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How to repair Leaded Lights

Skill Level: Beginner


Leaded glass is a very old glazing technique, and one that is still popular today. Lead lights are a traditional form of decorative glazing that gives the home a distinctive and charming character. Basically, they are window panels made up from individual cut and shaped segments of clear or coloured glass. These segments, or panels, are held together using narrow lead strips which is cemented onto the glass. Both doors and windows may have leaded-light panels. 

Leaded glass is extremely versatile, but does on occasion require a little maintenance or repair. Under the right conditions leaded lights can and do last for hundreds of years. Just look at some of the fine examples of stained and leaded glass that has survived for hundreds of years in many of our historical buildings, up and down the country.


Repair and restoration

Repair and restoration can be a relatively quick and simple – unless the project involves - taking apart and putting together wooden members, and replacing full sections, and remember also, some patterns and colours of glass are just not made anymore, with spare matching replacements very difficult to source.

How to fix leaks

Using a wax crayon, mark the origin point of the leak. This mark will still be visible when the rain stops, enabling you to make your repair in exactly the right spot. Next, carefully scrape away the dirt and debris along the edge of the lead strips affected.
With smallish leaks you can often get away with simply painting a small blob of clear, exterior grade polyurethane varnish liberally along the sides of the lead strips. You need only a small artist’s paint brush for this method of repair.
To do this, carefully prise up the beading where the leak originates, apply a generous dab of varnish, then press the lead flanges back down, supporting the lead strip firmly from the other side. Then, wipe excess varnish off the lead and the glass with a clean, cloth dampened with white spirit.
If you found it necessary to cut the corner joints, then re-fix with a two-part acrylic adhesive. Once done, simply press the lead strip gently back in place. Use a helper to support the glass from the inside. Or, alternativelyyou could inject a bead of car windscreen sealant along the area of leakage. This is also very effective.

Fixing a leak using putty

If the varnish method of repair does not work, it may be the putty in which the glass is set needs replacing. You’ll need to use a soft glazier's metal casement putty for this, but you’ll pick this up in any decent hardware store or ironmongers.

Buckling and bulging leaded panels

If buckling and bulging leaded light panels are the problem, and this does happen from time to time, you will need to take the complete panel out of the frame. Check whether it is held with putty, like an ordinary pane of glass: butyou may find it is held in with both putty and a wooden beading.
First, remove the beading by either unscrewing it or, if it is pinned, lever it out very gently. Lay the panel on a flat and clean surface, and carefully press the lead strips down flat. Don’t press too hard or you will very likely crack the glass panels.

Replacing or repairing cracked glass

It isn’t always necessary to fit new glass if the crack is only small, maybe not so visible because of the colour, and you feel you can live with it – but only if its safe, and not in danger of falling out, causing a risk of injury. If this is the case then try applying a few drops of a cyano-aerylate adhesive into and along the crack.
 When it comes to replacing broken glass panes in a leaded-light panel, it can be a bit of a tricky job if you’ve never done it before: so you feel, rightly, that its best left to a glazier.

Tools you will need:

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