I've owned my house, which was built in the early 1900's, for almost 2 years. In that time I've yet to have a fire in my fireplace, since I hadn't had the chimney inspected and didn't want to burn the place down. Today I finally had the chimney inspected, and was informed by the inspector that it wasn't safe to use as is due to my deteriorated, un-lined chimney since the whole thing is so old. His recommendation to use it was either to install an insert, costing around $5,000 installed, or a modern conversion system from http://www.ahrenfire.com/ that would allow me to put an up to code chimney insert inside my existing chimney, which has limited space. That second option would close around $10,000. I'm young, not rich, getting married which will mean even less money around, and a big fan of doing things myself around the house. I'm handy, I've worked in several areas of homebuilding (insulation and countertops), and have done at one point or another most types of renovation from flooring to drywall to roofing. Because of that, I'd like to figure out if installing a fireplace insert is something I can do myself, and what the best options are. The trickiest part, it seems to me, is that the inspector advised that I'd need insulation around an inserted chimney pipe, since the existing chimney doesn't properly insulate the surrounding wood. The whole fireplace was originally coal burning, which as I understand produces lower temps than burning wood in it, which along with the age accounts for the lack of sufficient insulation / airspace / etc. around the existing chimney. So my biggest question, although I'll get to others momentarily, is how hard is it for a diy'er to insulate around an installed interior pipe, with either poured or solid insulation? As far as the rest of the questions - I'm trying to determine what type of insert will work best for me. I don't want an external wood stove piped to the chimney - that would require extensive work on the floor of the room the fireplace is in, plus would interfere with where I plan on placing my kitchen table. The firebox in my fireplace is oddly shaped - 26" wide at the front, 30.5" tall and 13" deep. The sides slope in slightly toward the back, and the top slopes as well. If need be, and there will almost assuredly be need, I can remove some of the interior masonry to make a unit fit. There's a lot of brick surrounding my fairly shallow firebox. I'd like to avoid as much masonry work as possible though. I'm also keen to avoid covering up any more of the surround than I absolutely have to. It's a stone of some sort with a beautiful pattern and inlay, so covering it with sheet metal as some inserts I've seen seem to do isn't ideal. To that end, I'd also like something witha classic / ornate look to match what's there. For the chimney, the pipe is going to go up through the existing, unlined brick chimney, and due to space can be no more than 6" in diameter. The intent is to insulate around that. Bonus points - I have an ash tray below the fireplace in the basement with a fairly large capacity. Ideally, I'd like a unit where I can route the ash into that existing tray and empty from below, rather than emptying it in the room w/ the fireplace. Included is a picture of my fireplace. So here are my questions: 1. Does anything my inspector told me sound wrong? 2. What insert units would best fit my needs, what kind of quality and costs do those units have? 3. Is installing a fireplace insert & all the chimney changes within the realm of a 'do it yourself' job for someone with ability and motivation? 4. Any advice, or other questions I should be asking?