Restoration & Conservation of Churches

  • Stained Glass Windows
  • Stained Glass Windows

Full cyclical maintenance (FCM)
External maintenance

Many churches in Australia feature beautiful Leadlights and stained glass dating back to the late 19th century and early 20th century. Many of the leadlight and church windows from this period have had minimal restoration work undertaken on them. Leadlight and stained glass needs restoration work done to it every 15-25 years to reduce the ageing process. Your windows may look fine from the outside, however on closer inspection, there are often tell tale signs that a window needs work undertaken.

Some of these sign are:

  • Water leaching from the leadlight windows
  • Buckling – windows starting to bow or bend
  • Day light showing
  • Lead fatigue – where the lead expands and contracts over time and causes hairline fractures to appear near the solder joins
  • Rattling can occur when some of the leadlight putty has fallen out of the window

Stained Glass Windows

It is important that this work is done by a professional glass craftsman. At Wesley Vine Glass Craftsman, we have the experience and skills to undertake the required cleaning and restoration to your windows without damaging them. For example many other studios are still using caustic soda baths to remove dirt and oil from stained glass windows. This can cause deterioration of the lead and can lead to stain glass paint loss.

Stained Glass Windows

Often clients will be told that their windows need to be taken out when in fact they can be restored and cleaned in situ. Pulling these windows out can cause breakages in the glass, especially when they are installed into stone. That is why minimal intervention and maximum retention is often the best way to handle these jobs. This means keeping as much of the old glass as possible and repairing the window in a manner that maximizes the retention of the original artistic integrity. At Wesley Vine glass craftsman, we take extreme pride and care with all our restoration work and follow the strict international guidelines of the Barra Charta of America & Conservation Guide of Britain Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aeui in our restoration of these often historical significant works.

Re-Soldering

Before re-puttying the windows, we check for fractures in the lead. Where present, they are usually only hairline fractures that are caused by the expansion and contraction of the glass and lead. If there are a lot of fractures in the lead, it is sometimes better to pull the window out to repair it.

If it is decided that the window is in a healthy enough state to be left in-suit, then these fractures will be re-soldered. During the re-soldering process we will shim any parts of the window that are showing day light from the inside. This occurs due to the window being stretched through movement of the sash or stone work over time.

Decorative Glass

Re-puttying the window

Leadlight and stain glass windows gain their strength from leadlight putty that is placed between the lead and the glass. This putty also seals the window and stops it from leaking, but as the window gets older, the leadlight putty starts to dry out of its oils, and the putty can start to crack and fall out. If the putty dries out it can allow water to get in either directly under the lead or by leaching through the old dried out putty. This leaching can cause calcification to form on the inside of the window and can cause paint loss over many years if not removed (stain glass paint is water soluble and can become unstable if exposed to water for a long period).

During FCM we clean the outside of the window and paint it with a black linseed oil leadlight putty to seal the windows (this does not contain any cement). The oils from this putty will leach into the remaining old putty and fill any gaps where the old putty has fallen out or been worn away. The excess is then cleaned off to leave a black, healthy looking window.

Stained Glass Windows

Stained Glass Windows

Internal Maintenance
Washing windows
Stained Glass Windows

Before any work is done on the inside of the windows, the windows are checked to see if there is any unstable stained glass paint, with appropriate action taken to make sure that is paint is not disturbed. The windows are then washed on the inside with water but with no chemicals added so as not to disturb the stain glass paint.

Scaling down and painting metal

Any steel that is showing signs of rusting or peeling of paint will be scaled down and rust converted (used to stop the rusting process) and then painted. This types of maintenance will be undertaken on reinforcing bars, vents and rebates.

Removing loose glazing putty and mortar

Any loose putty or mortar will be removed and replaced. Mortar will be replaced with a sand and lime mortar (no cement) with similar colour to what is present or to match the brick or stone work. Putty will be replaced with glazing putty that will suit the framing. For example, metal putty will be used on metal frames.

When should maintenance be performed

Full cyclical maintenance should be performed on your windows every 20-25 years. The condition of the window should ideally be assessed every 10-15 years in a report. The windows in your report from Wesley Vine Glass Craftsman are labelled in stages (stage 1-3) this indicates what condition each window is in. In the table below is an explanation of what each stage represents and also an explanation of the warnings signs that indicate whether your windows may need work to be done to them. There is also a timeline that indicates how long you should leave your windows before they may need restoration (this is a general indication of when the windows should be repaired but it is better that the windows examined by a professional stained glass craftsman and that a time line of repair is detailed in a report). The longer you leave your windows the faster the rate that decay will occur. It is therefore better to, where possible, act now (at a lower cost) to prevent your windows from decaying further rather than waiting and having to spend more later.

Leadlights Glass Door

Stages Window condition Timeline :

Stages Window Condition Timeline
Stage 1 Window will be relatively straight. Leadlight putty will be starting to dry out and crack. Lead will show little sign of fatigue. If this is not restored now it should be looked at again in 5-8 years time
Stage 2 Window may have daylight showing from stone movement or sever buckling.Leadlight putty will be dry and starting to fall out. Window may have calcification on the inside of the window If this is not restored now it should be looked at again in 2-5 years time.
Stage 3 Window may need a section removed due to stone movement or concertina folding (window slipping and causing buckling). Window will be showing signs of lead fatigue. This should be done as soon as possible and should not be left for more than 1 year or 2 years.