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Why Are Barns Painted Red?

Why Are Barns Painted Red? The last afternoon light cast a warm glow on the Autumn country side of Vermont

Why Are Barns Painted Red?

Have you ever been driving down a country road and noticed the numerous bright red barns dotting the countryside, adorning the picturesque farms and ranches? If you happened to notice, most of those barns are painted the classic red with white trim. So why are barns painted red? Is it a trend? Did farmers countrywide meet together and decide cohesively they would all paint their barns this color? Perhaps. But we have a much more likely reason behind why country barns are often painted red.

Hundreds of years ago many farmers would seal the wood of their barns with linseed oil, which has a naturally occurring orange hue since it is derived from the seeds of the flax plant. Many times farmers would add a variety of other items to the oil they happened to have on hand to help preserve and seal the wood. For instance, some farmers would add rust to their mixture as it was plentiful on farms and counteracts the effects of many fungi, including mold and moss, which were known to grown on barns. These types of fungi would trap moisture in the wood, increasing decay.  Other additions to the mixtures included milk, lime, ferrous oxide and in some theories even blood from recent slaughters.

However this “barn red” pigment that had been used throughout history is no comparison to the fire engine red we see on many of today’s barns around the country. Through the centuries, as traditional pigment paints become more readily available, brighter and more distinct red colors were developed and used (typically by the wealthy as it was fairly expensive) until later when white washing was a cheaper solution.

So while red barns today may be considered only a trend or perhaps a time honored tradition, the real reason behind a red barn was simply farmers using the means they had at their disposal to seal and protect their barn’s wood from the elements. There you have it!

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