Barn: Red, White Trim and Green

Painting a barn, a house or anything else made of wood means protecting the wood from other elements. Barn red is a color most people recognize and the color has to do with some of the earliest ways people protected their wooden barns, more than 100s of years ago.

Why Barn Red?

Scandinavian farmers painted the barns with a mixture of Linseed oil (which is relatively low cost), milk and lime (plus other additives), to seal their barns. In order to speed up the drying process, Linseed oil is boiled (treated) and, as a result of the boiling, Linseed oil tends to be a dark amber color.

To slow the growth of organisms that are harmful to wood, farmers added ferrous oxide or rust to the Linseed oil mixture. The rust helped prevent the growth of mold and moss which trap moisture and leads to wood decay.

Historically "barn red" isn't the bright, fire-engine red which is often promoted as barn red today, it was more of a rust color (red-brown-orange), that occured due to the boiling of the Linseed oil mixture and addition of ferrous oxide.

Barn Red Fashion

The popularity and fashion of red barns started, when Europeans came to America. The fashion has continued and remained popular even when paint manufacture started using chemical pigments. As it turns out, red paint was the most inexpensive color to buy … until whitewash became cheaper.

Even though the traditional barn red is more of a burnt-orange red, a simple internet search shows a great variation in color for different paints and manufacturers. However, one of the great things today, is that you pick any paint color you want for your barn.

Barn Red: The Color

Paint colors are an important decorating tool that is used to give barns personality however, barn red is still fashionable. What's fascinating though, is how much light affects how we see colors, and the light in a barn changes from morning to evening as the mix of natural and artificial lighting changes.

Every paint manufacturer comes up with new colors and new names each year, and there is no one authority for what determines the color or name. The closest color authority might be the Pantone Matching System or PMS, and their colors are numbered, so maybe barn red is PMS 174, PMS 1675 or anything that is close to that. Whilst it is particularly confusing to do this on your own, when you hire an interior decorator they will suggest that you scale colors that you can scale from lighter to darker, rather than trying match them.

Tina Gleisner, founder of the Association of Women Home Owners connects homeowners with concepts, terminology and advice to build homes that support today's lifestyles. Through the library and directory at, you can LEARN more about how to maintain and repair your home and more.


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