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Why Is A Barn Painted Red?

Why Is A Barn Painted Red?

Have you ever wondered why is a barn painted red? The prairies that cover the interior of North America are part of Calgary’s beautiful backyard rolling fields, distant foothills, and family farms that dot the roads across our province. Albertans carry a strong pride for our landscape that is shown through care and consideration, and that includes maintaining the great-looking scenery that surrounds us.

Take a leisurely drive through the countryside in any direction from the city and you’ll see that it’s flecked with iconic red barns, contrasting with the verdant greens and yellows of the nearby fields and crops. It’s so common that you probably only notice when a barn isn’t red but have you ever wondered why they’re painted that way? Sure, they look nice and make a picture-perfect background for your smartphone or computer, but at The Urban Painter in Calgary we are constantly curious about why things are coloured the way they are!

Here’s what we’ve found. Originally, paint, sealants, and other building materials did not exist, and on the prairie frontiers far from big population centres and supply routes it could be difficult to get necessary materials. It was up to farmers to create a solution to maintain and preserve their barns. There are a few different theories “why is barn paint red” so let’s take a brief visit to the past and see what history has to say about it!

Hundreds of years ago, barns were not even painted at all. To protect the bare wood, creative farmers used linseed oil derived from flaxseed plants and coated the wood with it in an effort to protect their barns from the elements. Over time, people experimented with different mixtures, often adding milk, lime, or turpentine in order to strengthen the oil and speed up the drying process. In a stroke of insight, an inventive farmer whose name has been unfortunately forgotten by time! found that adding rust powder to the mix deterred the growth of moss and fungi, resulting in an even longer-lasting protective layer. Since the iron oxide in rust is a deep reddish-orange, and plentiful in soils of the area, seeing barns with such colouring became a common sight on the prairies as the practice spread.

An alternate theory to the question “why is barn paint red” is that the colour was chosen purposefully so that cows would have a way of finding their way home after a day in the field. However, studies show that cows are, in fact, colourblind to hues of red. So, that rules out that theory!

Now, you’re probably asking why red paint is still being used to paint barns now, when there are newer, more innovative ways to seal wood, and when the weathered wood look is currently so popular. We can’t even blame the cows for this trend, either!

The truth is, it has come down to tradition. The stark contrast of a fiery red barn against a sun-kissed yellow field, distant hills of green, and sapphire-blue sky has become fashionable over the years and that is why it is still being used for barns across the countryside! Although better paints are now available, red is still the ideal colour for a barn. And it’s not hard to see why its beauty is undeniable when it comes to snapping that perfect background for your smartphone! At The Urban Painter in Calgary, we believe that a little colour goes a long way, and clearly it has with the long-standing tradition of red barns!

If you’ve got a barn that seemingly got its last paint job before red barns were in style, give us a call for a free estimate today! You can also call us if you have a house, garage, or deck and fence to paint! Our professional and highly skilled crews are ready to make your buildings look new again. We can be reached at 403-774-1474, or by email at info@theurbanpainter.com. We look forward to working together!