Spahn & Rose Blog

Protect Your Home: Paint vs. Stain

Dramatic temperature swings, relentless summer sun and punishing winters mean Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin homeowners need to protect their homes with high-quality paints and stains. 

Spahn & Rose, already a Valspar paints and Cabot paint and stain dealer, recently added Benjamin Moore paint as well.

Along with offering some of the industry’s best paint and stain choices, Spahn & Rose staff have decades of experience. Nate Kluesner, outside sales manager for Benjamin Moore in Spahn & Rose’s Dubuque location, has spent 21 years in the painting industry. The most common question he hears: paint or stain? 

“When talking with contractors or homeowners, we’ll ask about the surface, use and colors,” Kluesner says. “Because Spahn & Rose has so many options, we have a paint or stain that will be best for your project.” 

Covering surfaces with high-quality paint or stain is essential for people in the three states Spahn & Rose serves. “During winter, we went from 50 below to zero degrees two days in a row, and in spring, temperatures can go from 10 degrees to 50 within a day,” Kluesner says. “As a dealer for the best brands of paint and stain, we can help homeowners protect their investment.” 

Surface May Determine Choice 

If a contractor or homeowner wants to see the wood’s texture yet still preserve it, stain—which penetrates the wood—is the best choice. Paint will cover the wood and hide its texture while not penetrating it. 

Paint doesn’t hold up well on flat surfaces such as decks, Kluesner says; for those, he recommends oil stain. Because the stain penetrates the wood, it offers more protection from rain and snow. Oil stain is also a good option for a deck’s top rails, which are most exposed to the elements. Stains also hide imperfections in wood decking better than paint. 

The pigments and resin in paint increase its durability and longevity, however. Most paint should last 10 to 15 years. Stain gradually fades; paint may blister and come off the surface. 

Must-Know Paint and Stain Maintenance 

Stain usually lasts about five to eight years, so plan to refresh it every half-decade or so. Some fading is inevitable, Kluesner notes, but don’t want until the wood starts to crack to refresh it. Power washing is the best option for stain finishes. 

“In central Iowa, we’re more prone to mildew, so cleaning the surface once a year is a really good idea,” Kluesner says. “Spring is a good time to clean off a deck.” 

For both paint and stain maintenance, use 1 quart sodium hypochlorite solution (household bleach), one-third cup powdered laundry detergent and three quarts of warm water to keep mildew off stained surfaces. If paint starts to blister, meanwhile, scrape it flat, sand it and touch it up.

Weighing Concerns about Paint and Stain Application 

Paint is typically easier to apply than stain, and you can often clean it up with water. To ensure a more even surface, Kluesner advises, make sure the surface is clean and dry. When applying paint that has a sheen, be sure to maintain a wet edge on the brush. Flat paints, he says, are easier to work with. 

Cleaning up stain can be a bit messier. Oil stains have to be thinned and must be cleaned with mineral spirits; oil stain also doesn’t dry as fast as latex stain. 

Style Choices for Paint and Stain 

As a Benjamin Moore, Cabot and Valspar dealer, Spahn & Rose offers a vast array of color options. You’ll find stain in about only a third as many choices. 

Currently, the Dubuque Spahn & Rose location is a Benjamin Moore dealer and can match paint to any color in the rainbow. In addition, many Spahn & Rose locations have premixed tinted stain to achieve a cedar, redwood or natural look. 

Spahn & Rose Receives Allied Distributors Giving Back Award

To acknowledge the company’s deep commitment to the Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin communities it serves, Allied Distributors honored Spahn & Rose with the Giving Back Award during the Allied Spring Meeting on April 16 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.

During the ceremony, Dan Maroni,President, AD Building Materials Division, presented Spahn & Rose CEO Dave Davis with the Giving Back Award, which is now on display in the lobby of the Spahn & Rose General Office in Dubuque. 

Based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Allied Distributors is a $41 billion buying network with nationwide divisions, including building materials. Its extensive history of charitable support includes, among many others, donating disaster-relief funds that assist its member companies—and for the past decade, it has presented the Giving Back Award, which acknowledges members that have made significant, ongoing contributions to the places they call home. 

