The Many Reasons Why Barns Have Been Traditionally Painted Different Shades of Red

In the latest episode of the fact-finding series Today I Found Out, host Simon Whistler explains why barns throughout history have traditionally, although not always intentionally, been painted red.

Part of the process of deciding on a location to build a barn was based on a farmer’s careful assessment of the wind, sun, and water exposure the wood exterior would endure through the years. This tried and true method, combined with plentiful, naturally weather resistance heartwood, made many barns quite durable despite their exteriors remaining au naturel. As years passed, however, the practice of weather assessment fell to the wayside, with farmers dabbling in more convenient and longer lasting solutions to protect their barns from the elements. Various homemade concoctions towards this end were made, with a popular base in these being linseed oil. To strengthen the oil and help it dry and harden quickly, it soon became common to mix it with milk and lime or turpentine, creating something of a burnt orange color weather treating paint. While this mixture sealed wood from moisture somewhat, it did not inhibit the growth of mold and moss that plagued wooden structures. For the solution to this, iron oxide, otherwise known as rust, was also added to the homemade paint