Red Barn Renovation: Staining The Barn Red

Red Barn Renovation: Staining The Barn Red

Johnny Williams
May 10, 2010

Nothing says New England like an old red barn. Here in Connecticut, these iconic outbuildings dot the landscape, an architectural ode to our agricultural past. Six months ago, we began renovating our own barn — last weekend, we finally got around to staining it red.

To achieve a traditional look, we needed a product that would both protect the pine siding and showcase its knotty character. An oil-based deck and siding stain — sold in transparent, semi-transparent, semi-solid, and solid opacity — was the logical choice. After seeing sample swatches, we picked the semi-solid variety. As it turns out, solid stain is much like paint — it requires an oil primer and leaves no visible wood grain. With our thinner stain selected, it was time to spin the color wheel.

Leafing through the Benjamin Moore catalog, we found a color conveniently called "Barn Red." Sadly, the name was a hue-gely misleading — applied to some leftover siding, the color looked more like "Barn Burgundy." Next we sampled "New Pilgrim Red," then "Sweet Rosy Brown," then "Garrison Red," then "Redwood," but none of Benji's colors felt quite right. Recognizing my frustration (my hands were stained 5 separate shades of red), the saleswoman at the paint store suggested we try a Cabot stain instead. I'd never purchased a Cabot product (except for their delicious cheddar cheese!), but at that point I was open to anything. Once my new samples were dry and reddy, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had found the elusive barn red: Cabot's "Baked Brick" semi-solid stain. As for the actual staining process, I won't bore you with the details. After all, that was the easy part.

So why were barns painted red in the first place? One theory claims that early American farmers began blending the traditional mixture of linseed oil, limestone and milk with ferrous oxide, or rust. This abundant additive protected their barns from moss and fungi, while also turning the crude sealant a rich red color. A second, more gruesome theory claims that these farmers used the blood from a fresh slaughter rather than rust. Fret not folks, no animals were harmed in the painting of our barn.

Images: Johnny Williams

Johnny is currently blogging his experience as a young woodworker. You can keep track of his projects on his blog, Woodlearner.

Where To Begin?
Green Cleaning & Disposing Of Toxic Chemicals
Energy Efficiency Tax Breaks
Why I Bought A Wood Stove
Hiring An Architect
Where To Buy Reclaimed Wood
Kicking Off Construction!
Wires and Walls and Stairs, Oh My!
The Magic of Spray Foam Insulation
If These Drywalls Could Talk
What The Heck Is Tyvek?
Installing Wood Siding
Laying A Herringbone Hearth

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