“We give back to our members and help them give back,” Maroni says. “The strength of the independent distributors comes from their connection to their communities.” 

Allied Distributors member organizations such as Spahn & Rose share information about their charitable giving over the course of the year. Allied staff then review member contributions to determine which is worthiest of the Giving Back Award. 

“What was really impressive with Spahn & Rose was how broad they were in their community giving,” Maroni says. “Spahn & Rose doesn’t just give to one charity; the company is involved in many, many ways.” 

In the past year, the company donated a record $131,000 to 66 organizations across the communities that are home to Spahn & Rose stores. 

Spahn & Rose is proud to contribute to organizations that serve a diverse array of those in need. Here are just a few of the worthy groups the company helped in 2018: 

Alzheimer’s Association of East Central Iowa: This Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit serves those with Alzheimer’s and their families, helping provide access to health care and other resources.

Camp Courageous: A year-round respite care and recreational facility for people of all ages who have disabilities, this nonprofit in Monticello, Iowa, provides opportunities for campers to create arts and crafts, hike and canoe. 

Dubuque Regional Humane Society: This past year, Spahn & Rose hosted the fourth annual Girls’ Night Out, which raised $1,700 for the animal shelter. The more than 350 guests also donated a truckload of items, such as animal toys and bedding, to the Humane Society. 

Fountain of Youth Program:Based in Dubuque, Fountain of Youth strives to break the generational chain of poverty by offering participants mentoring and help with financial literacy and interpersonal skills. 

Iowa Firefighters Association:Spahn & Rose relies on employees in their communities for grant recommendations. When one staffer learned that the Iowa Firefighters Association needed help funding its annual convention, he alerted the Spahn & Rose Foundation and secured a donation. 

Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity:Spahn & Rose has donated money and materials to help build four Habitat for Humanity homes near its Waverly, Iowa, store. 

Junior Achievement of the Heartland:This group has helped more than 55,000 students in Quad Cities, Dubuque, Muscatine, Burlington, Sauk Valley and the Illinois Valley access hands-on elementary and secondary programs focused on work-readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. 

Luther Manor Communities:This nonprofit assisted-living organization has provided caring services to generations of Dubuque residents. Spahn & Rose’s $15,000 donation enabled it to expand and open a facility to serve those who are afflicted with dementia and require assisted living. 

Make-A-Wish Iowa:Every other day in the Hawkeye State, Make-A-Wish grants the wish of a child with a critical illness—a treat that can help give him or her the courage to face needed medical treatments. 

St. Mark Youth Enrichment:Providing before- and after-school programs and a summer academy, this Dubuque-based organization offers innovative programs and services that cultivate the educational, social and emotional development of needy young people. 

Staff at the 24 Spahn & Rose locations recommend groups to support, and the company shares its employees’ passion for improving their communities. 

“We’re exceptionally proud and honored to receive the Allied Distributors Giving Back Award,” Davis says. “All the Spahn & Rose associates who have given their time, talent and energy to their communities earned this award.” 

Spahn & Rose’s charitable giving is coordinated through the Spahn & Rose Charitable Foundation, established in 1950 to improve educational opportunities and quality of life in the communities the company serves by supporting like-minded nonprofit organizations. Duringthe past three years, the Foundation has donated more than $386,000 to a range of nonprofit groups and other worthy causes. 

A Guide to Installing Composite Decking From Fiberon and Trex


Composite decking is a great way to refresh an aging deck or build a new one that will last for decades. As a leading building materials supplier in the Midwest, Spahn & Rose partners with two composite decking suppliers—Fiberon and Trex—to help you design and build your next great outdoor project.

While the basics of deck construction are essentially the same whether you’re using wood or composite, there are a few differences that are important to remember as you install composite decking.

Note: This document covers the basics of deck and joist orientation, installing fascia, positioning deck boards, and attaching them using screws or hidden fasteners. While this guide is meant to give you a general idea of the process, you should always refer to the Trexor Fiberonwebsites for complete instructions.

