What Type of Wood Should I Choose for the Casket?
For the typical U.S. burial, an estimated one-third of families opt for wood caskets. Unlike their metal counterparts, wood caskets aren’t pitched as offering high preservation qualities, and instead are chosen for their lower cost and general elegance. Because you are talking about an organic material, wood caskets will decay faster than metal ones, with “softer” woods holding up for a shorter amount of time than hardwoods.
The harder and less porous the wood, the more expensive it will be. So too will the finish of the wood and the details contribute to the cost.
- Pine: Pine caskets are the lowest-cost option, often coming in at under $1,000 (especially if you look for them from online retailers). This common wood isn’t the most extravagant option, but it can be stained in a variety of colors and comes with the added advantage of being less wasteful than many of the rarer woods.
- Aspen: Aspen caskets are similar to pine ones in terms of cost and appearance, but are less common overall. These offer a low-cost way to provide simple elegance without skimping on quality.
- Walnut, Oak, Maple: Walnut, oak, and maple caskets provide a mid-range level in terms of appearance and durability. These woods tend to showcase rich stains better than pine and aspen, which will give them a better appearance overall, and the quality wood lends itself to more elaborate caskets.
- Mahogany: Mahogany wood is the most costly for making a casket, and these prices are passed down to the consumer. However, in terms of appearance, this is one of the most elegant woods on the planet, and many people prefer it. If having an eco-friendly funeral is important to you, however, you may want to skip this somewhat rare commodity.
Because all wood caskets will break down, and because they cannot provide an air-tight seal in the way that metal caskets can, most people make their selection based on price and appearance. For this reason, always be sure and see a sample of the casket you want before you make a decision. Oftentimes, a highly polished oak casket is more aligned with what you want than a more expensive mahogany option.
Questions to consider as you make your selection include:
- Why do I prefer one wood over another?
- What would the deceased have wanted in his or her casket?
- How much of the funeral budget is earmarked for a casket?
- Will anyone be able to tell the difference in wood quality?
- How important is an eco-friendly approach to casket selection?
Of course, wood caskets aren’t the only choice out there. Fiberglass, particleboard, wicker, and even cardboard options exist for the savvy consumer. Depending on what you want out of your casket choice, any of these may be viable and cost-effective.