Question: I'm excited about redoing my bathroom and would like to put ceramic tile on the floor rather than replacing the vinyl that's there now. I have two questions: Can I put the ceramic tile over the vinyl or must I take it up? In placing the tiles, do I do it the same way as vinyl; that is, do I snap perpendicular chalklines and start laying the tiles from the center of the floor?
Answer: Ceramic tile can be put over the vinyl floor, although it's not ideal. You must be sure that the vinyl is in good shape, adheres to the subflooring thoroughly and is free of all wax and residue. One thing to consider is that the ceramic tile will add about one-half inch to the thickness of the floor. Will having one (or perhaps several) layers of vinyl underneath bring the floor up too high at your sink cabinets or any place else in the room?
If there are several layers of vinyl and your house is old, you may definitely want to leave the vinyl down, because one of the layers could be asphalt tile, and you don't want to tamper with that at all (for health reasons).
Regarding your second question, the answer is no.
With a ceramic-tile floor, you want the most conspicuous sections to really be neat. In most bathrooms, the edge along the bathtub is the most critical in terms of appearance, so I'd start along the bathtub with whole tiles.
Before spreading adhesive, lay a row of tiles in both directions on the floor to see what cutting will have to be done when you get to the walls. If the edge of a row ends with one inch or less of a tile, you may want to adjust the tiles slightly to get a more symetrical appearance.
While you butt vinyl tiles together, you don't ceramic tiles. Leave a one-eighth-inch gap between tiles for the grout. (Don't bother measuring the gaps. Instead, use a split of wood or another object that's one-eighth-inch thick. If you have a silver dollar stashed away someplace, it might work very well to place between the tiles when you're laying them out.)
Shop around for a good how-to book or booklet on laying ceramic tiles. Many are available in bookstores, supermarkets and home centers.
Q: Will putting an insulation blanket around a hot-water heater really make a difference in my gas bill?
A: You may not notice a difference in the monthly bill because it will be a nominal amount. However, the cost for a heater blanket is also nominal, and some energy experts say a heater blanket may pay for itself the first year it's used or will pay for itself the first two years.
The beauty of it is that installation is a do-it-yourself project. Check with your gas company for more details.