The Past and Present of Barns as We Know It

Barns have been associated with the American way of life ever since the days of Thomas Jefferson. They have continued to be the primary structure for many centuries in farms across the world. However, in the United States, they have continued to represent security, tradition, and a relationship with the land as well as the community. Today unlike in the past agriculture is a multibillion-dollar business which spans all states of America. While barns today serve the same purpose they did many centuries ago, they have fundamentally changed to become more durable and easier to maintain.

To understand how much barns have changed, we examine their past and present in retrospect.

In the Past 

In the old days, barns were added to the land when farmers needed to house livestock, or they wanted to store grain and crops. The materials used to build these structures primarily comprised of wood, i.e., timbers which were sourced from nearby trees which too were available on the farm. Then using mortise and tenon joints, a small team of professional woodworkers would piece the barn together by connecting everything at a 90-degree angle. The construction was simple, but the result was a sturdy and durable structure.

prefabricated steel horse barns and feed storage buildings for agricultural communities

Later on, timber was replaced by “truss framed” also called “plank framed” structured barns. These structures evolved through the 19th century thanks to the extensive proliferation of steam-powered sawmills. Now farmers could easily buy lumber of dimensions which they required. The joints were now connected with bolts or would use machine cut nails. 

Most people, when thinking about these old barns, would often conjure up images of red painted barns. But why were they red? The reason they were red was because it was the cheapest and easily available color around since it was created using ferric oxide. However, the major drawback of this type of barn was the fact that it was flammable, and being stacked with hay almost always meant that they would catch fire the result of which would be a total loss. 

Present Day Barns 

We still see the traditionally built wooden barns in many parts of the world. However, many of the latest barns are also built from steel. There are many reasons why prefabricated steel is the latest most popular choice for building barns. 

For starters, they provide the option to easily expand the barn while the farm continues to grow. They can also withstand mother nature in the form of rain, snow, fire, wind, and earthquakes. 

Prefabricated steel or metal barns are also impervious to pests, termites and other issues. Plus they are more cost effective requiring less time and money to set up as well as maintain compared to wooden structures. 


Whether it is nostalgia or tradition, barns will continue to be associated with the cultural image of America. However, steel barns or agricultural buildings help farmers save millions each year regardless of where they operate in the US. That’s why they are the most popular choice for farm owners across the country.

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