Re: Heads & Head Gasket...
you might find that the head is just warped, if that is the case you can usually get away with just having the head shimmed down, to reflatten it. This comes with the added bonus of increasing the compression :) so the news might not be all bad, not sure about price, but it shouldn't be more than $250, wheareas you'd pay around $400-600 for a recond head.
if the head is cracked or warped, then you should have water in your oil (check under the oil cap), and sometimes oil in your radiator. Also, there should be an excessive amount of water in your exhaust fumes, and a little smoke. Engine will
overheat alot, and won't run aswell.
i actually had a head that lifted after overheating badly, the head bolt seats stretched or something, and i had bubbles coming out of above the head gasket, all the way along the head. Managed to get away with just retightening the head bolts!!! She ran fine after that. Hope you are so lucky.