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Conservation And Preservation Of Stained Glass Nationwide
1 Inch Bulge 1 Inch Bulge Lead Corosion Broken Glass

How to Inspect Your Beautiful and Precious Stained Glass Windows 




Even the simplest stained glass designs are subject to deterioration and must be evaluated every decade or so to ensure the continued strength of the windows for the inspiration of future generations of congregations. Left to deteriorate, priceless pieces of carefully inspired and crafted artwork can be destroyed by neglect.

Stained Glass Bulges

A bulge is a serious threat to a stained glass panel. This bulging effect may extend inward or outward as much as 3 inches, and, when left unattended, the stained glass in a bulging panel will crack and break, stretch the lead, and eventually fall out of the frame. This is caused by the great weight of the stained glass, missing cement, deterioration from weather and poor bracing. 

Lead Cames
Generally speaking lead cames can deteriorate over a long period of time of (80-100) years, without protective covering and environmental conditions.

Look directly at the lead and try to determine how often you can find breaks in the lead itself. Multiple breaks throughout a window mean re-leading is probably necessary. However, this should happen only in windows 75 or more years old, or in windows that have never had an exterior protective covering.

Observe the window from the interior and look up. Try to determine if the stained glass window is vertical, or if it has one or more areas forming a rounded curve (or folding effect), either inward or outward.

Simply focus on each panel, looking for bulges and then move to the next panel, and so on. If the windows are vertical, that is good. If you see bulges of at least 1 inch from vertical, the process is already underway for glass to start breaking under stress, the lead loosening and breaking, and eventually you may lose the windows.

Stained or Painted Glass

Obviously, glass can be broken and improperly painted/fired glass can deteriorate. Nothing bothers a person sitting in the pew more than seeing a broken piece of glass letting gleams of light pour through. A close rival for irritation is a badly mismatched repair, where now a green piece of glass is located where a brown piece was originally.  

Look at each individual piece of glass to see if you can spot cracks, breaks, bullet holes and badly mismatched glass.

A word of caution: stained glass is very hard to match, even by those who say the match will be perfect, so to ensure a better match, leave as many pieces as possible if they have only one or two minor cracks. Sometimes two or more colors of stained glass can be plated to get a better match and texture and glued with Hxytal.

Structural Braces Bars
(Including Flat and Round Bars)
Mostly made of steel and brass bars, usually the width/length of the stained glass panel, are used to secure the stained glass panel of lead came, glass and cement and keep it vertical. These braces can be both vertical and/or horizontal, and sometimes at other angles. Also flat and round bars can be bent to follow lead lines to avoid shadows unto the stained glass.

Most modern bars are flat and rectangular, while other older and historic windows have rounded braces tightened at the joints by copper wire. They are soldered at the lead joint areas, twisted tight, and then secured at both ends into the window frame. Bulges are typically avoided in stained glass panels where bracing has been properly placed and remains tightly secured.

From the interior of the stained glass window, take hold of each brace to check for movement. No movement is good. Check both ends of the brace to see if it is firmly attached to the frame.

Also determine if the original solder is holding at the lead joints crossed by the brace. Loosened horizontal braces, prior to a bulge developing, can be corrected relatively easily, but must be addressed or other problems will begin to occur.

Protective Covering

Protective covering is also important to evaluate as it is crucial in guarding stained glass against the elements and external threats. When inspecting protective covering, look for four things.

First, is the protective covering now "unpleasant" and detracting from the overall appearance of the church? Second, are there broken pieces? Third, is the window still sealed, or is water seeping in, causing rot and condensation problems? Finally, if your church has wood rather than stone frames, inspect the paint and caulk between the stained glass and the protective covering to determine its condition, and if the protective covering are installed on stained glass windows, it is very important that they are vented to help prevent heat buildup and condensation that can cause bulging of stained glass panels and wood deterioration.

After the Inspection
If you find bulges, soft cement, loosened steel braces, broken glass, or damaged protective covering, contact professionals for their suggestions and costs. Having these needs properly and quickly addressed will determine the long-term health and beauty of your stained glass, enabling congregants now and in the future to enjoy God's story through God's light.

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