Winter is fast approaching us, and this means many things for the religious facilities around the country. Preparing for the holiday's that are rapidly approaching, helping families in need, and though it may not be as popular as the previous two issues, perhaps the change in the weather will direct attention to some of those stained glass church windows.
As the sun changes position in the sky this time of year, and the morning's tend to be dimmer while we are in worship service, the not so bright paint on the glass, or the missing lead came may be a bit more obvious in the glow of the interior lights.
So then comes the question, what issues are causing the problems, and what can we do to fix them? Also, it is important to consider what measures can be taken to protect these precious treasures from these issues arising again in the future?
It is said that the oldest stained glass church window in existence today can be found in the Augsburg Cathedral in Germany, and dates to the 1100's. That being said, it is to be assumed that with proper care and preservation, the windows that your facility has come to cherish can last for generations to come.
The most common issue for stained glass church windows is bulging. Bulging is experienced in old stained glass windows when buildings settle, and when the lead fatigues. Lead in itself is a very weak material, and over time, if the deflection continues, the stress on the glass will cause cracks, and eventually make the windows irreparable.
Expansion and contracting are responsible for bulging as well. Difference in temperature can be extreme inside improperly stained stained glass windows. Since stained glass is very efficient in absorbing the suns energy, solar gain occurs, and accelerates deterioration. In the most extreme cases, the bulging can become so severe that the stained glass panels may actually pop out of their frames. Other common problems are seeing daylight through the windows, and the elements, ie rain and snow, seeping in through gaps left by sagging or bulging panels.
How these issues are repaired can vary greatly from removal of the entire window to be rebuilt from the frame up to onsite spot repair and reinforcement. The windows should always be carefully studied and a spelled out step by step plan developed to address the cause of the problem and to repair the window. Sometimes the cause is as simple as improper protection of the window to structural failure.
At the first sign of disrepair, a professional firm should be consulted, if at all possible to discuss the various repair options, or, to discuss replacement. Stained glass windows are a beautiful tribute to the artisans that helped to lay the foundation for many of the most beautiful structures in our nation, and they deserve to be preserved to the best of our ability.
By Jessica Brearley
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