Spahn & Rose Blog

Wood vs. Composite Decking


If it’s time to update your client’s deck, or build a new one, then a conversation about wood versus composite decking is almost inevitable. With the right design and construction, both of these materials will result in a great looking deck, but the best decking material will depend on the project budget, maintenance requirements and client lifestyle.

The Basics of Wood Decking



As a leading lumberyard in Iowa, southwest Wisconsin and northwest Illinois, Spahn & Rose has a wide variety of wood decking products. But not all wood is created equal. Many people choose wood for its relative affordability or because of its naturally warm look and feel, but as a contractor, be sure your clients look at all the options before making a decision.

The most commonly chosen wood for deck construction is treated lumber, also called pressure-treated or PT wood. PT wood is soaked in insecticides and fungicides to protect it from rot and infestation. It’s brown-green after treatment but can be stained or painted any color.

An alternative to PT wood is a more natural, untreated product such as cedar or redwood. These are stronger than the lumber used to make PT wood and tend to last longer. At the very top end of wood decking options is imported wood such as mahogany or ipe. All of these materials have their own color palette, which may give your project a unique look.

Wood Decking Pros and Cons


The biggest challenge with wood decking is weathering and mold growth. Your client will need to clean it at least once a year and restain or refinish every two to three years. As wood ages, it dries out and can splinter and crack, which may require additional sanding or even replacement of individual boards to keep homeowners safe.

Wood is almost always cheaper to install than composite decking, which makes it an attractive choice for budget-conscious homeowners or for use in rental properties. But the annual maintenance adds up when combined with the cost of stain and any additional lumber needed to keep the deck looking nice.

One way to offset the costs of wood decking maintenance and replacement is to choose a higher-end wood. Cedar and redwood are more expensive than PT wood but will resist warping, cracking and splintering better over the long term. Mahogany and ipe are even more expensive but also even longer lasting, if your client can manage the purchase price.

While wooden decking needs regular maintenance, it can last for 10 to 15 years. Depending on how long the owners plan to live in their home, it might be a good choice.

If you’re considering building a deck on a first home in which the inhabitants don’t plan to live more than five years, for example, a wooden deck may become more affordable since the owners don’t have to factor in rebuilding and replacement costs.

And wood decking may appear to be a more natural choice than a plastic-based composite product, but most wooden deck materials have been chemically treated to withstand water damage, weathering and insect infestation. Of course, it is possible to buy chemical-free lumber, this will be more expensive and require even more maintenance.

The Basics of Composite Decking


Spahn & Rose offers a variety of composite decking products and has been a Trex dealer and a Fiberon dealer for over a decade, and modern offerings have come a long way from their predecessors.

Composite decking, as the name implies, is composed of a variety of materials, particularly scrap wood, sawdust and recycled plastic, typically polypropylene. A manufactured product, composite decking is designed to look like real wood but maintains enough of its plastic properties to be more durable and long-lasting. While it can’t be painted, it can be made in almost any color.

Composite Decking Pros and Cons


Composite decking was once billed as “no-maintenance,” but current suppliers typically sell it as “low-maintenance.” Certainly, in comparison to wood decking, you won’t need to sand, repaint or refinish your composite decking during its lifespan.

It’s not completely maintenance-free, though. Composite decking is essentially waterproof and weatherproof, but it can be prone to mold growth. Both Fiberon and Trex recommend cleaning it twice a year with specialized composite decking soap, water and a soft-bristled brush.

And while composite decking has fewer maintenance costs, its upfront purchase price can be significantly more than that of wood decking, particularly PT wood. Composite decking can cost as much as double the wood decking, and this may be a deterrent to many buyers.

However, one of the biggest selling features of composite decking is its durability and lifespan. Some suppliers give an average replacement time of 25 years. If the owners plan to live in their home for a long time, the amortized cost of building with Trex or Fiberon may make it more cost effective over time.


The one downside to composite decking: Many composite products can’t be painted. If a client is happy to leave the deck the same for decades, this is beneficial. But if a client wants to change the color, perhaps as part of a larger exterior renovation, the composite decking may need to be completely replaced to match.

