Why are barns red?

Red barn and sunset

If you asked a child, or anyone for that matter, to describe a barn to you-- they would describe a wooden, two-story structure that is red in color with white trim. That would be correct but have you ever wondered why most barns are red?

It is not for decorative purposes we can tell you that. While painting structures does help with its aesthetics, paint was originally used as a way to protect and seal the wood from Mother Nature and the elements. Early American farmers first attempted this by using linseed oil, lime, and milk. However, it did not help with the moss and fungi. Eventually, producers added ferrous oxide, aka rust, to create a more effective sealant. The rust gave the mixture a burnt orange/red color.

Once this “paint” became mass-produced in the 1800s, most farmers stuck with the red because of the abundance of ferrous oxide and tradition.

It is important to note that early, colonial farmers did not see painting barns as necessary; in fact, some saw it as a symbol of vanity.


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