Why Barns Are Painted Red

Have you ever driven through rural areas and wondered why all the barns are red? It’s not because the color red is popular, but for its usefulness. Many years ago, choices for paints, sealers and other building materials didn’t exist. Farmers had to be resourceful in finding or making a paint that would protect and seal the wood on their barns. Many farmers sealed their barns with linseed oil, which is an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant. To this oil they would add a variety of things — most often milk and lime, but also rust. Rust was plentiful on farms, and because it killed fungi and mosses that would grow on barns, it was very effective as a sealant. When mixed with the linseed oil, the rust would turn the mixture red. By the time paint became more available, people began choosing red paint for their barns in honor of the tradition.