Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Why Are Barns Painted Red?”

This is what I love about long road trips with AdventureMan. We have hours together in the car, and you just never know where the conversations will go.

We saw a lot of barns. Most of them are red.

“Why are barns red?” AdventureMan asked. “Like we just accept that barns are red, when we are kids and we are told to draw a barn, we reach for the red crayon, why is that? Why red?”

So we looked it up at the next wireless stop and found the answer on Wiki answers:

Centuries ago, European farmers would seal the wood on their barns with an oil, often linseed oil — a tawny-colored oil derived from the seed of the flax plant. They would paint their barns with a linseed-oil mixture, often consisting of additions such as milk and lime. The combination produced a long-lasting paint that dried and hardened quickly. (Today, linseed oil is sold in most home-improvement stores as a wood sealant).

Now, where does the red come from?

In historically accurate terms, “barn red” is not the bright, fire-engine red that we often see today, but more of a burnt-orange red.

Farmers added ferrous oxide, otherwise known as rust, to the oil mixture. Rust was plentiful on farms and is a poison to many fungi, including mold and moss, which were known to grown on barns. These fungi would trap moisture in the wood, increasing decay.

Regardless of how the farmer tinted his paint, having a red barn became a fashionable thing. They were a sharp contrast to the traditional white farmhouse.

As European settlers crossed over to America, they brought with them the tradition of red barns. In the mid to late 1800s, as paints began to be produced with chemical pigments, red paint was the most inexpensive to buy. Red was the color of favor until whitewash became cheaper, at which point white barns began to spring up.

Today, the color of barns can vary, often depending on how the barns are used.

My dad and grandpa have been farmers their entire lives and they used to tease us kids that the barn was red because it was the most noticeable when the snow was falling sideways and you could barely see because of the sleet and hail.


September 4, 2010 - Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Building, color, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Marriage, Relationships, Technical Issue, Travel


  1. these are just like the ones on farmville!! 😀

    Comment by mentabolism | September 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. Lol, you are right! Now you know why they are all RED! 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 4, 2010 | Reply

  3. Amazing what you find out when you go looking.

    Comment by NZ Farmer | September 17, 2010 | Reply

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