Storage of Composite Decking

If you won’t begin installing your deck right away, composite decking should be kept flat, supported and covered to prevent sagging, warping and other damage. Because it is also prone to expansion in warm weather, your decking should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to keep your cuts and board positioning as accurate as possible.

Deck and Joist Orientation


Proper ventilation is critical to the longevity of your deck. Air needs to be able to flow underneath the deck to keep the area relatively dry and the additional space allows for proper drainage. Fiberon recommends a minimum of 1½ inches between the ground and the bottom of the joists to allow for ventilation and drainage.

Joist positioning is the other important factor to consider when setting up your deck’s foundation. Trex requires that all decking boards be supported by at least three joists, and both Trex and Fiberon have maximum allowable joist spacing for various board orientations (such as perpendicular, diagonal or specialty patterns like picture frames or tiles).

Special consideration needs to be paid to the joists if you plan for them to bear heavy loads such as a hot tub or large planters. Trex recommends that you consult a professional engineer about code-appropriate joist spans for heavy loads. If you’re especially concerned about the appearance of joists under your decking board, the tops can be painted black to help conceal them.

Installing Fascia

Fascia is a non-structural siding used to conceal framing material and give your deck a consistent look from all angles. Fascia should be installed before decking to make sure the boards are installed with the proper overhang for a clean appearance. Fascia need to be installed with the same gaps and specialty fasteners to allow for ventilation and prevent cracking. The sections below discuss the specifics of gaps and fasteners.

Setting Your Composite Decking Board


Once your frame and joists are built, it’s time to start laying out your decking. Because many of Trex and Fiberon’s products are made to mimic the natural color variations of wood decking, they recommend that you lay out your complete deck before fastening anything in place. This will help identify places where color variations are too similar or visually jarring.

To increase the visual appeal of the deck, consider alternating the direction of the wood grain from one length to the next. For Fiberon boards, the wood grain pattern repeats every 44 inches. Stagger the arrangement of your decking to achieve the desired visual effect.

When arranging your decking, be sure to leave the required gaps end-to-end and between boards, as well as between the outside deck board and any permanent structures. These gaps are critical to allow for drainage as well as expansion as outdoor temperatures rise. Both Trex and Fiberon have recommended gap widths based on the outdoor temperature at the time of installation:

  • For Fiberon decking, recommended end-to-end gaps range from 1/32 inch to 1/4 inch depending on the temperature during installation. For side gaps, the recommendation is 3/16 inch, with 1/4 inch between the outside board and a permanent structure.
  • For Trex decking, the recommended end-to-end and side gaps range from 1/8 inch to 3/16 inch, depending on the temperature during installation. The gap against the permanent structure ranges from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, depending on the installation temperature.

If your deck is built with metal framing and joists, they will expand differently than wood. As a result, minimum gapping for your deck board will be different as well. Refer to your chosen product’s installation guide for specific details.

Once you have your whole deck laid out and are happy with the patterns, it’s time to start fastening your composite decking board in place.

Fastening Deck Board


One big selling feature of composite decking is its clean look when installation is complete. Both Trex and Fiberon accomplish this in two different ways, so it’s important to fully read the instructions and make sure you have the appropriate fasteners before beginning.

Trex Hideaway Universal Hidden Fasteners are the recommended fastener for all Trex products. Additionally, there are a variety of composite-specific decking screws available on the market. These are specifically designed not to crack or shred the composite material as they are installed. Trex composite decking is grooved along the sides to conceal the fasteners.

Fiberon recommends the use of Phantom clips and fasteners and Cortex hidden fasteners. These composite-specific screws need to be installed in pre-drilled holes and are then capped with plugs to conceal the holes. Cortex plugs are designed to color match most of Fiberon’s composite colors, allowing for a clean finish over your whole deck.

For both products, the ends of each board need to be screwed twice into a joist, and end-to-end junctions should be fastened to two joists for extra security. Both Trex and Fiberon have minimum lengths from which screws can be fastened to the end of boards. This is to prevent cracking, both during installation and as a result of future expansion and contraction.

Once your deck is assembled, it’s time to move on to installing additional features like posts and railings. For more information, assistance with measurements and on-site delivery, visit Spahn & Rose and speakto one of our representatives.