Although composite decking may not seem to be an eco-friendly product, the manufacturing process is actually quite green. Because composite decking is made from sawdust and recycled plastic, it can reduce the amount of this scrap material sent to landfill or incineration by hundreds of thousands of tons a year.

The modern composite manufacturing process is also more sophisticated than it was in past decades. Depending on the finish, the completed product can look like real wood grain, complete with subtle color variations across each board.

Composite decking is also potentially safer than wood. Because it does not dry out and splinter like wood, older materials remain safe to walk on, even in bare feet. And while owners of older versions of composite decking complained that it was slippery, modern composites are texturized to help prevent slips, even when the material is wet.

Which Is the Best Decking Material?



Which is the best decking material? While in the past, the plastic look and feel of composite decking made it less desirable for homeowners and builders, modern products are nearly identical to real wood. And composite decking’s durability and longevity are tough to argue with.

Many considerations will come down to cost. While composite is still more expensive than PT wood at the outset, the average cost over its lifetime goes down significantly when customers factor in maintenance. If they’re considering a more expensive hardwood product, composite decking becomes increasingly more affordable.

Spahn & Rose is pleased to offer a variety of composite decking materials from two great suppliers: Trex and Fiberon. Installing composite decking is not as simple as wooden decking, and both of these suppliers have great installation resources on their websites. Spahn & Rose representatives, who have decades of experience, are also ready to discuss the installation process with you.

If you’re ready to get started, why not try out the Trex Deck Designer (if you’re on a Windows PC) or Fiberon’s Product Visualizer? Then, let Spahn & Rose bring your next project to life.


Top 5 Factors in Choosing the Right Windows

Spahn & Rose is a leading window dealer, every year helping thousands of contractors and homeowners select the right windows for their project at the right price.

With decades of experience, Spahn & Rose’s window experts can assist with price quotes, product selection and installation advice. They’ll also visit the home or building site to ensure accurate estimates for window sizing, making installation quick and easy.

As an authorized Andersen, Hayfield and Marvin window dealer, Spahn & Rose will guide contactors and homeowners to their optimal windows.

“Window choice can be based on design, style, energy savings or ease of installation,” says Libby Hansel, Assistant Millwork Manager at Spahn & Rose’s Dubuque, Iowa, location. “Whether you’re replacing a current window or building a new home, Spahn & Rose can provide the right window for you.”

At any of the 24 Spahn & Rose locations, window pros like Hansel can assist you with Marvin, Andersen and Hayfield windows and provide accurate cost estimates, precision measurements and installation guidance. Hansel has helped contractors and homeowners with hundreds of installation projects. Her top five factors in determining the best window for you:

1. Materials: Wood, Vinyl, Fiberglass, Aluminum-Clad, Vinyl-Clad

These five are among the most popular window materials. Spahn & Rose is an authorized dealer of Andersen, Hayfield and Marvin windows, which offer options in each. The material you pick will of course affect the windows’ cost, appearance and maintenance.

Vinyl windows, for example, will be the same color inside and outside, and require less maintenance than wooden ones. To match historical details of certain homes, though, wood is likely the best choice. Fiberglass windows, such as Andersen’s A-Series, are weather-resistant outside with a lustrous wood interior.

Your material will also affect your available choice of color. Clad windows come in fewer hues but are less expensive, while vinyl windows typically offer about 50 colors.

2. Style: Double-Hung, Casement, Awning, Slider

The most common window type is double-hung, in which the window sashes move up and down. Most window manufacturers offer tilt-in sashes, which makes cleaning both sides from inside the house a cinch.

Casement windows open via crank. They stay sealed better than some varieties and generally offer a clearer view because they lack a sash bar running through the middle of the pane. However, they can be more difficult to clean than double-hung windows.

Awning windows have a hinge on top and open from the bottom. They provide good ventilation, can be placed higher on walls and can remain open when it’s raining. Like casements, awning windows can be tricky to clean, and they should be avoided near outdoor walkways where they might pose a tripping hazard.

