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Safety Notes

Woodburner Installation: Before burning wood in any wood stove or fireplace, have local officials inspect the installation for clearances. A wood stove placed too near a wooden wall or mantel can heat it enough to ignite it.

Chimney Cleaning: Be sure your chimney flue is cleaned properly after each burning season. With the right equipment, you can clean your own chimney. Most people hire chimney cleaners, who for $50 to $75 will brush and vacuum the flue and issue you a cleaning certificate. Better cleaners will also climb up on your roof and closely inspect the top of your chimney for signs of deterioration, such as eroded mortar joints that can allow water to enter and begin major damage in freezing temperatures. To correct mortar problems, you need either a mason or an illustrated book on repointing a chimney.

Splitting Wood Further: You'll usually receive some logs that need further splitting, whether to promote seasoning, create kindling or to fit into your stove. For denser woods of 16 inches and longer, I recommend a splitting maul with an 8- to 10-pound head, rather than an ax with a 3- to 5-pound head. An ax works pretty well on short lengths of wood. But longer stove lengths with knots and wavy grain tend to resist splitting. In this case, a maul falling almost of its own momentum creates a powerful splitting force. To create the same amount of force with an ax, you need to swing hard and fast, making your feet and legs more vulnerable to glancing blows. Hydraulic log splitters are available to rent from any local hardware store, and the staff there will show you how to use one safely. Wear steel-toed boots, safety glasses and long pants (at least denim or possibly a heavy-duty work pant) whenever splitting and using a chainsaw.