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Why are Barns Painted Red?

Why are Barns Painted Red?
The mystery around red-colored barns is something that often comes up in mind when one is traveling around the countryside. In this article, we will try to find out the reasons behind most of them being red.
Sheeba Nambiar
Barn and horse
Before we discuss the color of barns, we'll first have to dwell into the history of their making. These are buildings that are constructed on agricultural land for storage purposes, such as to store livestock and farming vehicles and other farming equipment. There are different types of barns, namely horse barns, pole barns, etc. In olden times, these buildings were typically made up of lumber or timber, and the stone ones were also built in certain areas, where stone was a cheaper construction material comparatively. These days, they are mostly made with steel. Many of them in the US are painted red with a white trim, especially in the northeast and mid-west regions.

Why are Most of Them Painted in Red?

Before the concept of painting the barn originated, it was considered to be showy and extravagant. In fact, it was also found that the use of the right wood did not actually require any painting to preserve the strong timber structures. However, that changed since the late 1700s, as the people started to resort to artificial preservation of wooden structures, instead of the traditional wood seasoning techniques, to make the barns more visually appealing. Well, it would not be fair to call it an artificial preservation technique, as all the resources that they used to preserve were natural. So, probably we can say that they improvised the technique, by using a slightly different substance than the usual.

Traditionally, they used to prepare a mix to preserve wooden structures using materials that included flaxseed oil/linseed oil, lime, and milk. This was a colorless mixture, and the main purpose of doing it was to seal and preserve the wood in order to protect it from mold. So, from where did the color red appear? In times when the readymade paints were not available, they made their own red paint by mixing ferrous oxide with ingredients that act as a preservative; lime, linseed oil, and milk were used to create their own versions of red paints. That is how color red was discovered for olden barns. It was not the bright one though; it had more of a burnt orange color because of the ferrous oxide, which is nothing but rust. The red paint proved to be a good option to preserve the structure of the barn, and not just that, but it also became a fashionable thing, which signifies why most of them are red-colored today, especially the ones in the rural regions.

This tradition continued for a long time, as the readymade paints produced using chemical pigments were inexpensive in the 1800s, and people continued to use them so as to follow the tradition (and also because it was affordable). It was a popular option until whitewash became cheaper, and that is why, many white barns have cropped up across the countryside.

Besides the scientific theory of using ferrous oxide to bring in the red color, there are other theories that are associated with it. One of them is that the wealthy farmers mixed blood, obtained from a recent slaughter, to the oil mixture, which turned it to red, and the color turned from a brighter one to the burnt one as the paint dried.

Barns painted in red are considered to be traditional and why not; people have been carrying out the procedure of making the red paint themselves for many years. However, nowadays, for the sake of convenience, people prefer purchasing readymade paints, and fix a gambrel roofing to make one look like a traditional barn. Especially, in the northeast and mid-west areas, red is the color that is mostly used for painting such buildings. When it comes to barns these days, pole barn designs are the "in thing" as they are cost-effective and do not require much effort in constructing, along with various construction plans available for the same.
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