Why Most Barns are Red

Photo released under CC0 on Wikimedia Commons

Chances are that most of the barns which you see are identical in colour to the image above. But why?

It’s a warm summer evening in the middle of nowhere, and the sun sets on a vast area of greenery. You drive along an uneven gravel road as the tires of your car grind against every pebble, breathing in the freshly minted air of the countryside with your eyes shut and the windows of your car rolled down. Whiff after whiff, the smell of uncontaminated oxygen makes its way into your lungs, and every worry you have just seems to oxidize away into a crispy, inferior powder. Then, a moo is heard. And a loud whinny is let out. After that, there is a loud clucking coming from somewhere. Moments later, the sound of an electric shaver is heard. But worst of all, a pungent smell hits your nose, leaving it incapacitated and irritated with aggression. As you open your eyes, you probably see a farmhouse which is red. But as you reflect on the red institution, you probably notice that most barns are red in colour. But why? The answer to this question has to do with only three things: cost, problem solving and tradition.

As most people know, the cost of paint stems from the cost of the pigments which are used to manufacture it. So obviously, the cost of paint made from <purple snail mucus> would be far greater than, say, the cost of paint which was made from <dying stars> or charcoal. But on farms, farmers did not have access to exotic snot or decommissioned twinklers. Instead, they used rust (also known as iron oxide) in order to form a pigment, presumably because it could be scraped off of farm equipment which fell victim to oxidization and perished away. After obtaining the paint, they would use oil as a medium, and create a basic form of paint which could coat their farms and repel water at the same time. The mixture was later perfected by including linseed oil, which was able to keep the coating nice and smooth, while preventing it from flaking off. And since iron oxide acted like an antifungal agent, this Vaseline-like substance had the ability to provide protection against nightmarish mold growth, which had the unwanted potential to kill farm animals if it multiplied far too quickly and erupted in growth. This coating would also last for a very long time, meaning that farmers did not have to waste time by reapplying it to wood and could instead focus on other tasks which they had.

But the only reason for ‘barn red’ still being popular is due to only one thing: tradition. As time passed on, many coatings were developed to protect wood from spoilage, but red paint was still very cheap and plentiful, which made it popular amongst farmers of a newer generation. And even today, there are lots of farms, new and old, all of which glow proudly with the incandescent fire of antimicrobial protection.


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