Comparing Religious Stained-Glass Window Quality

Numerous options must be considered when choosing a studio for commissioning religious stained-glass windows. Generally, these decisions include window design style, glass type, hand-painted detail, and design intricacy.

Stained Glass Design Style

Window styles range from abstract, contemporary work to traditional, hand-painted work. Not all studios are capable of producing every style, so ask to see a portfolio of recent works matching the desired window style for your project. Most studios gladly provide a color design for the window they propose prior to a contractual agreement. Remember, a studio that has difficulty conveying the window design on paper may have equal difficulty producing the design in glass:
if they can’t draw it, they can’t build it!

Types of Stained Glass

Our stock glass comes from both U.S. and European sources and varies greatly in price. Generally, glass fits into one of two categories, listed below from most economical to most expensive:

  • Opalescent window glass – Milky, opaque glass that usually contains two to three marbelized colors.
  • Machine-rolled window glass – Transparent, mono-colored glass with uniform color distribution and thickness.
  • Mouth-blown window glass – Transparent, mono- or multi-colored glass with light and dark areas due to slight, naturally-occurring variations in glass thickness. The handmade nature of this glass imparts character, adding depth and interest to the overall design. This grouping includes fine glass from Poland and Germany as well as some domestic sources.

Numerous variations also exist within these three glass types, so inquire about the type of glass to be used on your project. Fine, mouth-blown glass can cost 4 to 5 times more than opalescent and machine-rolled cathedral glass.

Hand-Painted Stained-Glass Window Detail

Artisans hand-paint window details, such as faces and hands, in a labor-intensive effort. When fired at 1200 degrees, the paint becomes permanently fused to the glass piece. However, glass pieces might require multiple rounds of painting and firing to add sufficient depth and detail.  Not all studios have in-house artists capable of painting on glass, because the style and talent of stained-glass artists varies greatly (as with any art form). Lynchburg Stained Glass is capable of producing painted window work in fine detail ranging from medallions to full figurative scenes.

Stained-Glass Window Design Intricacy

Basically, windows become more difficult to glaze (assemble) when they contain smaller and more irregular glass pieces. Each piece of glass is hand-cut and individually glazed into the window with lead came. A quote based on providing a window with a specific number of pieces can be misleading if not accompanied by artwork. For example, consider two windows, each with 100 pieces of glass. The first design is predominately rectangular pieces with lots of straight lead lines and uniform borders. The second is a more irregular, figurative window where no two pieces of glass are the same size or shape. As you might imagine, the second window is the more costly design. Always insist on seeing a design of the proposed window.

A Few Final Suggestions

  • Ask for and check the stained glass window studio’s references on projects they have completed recently (within the past two or three years) for churches of the same size or larger than yours.
  • If possible, take a trip to tour the studio where the windows will be produced.
  • If cost is a factor and you plan to get prices from several different studios, make sure you understand exactly what each studio is providing for the cost quoted (especially concerning the intricacy and amount of hand painted work to be incorporated into the design).
  • Above all, make absolutely sure that you get what you want when purchasing stained glass… it will be there for a very long time.  Remember that you are purchasing a work of art, not an assembly line, machine-produced product.

Construction and Installation

Hand-painted detail and intricacy if glass pieces are the two factors most affecting the cost of stained glass. The fundamentals of constructing a stained glass window are independent of artistic content. Every window is hand-assembled using lead came between the glass pieces, hand soldered on both sides, waterproofed on both sides, and reinforced with steel brace bars.

  • Does the studio offer aluminum frames and clear coverings to protect your stained glass investment? Lynchburg Stained Glass fabricates custom aluminum frames specifically designed for use with stained glass. We are capable of producing intricate frames requiring special bends.  Our frames are engineered to comply with building code requirements for wind load. Our recommended clear protective covering is laminated glass. Laminated glass is impact-resistant and will not discolor with age. Avoid plastic covering products. They have a reputation of scratching and “yellowing” to the point that they obscure the stained glass.
  • Is the studio equipped to handle installations of large church projects requiring scaffold and/or lifts? Lynchburg Stained Glass maintains multiple in-house installation crews and provides scaffold and lift access as necessary.
  • Is the studio capable of producing the work in a timely manner to meet your construction schedule (including frames and protective covering)? Lynchburg Stained Glass is a large, full-service studio offering custom frames, protective covering, installation, and repair. Our studio employs approximately 25 artisans and craftspeople capable of producing large church projects in a timely manner. We also maintain a large glass inventory to facilitate production.
  • Does the stained glass window studio offer a warranty? Lynchburg Stained Glass studio provides a 10-year warranty covering material and workmanship.
  • Can the stained glass window studio provide a certificate of insurance indicating liability coverage for the church while on site?  Lynchburg Stained Glass studio maintains liability insurance coverage for the purpose of protecting the church.

Lynchburg Stained Glass Studio is Available to Meet

We will gladly meet with your group to discuss options and present ideas for stained glass. Our artists welcome your input on religious theme, color and style. Translating your ideas into glass, we develop color artwork for your approval. Stained glass is a vibrant art form that speaks to your church and to the community; we welcome the opportunity to help convey your message in glass!

We can also repair religious stained-glass church windows. Lynchburg Stained Glass studio offers a full range of restoration services, from a few minor glass repairs to complete re-lead restoration (the process by which the entire window is disassembled and re-crafted with new lead). We also offer protective storm covering to protect your stained glass investment. Our stained-glass storm covering system uses impact resistant laminated glass set into a small profile aluminum frame.