My home (in East Texas, built in 1885, two stories, pier and beam) has two chimneys, one of which I would like to reopen. Apart from information gleaned online, I have no experience with chimneys or fireplaces, be they wood or gas; I just know I like the heat and the smell of burning wood.
The chimney is in the center of the house, and is about 40 feet tall, ground to top. It is currently capped at the top, and the fireplace is bricked in (at the damper). I have no idea what the condition of the inside of the flue is like. There are no cracks in the outer bricks, though the mortar is slightly crumbly, at least the portions in the crawlspace and in the attic. The fireplace itself is in great condition; the inner and outer hearths have no cracks or sag, and the fire box looks strong. There is not a clean-out, nor an ash pit.
Assuming the chimney can be used at all, how much effort/material/cost would it take to reopen the chimney and safely restore it for use as a wood-burning fireplace? A weekend DIY job, or a hire-an-expert-and-pay-for-his-retirement job?
If the chimney or fireplace is impossible to restore and/or safely use, would it still be possible to install a natural gas burning inset, and use the chimney as an exhaust vent (including adding a standard metal vent inside)?