Why are barns red

If you have come across many barns in your travels, you may be wondering why so many of them are painted red. This trend has existed for many years and there are several theories as to how it started. It is thought that painting barns red begun in Europe and moved with European farmers to the US.

One theory is that originally the red color was not so much the bright red seen on today’s barns, but was actually a by-product of additives used in the paint mixture. For example, by adding ferrous oxide (rust) to the paint which is poisonous to mold and moss, the paint would act as a deterrent to these. Ferrous Oxide was inexpensive to buy and lasted along time as a protective paint for the wood. Another theory is that the color actually came from animal blood added to the paint as a status symbol for wealthy farmers after a recent slaughter.
Another reason for red barns could be that during the 1800’s red paint was also the cheapest to produce so many people may have painted their barns red simply to cut down on costs. This is also supported by the fact that once whitewash became the cheapest option many white barns started to spring up alongside the red barns.
However this theory in itself is not the only one of its kind. Whitewashed farms began to pop up around the time when dairy farming became more popular over meat produce and the white wash paint symbolized the cleanliness and purity of milk as a contrast to the morbid red of meat farm barns.

Whatever the actual reason it started, red barns quickly became fashionable. Today the majority of all barns are either red or white, although of course there are always exceptions to the rule and a part of this will be determined by what the barn is used for. Many people choose to paint their barns red today just because it looks more traditional as well as because the bright color completes the ideal setting of a country farm home.

There are actually a large variety of different colored barns in various different areas of America. Show barns such as those for horses particularly tend to have wildly different coloring to working barns. The Hanover farms within Pennsylvania were yellow in color, Virginia boasts green barns and Kentucky’s Bluegrass offers black barns.
Ferrous oxide, the material long suspected of causing the red coloring is also in dispute, many people say it was in fact a type of red lead that caused the coloring. Red lead was durable and long lasting as opposed to other colors, this material was also in high supply in those times and the dangerous of lead based paints were not yet known making red lead paint an easily obtainable and cheap option for many farmers. Whitewash was also a highly poisonous paint that was still used long after red paint was discarded by many because it was cheap and the dangers were not known for many years.