How to Choose the Right Roofing Material for Midwest Homes

The good thing about Midwest living: enjoying all four seasons. The bad thing about Midwest living: enduring all four seasons. Dramatic temperature shifts, winter ice, and summer heat and high winds mean choosing the right roofing material is essential for homeowners and contractors in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

One of the Midwest’s leading building suppliers, Spahn & Rose offers some of the finest roofing material available. As a dealer of both GAF and Tamko shingles, Spahn & Rose has a deep selection of roofing to fit any budget and match any style.

An invaluable resource for contractors and homeowners is Spahn & Rose’s expert staff, such as Nick Cole, an Outside Salesman at the Waverly, Iowa, location.

“When shopping for roofing material and looking for value, Spahn & Rose is the place to be,” Cole says. “Our staff has decades of experience and will help homeowners and contractors with more than just color choice. Spahn & Rose will work within your budget to find the best roofing material for your home.”

Here are Cole’s top tips for how Midwestern contractors and homeowners can choose the right roofing material:

Align Roof Quality with Longevity Needs

When talking to customers about their roofing needs, one of the first questions Cole asks is how long they plan to stay in the home.

“If you’re building a home or plan to stay in it more than 25 years, I’d recommend making more of an investment upfront,” he says. “If you won’t be staying as long, you can still buy a durable, high-quality shingle that’s more affordable.”

Spahn & Rose roof experts can help find quality roofing for any budget—offering good-, better- and best-category materials in a range of prices.

Standard asphalt shingles are likely the best choice for value. If you’d like additional style and longevity, consider architectural shingles, many of which have a 30-year warranty. For even more durability, think about installing steel ones, such as Tamko MetalWorks Steel Shingles, which come with a 50-year limited warranty.

Choose the Correct Class

Hailstorms in particular can damage shingles and homes. Spahn & Rose sells shingles with impact-resistance ratings from Class 1 to Class 4, with Class 4 the strongest. Class 4 shingles are so effective at minimizing hail damage, in fact, that some insurance companies offer premium discounts to homeowners who install them.

“In 2016, we had a couple really bad storms come through,” Cole recalls. “Spahn & Rose staff went to the home of a customer who had purchased Class 4 to make sure the roof was intact and to answer questions about the insurance-claim process.”

Naturally, the greater protection higher-class shingles offer means they cost more: Class 3 shingles are about 10 percent pricier than standard architectural shingles, while Class 4 typically cost about 20 percent more.

Two Class 4 varieties Spahn & Rose carries are GAF Grand Sequoia IR and Sienna shingles.

Match the Style to the House

As a GAF shingle dealer, Spahn & Rose has more than a dozen styles in an array of colors within the GAF brand alone.

“We take an individual approach to helping you select the best shingle style,” Cole says. “Whether your home is contemporary or a farmhouse, Spahn & Rose roofing experts will provide you with a choice of styles and colors to match.”

Shingles typically come in browns or tans, but because Spahn & Rose is both a Tamko and GAF shingle dealer, additional colors are available, such as blue or forest green. “If you have a more neutral siding color, you might want a roof color to pop,” Cole says. “If your house is gray, blue or red, deeper colors such as pewter, gray or charcoal may be the best shingle choice.”

Determine Energy and Environmental Options

If you’re looking to save money through home energy efficiency, the right shingle can help. For example, Malarkey Silverwood shingles reflect solar rays, which may reduce the amount of heat that enters your home.

Install Correctly

With roofing, installation is just as important as buying the right material. “You really need to find a roofer who installs the materials properly—a roofer who properly puts down winter guard and the appropriate synthetic felt,” Cole says.

High-quality tar paper, meanwhile, is essential to help prevent leaks. Cole recommends #30 synthetic felt tar paper, such as GAF Tiger Paw. In addition to helping protect against leaks, the synthetic material doesn’t rip or tear, and isn’t slippery to stand on during installation.

To find a reliable, professional roofer near you, visit Spahn & Rose Find-A-Contractor. Just enter your ZIP code to see a list of dependable contractors in your area.