Funeral Planning Checklist: Burial Vaults and Grave Liners
Whether you are pre-planning a funeral or making decisions for a loved one who recently passed away, one of the items you’ll come across on your funeral planning checklist is a burial vault or grave liner. These items are typically offered by the cemetery (as opposed to the funeral home), and help to ensure that your loved one’s remains are protected against early decay and to keep the cemetery grounds level and well-kept.
What Does a Burial Vault Do?
Also known as a “ burial container,” burial vaults are large box-like structures that hold the casket underground. They can be made of everything from steel or copper to concrete, and are designed to keep moisture and flooding out of the casket for as long as possible through a strong airtight seal. This not only slows down the decay process, but also to increase the overall aesthetics of the cemetery. That’s because many cemeteries find that caskets buried directly in the ground tend to show “ sinkage” over time, as the dirt around the casket becomes flooded and weighted down.
Burial liners are very similar to burial vaults, but instead of encasing the entire casket, they cover only the top and sides and don’t have a hermetic seal.
Burial vaults add a touch of elegance to burial arrangements, as a coffin dropped into a vault is often a very touching and beautiful sight that accompanies the graveside ceremonies. These vaults also allow you to further personalize the funeral, since you can choose materials and designs based on your loved one’s wishes.
Do I Have to Purchase a Burial Vault?
Not every burial has a grave liner or burial vault, and in most places, they aren’t required by law. These items can be very costly (from a few hundred to up to tens of thousands of dollars), depending on the materials you choose and whether you opt for a full vault or a liner. Although some cemeteries may require vaults as part of their personal list of burial policies, any funeral home or cemetery that tells you these items are a legal requirement may not be giving you all the information you need to make the right choice.
If you would like to opt out of having a burial vault, you may want to find a cemetery willing to accommodate you. In almost all cases, you should also be able to exchange an expensive burial vault for a more cost-effective burial liner.
Important Burial Vault Considerations
No matter which type of burial arrangements you choose, it’s important to note that grave liners and burial vaults will not prevent the eventual decomposition of your loved one’s remains or even of the coffin itself. No material – human or otherwise – is meant to last forever, and any decay prevention steps are meant to be temporary.
As a consumer, you have the right to find and purchase a burial vault or grave liner from a third-party dealer. Whether you choose to shop online or find a local manufacturer who can offer you more cost-effective choices, cemeteries and funeral homes are required by law to respect your decisions if you don’t want to buy the vault directly from them. Although this does add another step in your funeral planning process, you can potentially save thousands of dollars by buying elsewhere.