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.