliances. They are located in Blue Ridge, but cover a wide area including Roanoke, Vinton, Lynchburg, Salem, Floyd, Blacksburg, Moneta, Lexington, Rocky Mount, Martinsville, and Bedford.
Blackmon says they are willing to go anywhere their skills are needed. They basically “deal with anything that involves fireplaces and chimneys.” They offer a wide variety of services “to keep your chimney and fireplace in tip top shape to keep you and your family safe and warm during the winter.” They offer three levels of chimney inspections that meet the standards established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Level 1 assesses the basic condition of chimney (interior and exterior) and flue, and whether there are combustible deposits or blockages in the flue by examining the readily accessible areas of the chimney and connectors.
This mainly involves a visual inspection. They recommend (along with the NFPA) that this inspection be completed annually during routine chimney sweeping and when replacing an appliance, such as a wood stove. Level 2 of their services expands to include examination of all accessible areas inside and out, including parts of the chimney passing through crawlspaces and attics. This level of service includes a video scan with a 360-degree camera. This level should be completed when adding or removing an appliance, replacing one to use a different type of fuel, or during a real estate transaction. They are able to show customers before and after photos to show the work that has been completed. In the more extensive Level 3 inspection, they also examine the concealed areas of the chimney structure and remove parts of the chimney or building to gain access if a lower level inspection resulted in a detected or suspected hidden hazard. Patriot Chimney and the NFPA say that keeping chimneys clean is essential for home safety; anyone who uses their fireplace should have it swept and inspected yearly.
Combustion leaves by-products such as creosote, and a heavy build-up of creosote can lead to chimney fires and contribute to air pollution. There are three types of creosote found in chimneys, usually identified in stages or degrees, which need to be removed. First degree creosote is mainly soot which develops when there is relatively good combustion of the wood or relatively high flue gas temperatures, and can be removed effectively with a chimney brush. Second degree is generally evidenced by shiny black flakes in greater volume. Third degree creosote buildup occurs when the flue temperatures are low and/or combustion is incomplete— it looks like tar coating or running down inside the chimney.
“Our standard cleaning will include a state of the art video inspection to determine if repairs are needed and the amount of creosote built up,” the owners say. “Then we will do a in depth removal of the creosote deposits in the chimney flue, smoke chamber, and firebox. We use chimney brushes, hand brushes, and special rods. A soot vacuum will be used to remove ash from the fireplace.”
They emphasize the need to clean a fireplace on a regular basis to protect against blockages, smoke leaks, inadequate ventilation, carbon monoxide, insufficient draw, down-draught, and tar build-up. They provide emergency services when a chimney has been damaged by storms, wind, fire or ice. Even with regular chimney maintenance, there is still “wear and tear.” The Patriot Chimney technicians are trained extensively in masonry and can build, reconstruct, demolish, and restore existing chimneys. They can fortify chimneys to prevent damage caused by leaks which will lead in the long run to replacement of large portions of chimneys.
They replace chase covers, chimney caps and dampers, repair flue tiles, repair or replace clay and metal flue liners, reline and waterproof chimneys, and install chimney crowns located at the top of masonry chimneys. They inspect and install wood stoves, gas logs, and inserts. Stickney and Blackmon emphasize that in the case of a chimney fire, insurance is more likely to pay if homeowners can certify their chimneys have been maintained. They clean and repair furnaces and repair dryer vents.
Those clogged vents are a common cause of house fires as a blocked vent causes the dryer to burn hotter and hotter. They clean gutters and remove roof debris. They do fireplace remodeling to “design the fireplace of your dreams.” Patriot Chimney is proud to be owned and operated by combat veterans “turned certified chimney sweeps.” They base their business model on the values of honor, courage, commitment, and hard work gained in the Marine Corps. Stickney graduated from William Byrd in the Class of 2007 and went off to boot camp soon afterwards.
As a young teenager he was deeply affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and wanted to give back to his country. He has a family history of military service— his grandfather served in the Navy in World War II. He served in the Marine Corps as a machine gunner for eight years, through three deployments in Afghanistan. He met Blackmon, who is from the Asheville, N.C. area, at the school of infantry at Camp Lejeune; they were then stationed at Camp Pendleton. They were deployed together twice in combat situations.
Stickney trained troops in a variety of locations including Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Japan, Jordan, and Thailand. Blackmon taught infantry tactics to infantry officers at Quantico. Both achieved the rank of sergeant. Blackmon received a Purple Heart for taking shrapnel while in a firefight in Afghanistan. Stickney was shot in the back by a Taliban sniper while on a roof providing security. Luckily, the bullets did not penetrate his armor.
“Although I rated a Purple Heart, I did not accept it at the time due to the number of Killed in Action and injuries our company received during that deployment,” said Stickney. “Due to me not being injured, I did not feel the need to accept such an honoring medal that others have sacrificed so much for.”
As for how they chose the chimney sweep business, Blackmon says jokingly that being on roof offers that same adrenaline rush they experienced in combat. Their ultimate goal is to become successful enough “to help other veterans transition from service back to the civilian world and offer employment to them.” So far their business has been brisk; they usually work two or three jobs a day. There are few certified chimney sweeps in the area and that advantage has attracted attention to their firm. They are listed on various websites such as the CSIA and the National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG) as certified technicians. They estimate that about 80 percent of their calls have been installations and 20 percent sweeping and maintenance. They are concerned with the number of advertised chimney sweeps who have not gone through training and the certification process (renewed annually) who might give the industry a bad name and outright “scammers.” Patriot Chimney has a very informative website at www. patriotchimney.net which points out the dangers of homeowners neglecting their chimneys and vents. They can be reached via
their website or by calling 540-225-2626.