The Red Barn: Why Are They All Red?

These photos were also taken on Saturday. But I have a question, are all barns Red? I am sure there are a handful of barns that are not red, but really why Red? So I decided to google “why are all barns red” and here is what I found… okay I am sure some of you already know the answer to this but just thought I’d share for those who also wondered about this phenomenon.

And on to the facts…

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. As to how the oil mixture became traditionally red, there are two predominant theories:

  • Wealthy farmers added blood from a recent slaughter to the oil mixture. As the paint dried, it turned from a bright red to a darker, burnt red. (oh gross!!)
  • 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. (this sounds much better)

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.


And that’s how it began … Pretty cool huh?

I hope you enjoyed this post.



14 thoughts on “The Red Barn: Why Are They All Red?

  1. Oh wow! Now that is interesting indeed! Thanks for sharing! I truly enjoyed reading about it and loved the photo’s. Great shots! 🙂

    • Thanks Sonel. I am so glad that you enjoyed the post. I didn’t know there were so many barns in my area. I saw a few today… but I think I’ll take a break from barns for a little while. Thanks for stopping by!!

    • Nancy, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this post. I’ve been curious for a while now and thought I should share my findings just in case I wasn’t the only one who wanted to know the story behind red barns but were afraid to ask… heehehe

  2. Pingback: Lean On Me, If Needed | onelifethislife

  3. Pingback: #16/52: My Favorite Barn, Edited with Lightroom « 3 Quarters Today

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