Red barns are a common view, against green grass, in America. But why red? Where does this tradition come from?
There are many myths about it: some people say that this color used to help a farmer`s cows to find their way home, while others believe that it is simply an influence of Scandinavian farmers. However, there are no good arguments to sustain these believes, therefore it seems that, in the past, barns were painted red simply out of convenience and frugality. Paint protects the underneath material and farmers also noticed that it keeps a building warmer during the cold season. At first, they used to seal barns with linseed oil, but started to add lime and ferrous oxide, to kill fungi and mosses. The ingredients turned the mixture red and were also quite cheap, so red barns progressively became a tradition that continues today.
Other pigments for common outdoor use were zinc, lead and whiting (calcium carbonate); however, these were typically more expensive than ferrous oxide and did not last that long; calcium carbonate and lead fade pretty quickly and crack with time, so they were not that popular, since farmers were not eager to repaint their barns every few years.
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