Cremation Caskets and "Alternative Containers"
Grave Liners and Burial Vaults for Urns and Caskets
Almost all caskets are made from wood or metal.
Wooden caskets are usually made from mahogany, walnut, cherry, oak, pecan, ash, pine, or poplar. Some are made from hardwoods and are usually labeled as such. Some caskets are made from a solid wood; this will be reflected in the casket description. Some states' laws require that every casket have a paper or card displayed in it that tells its content, type of fabric lining, and the cost. Some caskets described as a specific wood, may be made from a hardwood and only have the veneer of the specified wood. Be sure to ask if it’s solid or veneer, if that’s important to you. For example, a solid cherry casket will differ from a cherry casket that is made from hardwoods and has a cherry veneer. The solid cherry casket will cost more naturally. Also the cost of the casket depends on the species of the wood, just as furniture made from cherry will cost more than pine.
Orthodox caskets are available that are made entirely of wood, with no metal components. These are commonly made from pine, walnut, oak or mahogany and many are available with the wood unfinished.
Metal caskets are usually made from steel, copper or bronze. Steel caskets are made from gauges of steel or stainless steel. In the gauges of steel, the number represents the thickness. Sixteen-gauge steel is 1/16th of an inch thick, making it thicker than 18- or 20-gauge steel. Copper and bronze caskets are gauged according to their weight per square foot – a casket described as being made 48-oz. bronze will be heavier than one of 32-oz. bronze.
The inside fabrics are commonly crepe, velvet, linen, or satin, and are color-coordinated to match the outside color. Some caskets can be personalized. They may have interchangeable corners that feature a theme such as gardening, golf, or religious connotations. Another option is a choice of a custom panel in the casket lid when it’s open. These are available in a variety of embroidered themes or can be custom made with a phrase, logo, insignia, or picture. These may have an additional cost and take an extra day or so for availability for the special touches.
A burial vault is an outer box in which a casket or urn is placed for burial. They are most commonly made from concrete but some are made from metal. They serve two purposes: to protect the casket or urn and to maintain the integrity of the grave. The vault’s structure protects the casket from the elements in the ground and also from the common use of heavy equipment in digging other graves in the area. It maintains the appearance of the grave as there is less settling of the ground on top of a solid structure, the vault.
Vaults are available with or without a protective lining. Those with a lining also have a seal to help protect the casket or urn from air and moisture. Some vaults provide additional protection by being double or triple reinforced. One of the manufacturers has a website with pictures and illustrations to help explain this.
Vaults for urns can be much the same as those for caskets. There is however, one significant difference. There are urns that are made from durable materials and are therefore accepted without a burial vault. The reason that many cemeteries give for requiring this type of urn is that it protects the ashes inside. A wooden urn would deteriorate under the ground and allow the ashes to seep into the ground. This would make them unrecoverable in the event that the next-of-kin wanted to move the ashes (the urn) to another location. The term frequently used by cemeteries is that the ashes must be in an “impervious” container or urn. This material is most commonly marbleon (a synthetic marble) or granite. Your funeral director will be able to guide you according to each cemetery’s requirements.
Vaults are available with or without a protective lining. Those with a lining also have a seal to help protect the casket or urn inside. Those with a lining usually also have a seal to help protect it from air and moisture. Some vaults provide additional protection by being double or triple reinforced. One of the manufacturers has a website with pictures and illustrations to help explain this. We do not necessarily endorse this company but their pictures make it easy to understand the differences.
When you choose cremation, there are different choices - a traditional casket, a cremation casket, a rental casket, or an alternative container.
Urns come in lots of different styles, shapes, sizes, and materials. They can be made from wood, metal, glass, marble, and synthetic materials.
If you want something more personal, instead of purchasing a traditional urn, look for something that reflects the person's life or personality. This may be an exquisite box, such as a jewelry box or a hand decorated box. It may be something that the person owned, such as a box from a collection of antique cigar boxes or baseball card boxes or recipe boxes.
If you’re going to bury the ashes, many cemeteries have requirements that the container must meet. If you use a personal item to hold the ashes, the cemetery may require that it be placed in an outer container called an urn vault that will protect it and is described in the section directly above. Some cemeteries require that for every burial of ashes.