Why Were Barns Traditionally Painted Red?

Pole Barn builders in West Virginia

Anyone who has taken a drive through rural America is bound to have noticed the prevalence of red barns. Much like pole-frame construction, painting agricultural barns red has a long history in the United States. However, despite the common practice of painting barns red, more than one theory exists regarding why this phenomenon has occurred. As pole barn builders in West Virginia, we not only love building barns; we love the history of barns.

Theory #1 – Farmers Mixed Linseed Oil with Ferrous Oxide (Rust)

Today you can buy exterior paint specially designed for wood at almost any hardware store you find. However, locating quality paint was not as simple one or two centuries ago. Instead of heading down to the hardware store, farmers would commonly seal wood surfaces with linseed oil, which has a natural orangish tint. To increase resistance to fungi and moss, farmers would often mix in ground-up pieces of rusted steel––ferrous oxide. The mix of orange linseed oil and red rust particles resulted in a coating that appeared to be red.

Theory #2 – Farmers Would Mix in Animal Blood with Linseed Oil

Much like the first theory, this theory assumes that farmers would seal their barns with linseed oil. However, instead of mixing rust particles with the oil, they would add animal blood to tint the oil a dark, burnt red when fully dry.

Theory #3 – Cattle Farmers Painted Barns Red to Help their Cows Find Their Way Home

This theory skips the linseed oil altogether and suggests that nineteenth-century cows were easily confused and unable to find the giant barn in the pasture where they grazed. It seems particularly unlikely as cows are red-green colorblind.

Although the first theory appears to be the most popular, it is difficult to speak with absolute certainty. At MQS Structures, we build custom pole barns in West Virginia every day, but we let our customers choose the color.

Custom pole barns in West Virginia

MQS Structures: Pole Barn Builders in West Virginia and Custom Horse Barn Builders in West Virginia

If you are interested in building a barn, shop, or post frame garage in West Virginia, we are here to help.

At MQS Structures, we are post frame (pole frame) building specialists. If you plan to build a pole building in West Virginia, we can work with you to make sure you get exactly the building you want. We can also help you design your building and choose from practically endless color combinations.

We are a family-owned and operated company specializing in post-frame construction, steel-sided wood structures, and custom pole barns in West Virginia.

Pole building in West Virginia

Looking for Amish Barn Builders?

Our founder and owner, Caleb Miller, began his building career with his Amish Mennonite family and applies the same work ethic and expert craftsmanship to every building we put up. So, if you are looking for Amish Barn Builders in West Virginia––you found one.

Call us today at (855) 677-3334, or contact us online to receive a free quote on your next project. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Serving Ohio, Kentucky, Western Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, and West Virginia

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