Thursday, March 19, 2009

Windows Part 1: Stained Glass

We’re in the process of evaluating the condition of all our original windows to figure out which ones will be fixed this year.  We’ll be repairing all the standard double-hung windows and storms ourselves (or at least that’s the plan), but I don’t have any expertise involving stained or leaded glass.  We have several stained glass windows in the house…

These two are in our dining room (and are in pretty good condition):


Then there’s these two in our front parlor.  One of them is starting to bulge outwards, so we want to get that fixed before it gets any worse:


Also, the other window in the picture above was likely originally stained glass.  I say this because we have other windows elsewhere in the house this size that are multi-lite (2x2) so having a single clear pane of glass would be out of place.  Right now, this window is plexi-glass and has no storm (just a ripped screen on it).

Then we have the two stained glass in the living room:

st4 The blue tape in this picture is holding together the loose pieces of glass that are ready to fall out.  It bulges outward by about 1.5”.  Clearly in need of repair.  Here’s the matching one on the other side of the room:


Actually, the stained glass window is in our basement and is in pretty good shape.  We decided to wait to put it back in until the weather has warmed up, so we might get around to that in the next few days.  I think this air conditioner has been there a while.  It has a pile of pigeon poop on the outside and you can see successive attempts at weather stripping it over the years.

We don’t have much in the way of non-stained leaded glass in our house, except for our front entry door and side-light.  Here is the side-light:

IMG_0910 It has one cracked piece of glass, but otherwise looks pretty good.  The door (to the left in the picture) doesn’t have it’s matching leaded glass insert, it was removed some time ago.  We found it in the basement:


Clearly, it’s in need of significant repair/replacement.

We contacted a local stained glass expert and asked for quotes to repair the one living room window that is bulging outwards (measures around 16”x16”), do a minor repair on one of the parlor windows (16”x24”), repair/replace the broken piece in the door side-light, and do a full restoration on the front door leaded glass.  Here are the prices we got back:

  • $270-320 to repair/re-lead the 16x16
  • $310-$360 to repair/re-lead the 16x24
  • $600-$700 to fix the broken glass in the sidelight (includes some re-leading if necessary)
  • $1100 to re-lead the front door insert and put all new glass in (not beveled like the original), bevel will be an additional charge

I have no idea if those are good prices or not as I haven’t been able to find someone else to quote the job yet.  It seems a little high, and from the preservation brief on stained glass that I read, re-leading is supposed to be the last option in restoration.  I’m not sure that the sidelight and 16x24 need that much work.

We don’t have $2500 in the budget this year to repair these.  So, we might have to add some more tape, try to stabilize them in place, add in the missing storms for additional protection, and wait on the front door for now.  Sigh…


  1. I don't have much leaded glass in my house - just a pair of simple sidelights on either side of the front door. One of these required a minor repair (a clear, recangular pane was cracked) and our contractor's estimate, $250, made me want to research the subject more.

    I found that I could obtain all the basic materials and tools required to work with leaded glass (providing that you have a reasonably equipped workshop already) for less than $100. Glass is not figured into this, and on it, you can spend as little or as much as you want - 10 pound lots of decent-sized scrap regularly sell for about $25, shipped, and decent, 8x10 glass retail new ranges between $5 and $10, depending upon the color.

    Why, you might ask, do I care so much about leaded glass when I have but two rather boring leaded glass windows? I have steel casement windows in my house. They have the bad habit, due to the way they contract in cold weather, of cracking their glass on a rather regular basis. The cracks often form in visually interesting ways, but I can't just leave them like that.

    I noticed that in some houses, the leaded glass windows have what appear to be cracks that have been leaded-in. It is unclear whether they were made that way originally or if they were repaired. I thought that if I have to take the pane out to repair it, I might as well add a bit of color. I've assembled the materials required, but have yet to begin work on the windows, due to the cold weather. I'll be sure to keep you informed of my progress.

    From everything that I've read, basic leaded glass repair is not terribly difficult, but rather, time consuming and tedious. Given the work you've completed so far on the rest of your house, you shouldn't have any problem with the basics of the windows. Once you finish that, start thinking about the front door.

  2. I would really recommend looking around for a class to take in stained glass. I took an evening class at the local technical college and discovered that it's definitely not rocket science, although it does require patience and is a bit fiddly. If you are good with your hands, you should go for it. I would really recommend a class if at all possible rather than trying to learn from books, though, as the techniques of cutting and setting the glass are very "knacky" and much better learned in person.

    I've really been enjoying your blog and it's one of the few I have bookmarked. Beautiful house, interesting projects, and clear writing - thanks!

  3. Thanks for the comments. We contacted another local stained glass expert. He teaches classes in town, and came well recommended for repair and restoration of older stained glass windows. In addition, he can copy an existing window as a replacement (we're missing one stained glass). His prices were much better ($100-250 per window, depending on whether it needs a full releading).

    The unfortunate thing is that the beveled glass for the front door insert is crazy expensive. It's all custom, so it has to be hand-done, and it will cost about $3/linear foot of bevel. All together, the bevels will cost around $2000. The labour to repair the insert itself and put the bevels in is about $500. So, the door will have to wait until another year.

    We will get the windows repaired this year after we make storms for the ones that are missing.

    Jessamyn, I appreciate your comments. It's nice to know there are people out there enjoying the blog! We'll try to keep it interesting. :)