Why Are Barns Red?

To create the coat to preserve their barns, farmers mixed skimmed milk, lime and red iron oxide, which produced a dark, rusty color. The addition of linseed oil to the mixture helped protect the wood against rotting. The paint was cheap to make, and it lasted for years. But as Mental Floss points out, these barns weren’t the traditional “barn red” we normally think of, but more of a burnt orange color.

Thankfully, paint became more plentiful in the late 1800s, giving farmers more options for colorful hues. White barns became more common, but white paint was more expensive. So many farmers opted for the cheapest paint: red.

Another reason red was popular was because of the darkness in color, which helped control temperature. Red absorbed  more of the sun’s rays than bare wood and kept the inside of the barn warmer during the winter months.

Barns now come in all colors, but traditional red will always remind us of simpler times.

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