Sliding windows that go from left to right can be a good choice for areas that open onto a patio or deck. They might not seal as tightly as some windows, though, and rain will sometimes collect in the track at the bottom.

3. Glass: Double-Pane, Low-E, Argon Gas Added, Triple-Pane

As an authorized Andersen, Hayfield and Marvin window dealer, Spahn & Rose offers several glass options. The industry standard is a double-paned window; argon gas can be pumped in between the panes for better energy efficiency. Triple-paned windows are even more energy-efficient, but they cost more. Solar glass can decrease UV-ray exposure, if you’re concerned about flooring or furniture fading from too much sun.

In Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, the most popular choice is low-emissivity glass (known as low-e glass), which is coated in microscopic layers of metallic oxides to reflect heat back out during the summer and keep it inside during colder months.

The glass you pick might also depend on window placement in the home—opaque glass in the bathroom, for example. Most building codes, too, require that glass within 18 inches of the floor be tempered so it won’t break into shards. Glass in stairways is often tempered as a safety measure as well.

4. Maintenance: Ease of Cleaning, Need for Repainting

Fiberglass and vinyl need the least maintenance; their frames will typically need to be cleaned about once a year. Wood windows require the most care. In addition to being painted or stained upon installation, wood needs regular attention to guard against rot and mold. Anytime paint starts flaking off a wooden window, water can potentially get inside.

Double-hung windows are easiest to clean. Casement and awning windows can be harder to reach and access from the second story of a home.

5. Additional Options: Grilles, Built-In Blinds, Shades, Hardware

To add an attractive look to windows, contractors and homeowners sometimes opt for grilles. Variations of grille style include prairie, colonial and contemporary.

Built-in blinds are another optional convenience. They’re low-maintenance, with no need to worry about dust or shifting blinds.

Marvin offers Marvin Shades which are fully integrated, matching interior finish, and appearing to be a seamless part of the window or door with no visible cords or pulleys.

As an authorized Andersen, Hayfield and Marvin window dealer, Spahn & Rose also offers a complete line of window hardware to match any interior design.

Spahn & Rose Celebrates Anniversary; Past Chronicled, Future Envisioned in HBSD Article

Throughout April, Spahn & Rose celebrates its 115th anniversary of serving Iowa homebuilders and contractors. One of the longest continually operating lumber suppliers in the country, Spahn & Rose was profiled in a recent issue of Hardware+ Building Supply Dealer magazine (HBSD).

The article chronicled Spahn & Rose’s rich, more than century-old history, and shared CEO Dave Davis’s vision for the future. Along with recounting how Spahn & Rose has weathered many challenges—the 1911 lumberyard fire, surviving the Great Depression and much more—the article detailed how the company continues to grow, citing its recent acquisition of Dunn Lumber in Geneva, Wisconsin.

Davis told HBSD that Spahn & Rose will continue to be more aggressive and disciplined in obtaining new customers while also expanding product and service offerings to complement the company’s existing business.

HBSDalso covered Spahn & Rose’s strong commitment to community service, describing the creation of the Spahn & Rose Foundation, founded in 1950 to improve the lives of those within the company’s service area.

Contractors Earn Freebies through DuPont Tyvek Contractor Rewards Program

DuPont™ Tyvek®, found at all Spahn & Rose locations and distributed by BPI, is pleased to offer the Contractor Rewards Program to give back to builders, remodelers and professional trade contractors, who can earn rewards for merchandise, vacations and much more.

It’s quick and easy to enroll in the Contractor Rewards Program. Through the website, you can then record your DuPont™ Tyvek® purchases (and others!) made through Spahn & Rose. Purchase information can be uploaded to the Contractor Rewards program via desktop or mobile devices.

There is no enrollment fee, and no purchase necessary to enroll in the program, though only enrolled contractors are eligible. Participation is limited to general and subcontracting businesses in the residential, commercial, heavy- and civil-engineering construction industry that are involved in new work, additions, alterations or maintenance and repairs.

Some participating contractors have taken advantage of the Contractor Rewards Program to purchase iPads, golf gear and Fitbits.