When Should Stained Glass Be Restored?

If you are anything like the average churchgoer- you likely don’t know much about stained glass and much less about when it needs repair. It’s not really something the average parishioner knows (or needs to know for that matter) since there are professionals for this very job. However, you may have noticed in a glance that the glass looks dirt. Or perhaps you know it it is very old. But is it time to get it restored? To help you understand on a deep level the state of your stained glass a professional is certainly needed. However, before this and to get a basic sense of your church’s stained glass you can easily do a quick inspection yourself. This should give you the clues you need to know whether a restoration may be imminent. We tell our potential clients to refer to the two A’s– Age and Appearance.

First Consider the Appearance of Your Church’s Stained Glass

Most of the degradation on stained glass is seen on the glass and surrounding structure itself. The way your Salt Lake City church’s stained or painted glass windows looks will tell you nearly as much as you need to know. A thorough look at each part of the glass is critical for clues that restoration is due. Inspect your glass closely, looking for these visual cues and you will be able to tell if you need repair and possible the cause of the damage. We value our potential clients. Which is why we compiled a list of seven common signs you glass likely needs repair. It will help you get a better understanding of your Salt Lake City church’s stained glass and upcoming maintenance that may be needed.

Appearance: 7 Top Signs of Stained Glass Deterioration

  1. Sagging or Bulging Glass: Walk up to your stained glass window and inspect. Look at both the windows and panes of glass. Is any bulging apparent? Do any of the panes of the window look concave or convex in appearance? Then stand far enough away to get a full view of the windows. Does your stained glass look uneven? Are some horizontal lines slightly tilted up or down? If any of these are true of your stained glass window they could be suffering from wind damage or structural degradation.
  2. Dull or Faded Looking Stained Glass: Inspect both the glass and the lead creases of your glass. Is there dirt build-up between the leading and on the glass? Are the colors muted? The light coming through should be bright. If it is dull it could mean decades of dirt on your Salt Lake City church’s stained glass windows–both inside and out. Ask around to older members to find out the last time the stained glass was cleaned. A lot of things “stick” to glass and build-up over time: environmental debris, dirt, grease, and even old cleaners that probably shouldn’t have been used. While you can clean your stained glass yourself, if your glass is extremely dull, doing a thorough cleaning yourself is probably not enough.
  3. Cracked Stained Glass Panels: Now look at each panel of your glass. Especially at attachment points. Cracks tend to radiate from this point. Do you see tiny fissures near the lead? What about in the middle of glass panels? Over time and with fluctuations in humidity and temperature the supporting structures, especially wooden ones, will cause small fissures. If the cracks are in the middle of the glass panes that may be from something striking the glass and causing damage. Things like hail, tree branches or even a bump from inside will crack stained glass just like any windows. Small cracks are pretty harmless but, over time the pieces of glass will rub together and make the damage worse. It will also increase the scope and cost of repair.
  4. Gaps In The Glass: Look at your glass when evening falls. Turn off the lights in your chapel and get close to the glass. Where you see the white light of daylight is coming through is where you have gaps. Look especially close around the frames of the panels since this is where gaps usually form. Glass will shift over time due to the movement of the frame and gravity and cause spaces. Or you may find these gaps are actually pieces that have broken off completely in those areas.
  5. Detached or Failing Frames or Support Structures: To inspect all the support structures around the window you should carefully sight along the intersecting frame lines. There should not be any steel bars showing or protruding. If you have wood framing–make sure no wood is missing, broken or splintered. Structural damage is almost always considered severe because it puts your stained glass windows at risk for failure. Since these structures keep heavy glass in-place– repair to these support structures should be pursued quickly.
    Soft Lead: If you can get close enough to the stained glass of your Salt Lake City cathedral to touch it–you can test for soft lead by carefully squeezing various parts of the lead beading. Soft lead means the leading is bent or will bend under the weight of the glass. Ultimately, this will cause sagging or even cause entire panels to fall out. This symptom of damage almost always proceeds or goes hand in hand with sagging or bulging glass. *Lead is a toxic substance so we suggest wearing gloves if you want to do this yourself. Calling a professional to deal with any sort of lead caming is the best/safest option.
    Cracked Lead: Take a good look at all the lead around the panels of your stained glass windows. If you see cracks, chips or missing lead–your window needs to be re-leaded. This is very common in stained glass windows built at the beginning of the last century since the life of lead in that era is about 80 years. You may not realize it but the actual glass on your window is the strongest part. When stained glass windows require repair or restoration it is usually because of issues that stem from the degradation of the lead, since glass itself really doesn’t “degrade”.

Age: Why It Matter To The State of Your Salt Lake City Church’s Stained Glass

We are at a point in history that is critical for preserving stained glass. Since so many windows in this country were created at the turn of the 20th century–most of it now needs repair. This is true here in Salt Lake City and across the United States. We have reached a point where restoration is imminent on nearly every older church. The leading and structures on these windows were only meant to last about 80-100 years before needing repair. Since it is 2019–the time has come! But that is a great thing since it means parishioners of these churches get to see their glass with its original life and luster after it is restored. If your Salt Lake City church is older than 80 years old and has stained glass windows–it may very well be time for a restoration. We hope this article has shed some light on why and prompted you to have a professional from Salt Lake City Stained Glass come check it out.

Whether because of age or any of the seven appearance signs of degradation–we are always happy to come inspect any church’s stained glass windows. Contact us at Salt Lake City Stained Glass to schedule a free on-site assessment for your church today!