Unused fireplace and hearth problems

Hi
I had an old gas fire disconnected a while ago, and set to work with a hammer to see what was revealed. Underneath a raised concrete hearth were some nice but damaged tiles, and inside the fireplace the tiles continued but are not level by any stretch of the imagination. So I've blocked it up with it's aluminium cover. What I would like to do now is make it look presentable with minimum work and minimum cost.
I have a problem with the hearth though. One outside corner is crumbling badly. I've been looking at the hearths in B&Q and have thought about putting one of these down, (a decostone one?) and hopefully this would sit on the floorboards surrounding the original hearth and solve the problem. The hearth is currently 1/2 inch lower than the floorboards. How does this sound?
I've also thought about buying a surround and one of these laminate back panels which come ready for you to cut a hole in. I considered leaving it complete so it'll cover up the hole completely. (Don't all say yuck at once!) Or I could get a fireback and slot it in.
I could get an inset gas fire installed but I'm really concerned with the cost of getting everything checked out, i.e. chimney sweeping, etc. I would love a real fuel fire but does this involve more effort?
Any help please?
Christine
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Disused chimneys are supposed to be capped with a small vent and a vent at the fireplace too.
If it is sound, the best thing to do with a real fire is to test it with cardboard or newspapers. If the house burns down or fills with smoke you will know you had or have a problem.
If it works OK; try using it without a proper fireplace over a few days and especially in windy conditions.
If you remain happy with it, get a real fire place.
A fireplace is a back made of fireproof material (with or without an heat exchanger called a back-boiler) an hearth and a surround. Consider a wood burner as sawdust is free to the collector in most large towns.
*Some preparation and a great deal of caution is required.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.co.uk (Christine) wrote in message

Hi Christine. I would think a wood fire would be the easiest option, especially if money is short.
Coal needs an iron grate, wood doesnt, you can burn it just sitting on the bricks if money is lacking. Wood also doesnt need firebricks on the back either, it burns less hot than coal. A tub of fire cement is all thats needed to make most old fireplaces burn wood. Dont use coal in them if you have no grate and no firebrick lining.
Sweeping the chimney is a good idea too.
Just leaving it as simple as that looks good with some houses.
Regards, NT
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