Think about it: have you ever seen a barn that wasn’t painted red?
Unless a barn’s wood is gray and devoid of any color, chances are it’s red. You probably won’t encounter many farms that stray from this tradition—whether the paint is fresh, or chipped and weathered with time.
If you purchase a farm that’s equipped with a red barn you may decide to return it to its former glory if it could use some TLC, or simply enjoy its existing exterior character. If you build a barn, you’ll have the chance to join in the tradition.
Either way, you may wonder exactly how barns came to be red, and why the color is so common.
Many, many years ago when assortments of paints and sealers didn’t exist, farmers had to be creative with finding or making a finish that could protect and seal their barns from rot and decay.
So they developed a concoction of skimmed milk, lime, and linseed oil from flax plants—which sealed wood and prevented rotting caused by fungi and mosses, and painted their barns. A red pigment came about with the addition of iron oxide, which was found in the soil, and gave the mix a rusty color. This paint and color caught on among farmers because it was effective, cheap and it lasted for years. So the red barn was born out of creativity, frugality and durability, and it continues to be the tradition today.
After farmers painted their barns with this homemade mix it became apparent that the structures stayed warmer during winter months because the dark color soaked up the heat of the sun more than unpainted and unstained wood. This was of great benefit since a warmer structure could help keep barn animals cozy.
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