Question from a 4-year-old

Wed Mar 01, 2006 8:10 pm

Was driving with Mrs. and Li'l Lildog the other day to the in-laws and my son, who is constantly stumping the old man with unanswerables, asked a doozy!

"Daddy, why are barns red?"

Being the intellectual I like to think I am, I know there is probably a very good reason for the color, but I was stumped. I figure if I'll find the answer anywhere, it will be here. Anybody got some good answers to give the tyke if/when he asks again.

Wed Mar 01, 2006 9:11 pm

This topic actually came up some years ago as I was a wee lad in grade school. (yes, they had schools back then)
As I recall, one of the reasons that barns were painted red was that white paint weathered rather quickly. Leaving the appearance of always needing paint.
Ferric oxide (rust) which was readily available everywhere was used as the coloring agent in red paint and therefore red paint was cheaper than other colored paints.
Old time farmers being the frugal individuals they were would opt for the best bang for their buck.

I guess Mikey should have asked me. :wink:

Wed Mar 01, 2006 9:51 pm

Same story I heard too BD. Black was cheap too. Made from soot, lamp black.


Wed Mar 01, 2006 10:43 pm

The cheap pigment was the story I heard too, a long time ago. Strange that for modern tractor paint the reds are the most expensive.

There was a farmer near where I was raised who made his own barn paint. He had a source for some kind of purple ore that he could get already ground. MAN, HIS BUILDINGS WERE A LOT OF PURPLE.

Don't confuse Mikey with the purple barns. :shock:

Thu Mar 02, 2006 10:21 am

Didnt the red pigment also help tp keep critters outta the wood?

Thu Mar 02, 2006 10:39 am

I suppose it is also a regional thing. Around here you will see a lot of white barns, if they are painted at all. Dairy barns were normally painted, but tobacco barns tend to be left 'au naturel'. There is a lot of red barns also, and you will find black barns and fences on several of the horse farms. Years ago, you would find barns and out buildings that were "whitewashed" , rather than painted, with a homemade mixture made basically from lime and water if I remember correctly. It didn't holdup like paint and would flake off, but I suppose it was cheap and easy to make and apply. After enough applications, the wood became stained a faded white under the flaking top coat.

So I guess maybe the real reason barns are red is because the farmer wanted them that color....... or he got a good buy on red paint :lol:

Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:07 pm

Check this out.

Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:49 pm

i guess i would have replied, well thats what color the best tractors are, isnt it? :lol:

If it aint red, leave it in the red shed :wink: