How do I figure how much paint I'll need for my project? It seems that every time I paint, I either have leftover paint or not quite enough and have to go back to the store for more!

Good question. There are a number of factors that affect how much paint you'll need. These include the type of surface being covered (smooth or rough, sanded down or wallpaper), the color currently on the surface as well as the one being applied, and this leads to the number of coats required.

  I see prices ranging from less than £20 to £50 or more for a tin of paint. Is there really any difference between one paint and another, or  
  should I try to save some money?

As with almost any product, when you purchase paint you usually get what you pay for. Purchasing paint strictly on the basis of price will end up costing you more in the long run. Here's why. As long as you're comparing two similar types of paint (i.e. interior wall paint, exterior trim paint), price differences usually reflect a difference in the quality and/or the amount of the key ingredients. Since it's the ingredients that affect such important qualities as durability, flow, hide and leveling, the better the quality of the paint the easier it will be to apply and the longer it will normally last. In fact, a top-quality paint can last as much as twice as long as a low-end paint. This lowers the cost per year of service which saves you not only money, but also sweat if you do your own painting. If you use a professional painter, you save even more by insisting on a top-quality paint. That's because the paint represents only a fraction of the cost of repainting; most of the expense is for the contractor's labor.

By spending a little more upfront on your paint, you avoid frequent repainting. Naturally, if your budget is tight, watch for a sale on a top quality paint. However, remember to purchase the best paint you can afford. It will always be your best value in the long run. Consult your local independent paint retailer for the proper paint for your project.

  I want to have a professional paint my house. How do I find a good house painter and what information should I require in the quote?

Those are both good questions. To find a good painting contractor, ask friends and neighbors for recommendations or see if your local independent paint retailer has a list. once you're ready to talk to them, ask for and check references. When they give you a quote, get a firm price and both a start and finish date, find out who will actually do the work, check to see if the contractor has liability insurance (and bonding if necessary), and never pay in advance. A bid or contract also should include a list of the work that is to be done, how many coats for each surface, the type of paint to be used for each part of the job, the preparation work that will be done, and who furnishes the paint and other materials.

The paint is coming off the exterior of my house even though I used an expensive paint and applied two coats. Why is this happening, how can I correct it, and what will it take to prevent it in the future?

Without taking a look at your specific situation, it's very difficult to give a specific answer. There are simply too many different types of problems that involve paint not adhering to exterior surfaces. For example, there are terms such as alligatoring, blistering, checking and cracking to describe different problems that can occur. However, almost all paint failures are due to poor or improper surface preparation. Another cause is improper application. The use of quality paint also is important, but, as in your case, will not ensure against adhesion problems if the surface is not properly prepared and the paint is not applied correctly.

To briefly answer both your second and third questions, yes, you can correct your problem and by properly doing so avoid the same problem in the future. Remove all loose, flaking or peeling paint, clean, spot prime where necessary, solve any moisture problems you may have and repaint with a quality paint using correct application procedures.

Should I use a water-based paint or an oil-based paint?

That depends. Both will do an excellent job under most circumstances. Water-based paints are used for ceiling, walls and wallpaper and have a number of advantages such as ease-of-clean-up and general ease-of-use. In addition, top-quality paints generally have excellent adhesion to most surfaces. Oil-based paints are specifically for woodwork (e.g. doors, skirtings, hand rails, window frames)

Is it always necessary to apply two coats of an exterior paint?

Actually, if you are painting new surfaces or where all of the previous coating has been removed, you should first apply a coat of primer followed by two coats of paint. However, if the surface was previously painted and that old paint is still sound, a two coat of a quality paint will probably enough.

How do I select a good color for the exterior of my house? I want something to set my house off yet that is in good taste.

Your home's exterior is the first impression visitors have of you. You should want it to look good. First, be sure to take into account the colors of your home -brick, stone work and the roof color. You may want to consider choosing a paint color that will pick up the color from one of these non-painted areas such as, for example, a brown that appears in your brick. In addition, the style of your home may play a role in the colors you select. If you have a Victorian-era home you may want to use a number of colors to accentuate the architectural details on your home. Generally, you can't go wrong selecting a light color for the body of the house and a darker, complementary color for the trim. Another way to set your home off is to create an interesting welcoming entrance by painting your front door in a bold color scheme.