Stained Glass Restoration - How to Make Patterns Shine Again

Stained glass has been around for much of recorded history since the advent of Gothic churches at around a thousand years ago. These forms of art often depict scenes from Christ's life and nature. Since the modern times, however, stained glass is not limited to churches and synagogues; people are now looking for these artful glasses to decorate their homes. The colorful patterns and serene depictions of the environment have made the stained glass a fixture in lovely homes.

Of course, the widespread usage of stained glass in homes also calls for more stained glass restoration practices. Like a well-oiled machine, stained glass is best appreciated and most useful when clean and in top shape. Lately, stained glass makers are now bending toward the practical benefits of the glass in a home or in church. Stained glass is thicker than ordinary window glass so it conducts heat and cold very easily, thus heat loss is more pronounced in places with stained glass. A well-installed and well-covered stained glass keeps hot air from being lost during winter or being absorbed quickly during summer.

Plastic or glass?

There are two common materials used in stained glass, each with its own pros and cons in stained glass restoration. First material is plastic, which became vogue recently as owners try to incorporate stained glass into their homes at a cheaper price. Common plastic stained glasses are made from polycarbonate, plexiglass, lucite, and acrylite. Plastics take on a curvy look and may have a purplish cast when installed. These plastics are easy to mold by studios and are also simpler than glass to install. Plus, these plastics do not break easily. The catch here is that you might spend more on stained glass restoration and maintenance as these plastic 'stained glasses' scratch very easily, and accumulate dust and soot over time. When not properly maintained, plastic 'stained glasses' actually are more detrimental than aesthetic; if you want this material to be installed in your home, make sure that you live far from places where high amounts of smoke and soot are produced. Typically, you might want to have plastic stained glass in your suburban home.

The other, and more illustrious, one is glass. There is a reason why 'stained glass' contains glass in it because the original use for this is, you guessed it, glass. Real stained glasses stretch out to Gothic times; medieval churches still have stained glass windows attached to these. Glass is relatively easy to clean than plastic and does not scratch very easily. It is more resistant to dust, smoke and soot from pollution; sometimes elements of weather, like rainwater and wind, can clean the stained glass itself. The lingering issue of stained glass restoration with this material is that it is easy to break. Also, there are some pieces that are expensive to replace or that are rare.

Resealing edges through caulking

Stained glass restoration can be made by a local glass contractor if the problem only requires recaulking. Caulking is an important process in the installation of stained glass windows; it holds the glass in its place, and seals open areas and joints between the glass and the frame. Caulking is necessary for the insulation of the room as old, dry and cracked caulking can cause heat to seep through and thus increasing chances for heat loss. If you have a problem with the caulking around your stained glass, then it is best for it to be replaced by better caulking.

Replacement and releading

Replacement of broken glass is another common activity in stained glass restoration. Often, some sections break either because of mechanical or physical trauma, such as a rock flying through the glass, or the sudden changes of weather as glass expands and contracts in reaction to the outside environment. Special stained glass restoration and glass making studios licensed by a national association – such as the Stained Glass Association of America – are optimally needed for the proper replacement of the damaged glass or sections of glass. Releading is another restoration activity. Lead channels that determine the glasses' arrangement deteriorate through the years. If you sense that the lead is slowly damaging, you will contact a studio to replace this lead channel. Releading typically involves removal and reassembly of the glass, and the installation of the new lead channel. A new lead channel helps in neutralizing excessive heat loss and keeps the stained glass set watertight.

A note

Prices depend on either of these factors: the quality and nature of glass, the process of restoration, and the size or area of restoration. Contact your local commercial glass contractor or stained glass restoration studio for more details.