Are you currently handling the end-of-life arrangements for a loved one or pre-planning for the services you would like to have at your funeral? Suppose you are considering a traditional funeral with burial. In that case, you may be unaware that part of the burial process requires a burial vault or, at minimum, a grave liner to hold the casket.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know what burial vaults are, why they are needed, or that different types of vaults can significantly affect the overall cost you will have to pay. While the idea of a burial vault may initially seem overwhelming, it’s pretty simple.
In short, a burial vault is a reinforced outer container that encases a casket. In addition, because the vault itself is a sealed container with a protective inner lining, it helps prevent groundwater and soil from entering the container, preserving both the casket and the remains of the deceased.
Many types of burial vaults are available today, ranging from traditional concrete models to more elaborate models that offer combinations of metal, plastic, and other materials.
While the concept of a burial vault is quite simple, there is much to consider when choosing one. In this article, we will provide you with the important details of the types and costs so you can make a well-informed decision when selecting a burial vault.
The Purpose of a Burial Vault and Why Cemeteries Require It
Suppose a casket was to be buried directly into the ground without any outer container protecting it. As most caskets are made of wood, the casket is likely to deteriorate throughout the years, risking the casket collapsing and damaging the contents inside the casket. The purpose of the burial vault is to prevent that from happening by incasing the entire casket in a reinforced outer burial container.
Outer burial containers are primarily made of concrete and are lined and sealed with plastic or metal to prevent water, soil, insects, or other natural elements from entering the container. The materials used to construct a burial vault are also strong enough to withstand the weight of the earth, preventing the casket from collapsing or being crushed.
Although local laws generally do not specify that burial vaults are required when burying the deceased, nearly all cemeteries will require a vault or, at a minimum, a concrete grave liner to be used if a family plans to have a loved one’s remains buried within the cemetery.
A large part of that requirement is to ensure the safety of visitors and workers. As cemeteries often use backhoes and other heavy maintenance equipment, a concrete burial vault can prevent sinking graves or depressions left in the ground, maintaining the aesthetic appeal of the cemetery grounds.
It’s important to note that not every cemetery requires a burial vault. Most cemeteries will allow a concrete grave liner, an affordable alternative to a burial vault. If you’re unsure about a cemetery’s policy, speak to the cemetery staff or a funeral director. They can help you determine the cemetery’s requirements and guide you to the proper vault for your needs.
Types of Burial Vaults and Grave Liners
Outer burial containers are available in many options, from simple concrete grave liners to beautiful decorative vaults. However, the materials and the number of layers used to construct the burial vault will significantly affect the total cost of the container.
In the following, we will provide details and features of some of the more common outer burial containers and vaults available, including the average cost for each container.
Image Credit: Trigard Burial Vaults
Concrete Grave Liners
A concrete box or grave liner is the most basic and affordable outer burial container you can purchase. It can be best described as looking like a concrete box with a lid. Grave liners are not considered vaults as they do not seal or offer a protective liner to keep out the elements.
Most grave liners will also have seep holes drilled in the bottom of the base to allow water to flow through the container preventing it from rising out of the ground. An important takeaway to grave liners is that they are intended to protect the cemetery grounds, not the casket. Therefore, a concrete grave liner will be the best option if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to a burial vault.
Steel Grave Liners
Similar in appearance to a concrete grave liner, a steel grave liner is another option that serves as an outer burial container when required by the cemetery.
Steel containers are generally constructed with 12 or 14-gauge steel but are not lined or sealed, offering little protection to the casket from natural elements.
Concrete Burial Vaults
Concrete burial vaults are the most common types of burial vaults purchased today. They are designed with a vaulted lid and often reinforced and lined with multiple layers of other materials, such as heavy-duty plastic and metal, to protect the cemetery grounds and the casket.
The vault also provides an adhesive compound that seals the lid to the base preventing anything from entering the vault. Regarding cost, prices for burial vaults will vary depending on the type, size, and amount of materials used to make the vault.
Metal Burial Vaults
Metal burial vaults offer additional strength and protection for caskets. In addition, they come in various metals such as stainless steel, bronze, or copper, allowing for more customization options than concrete models.
Metal-constructed vaults offer higher durability than concrete vaults, making them a good choice for cemeteries with more extreme weather conditions. However, they often cost more than concrete options.
How Much Does a Burial Vault Cost?
The cost of a burial vault will vary depending on the type, size, and materials used to make the vault. In addition, the overall number of reinforced layers added to the vault will factor into the total cost. Typically, vaults are made with single, double, triple, or, in some cases, quadruple layers of reinforcement. Therefore, the more layers used to construct the vault, the higher the cost.
Starting with the most affordable option, a single reinforced concrete vault will cost an average of $1,500 to $2,500.
Concrete burial vaults that contain a metal outer shell and lid such as stainless steel, bronze, or cooper and that have been double-reinforced or triple-reinforced with a metal or plastic lining will have an average cost ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 or more.
Choosing an all-metal-made vault constructed entirely out of 12-gauge stainless steel starts at around $3,000 but can become much more expensive the thicker the gauge of steel used to make the vault.
An all-bronze or a copper burial vault will cost the most due to its strength, durability, and material versus concrete. As a result, the average cost for an all-bronze or copper-metal-made vault will cost upwards of $10,000 or more.
No matter what type of vault you choose for your burial, other factors can affect pricing beyond the material used. For example, if the casket is “oversized,” your vault may need to be larger, requiring additional material.
Installation fees often come into play when buying a vault for a cemetery plot or mausoleum crypt. Other cost factors may include custom engravings, photos, emblems, and additional hardware, such as ground anchors or sealing liners to protect against moisture.
When selecting a burial vault for yourself or a loved one, it is important to consider all of these factors to make an informed decision that fits your budget and needs.
Helpful Tips To Consider When Buying a Burial Vault
From the material used to construct the vault to its design features, selecting the proper burial vault for your loved one is an important decision that requires careful thought and research.
As you have become familiar with the cost and different types of vaults, you may wonder how or where to buy a burial vault. To help you with this process, we’ve compiled some tips for purchasing a burial vault.
Determine Your Budget
Before you purchase a burial vault, start by setting a realistic budget that fits your financial capability. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial costs $9,420. Out of that cost, a basic burial vault costs an average of $1,572.
Consider what features or materials are important to you and prioritize them accordingly. Remember that the burial vault is only one of many parts of a funeral, and you should factor in all the other potential costs.
Get Prices From Your Local Funeral Home
One of the best resources for getting costs with anything related to a funeral, especially when it comes to burial vaults, will come directly from your local funeral home.
Should you choose to visit the funeral home, the staff or funeral director can provide detailed information about their services and help with all the planning requirements. They can also help with choosing a vault.
Funeral homes typically work with one or more vault manufacturers to offer various options to meet their customers’ needs and budgets. They can provide a catalog with pictures and details of all the available vault options, answer your questions, and provide insight into the pros and cons of each vault.
When working with a funeral home for funeral planning needs, it is important to understand your rights as a customer. All funeral homes must follow the “Funeral Rule,” a federal law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The Funeral Rule requires that all funeral homes provide their customers with a General Price List (GPL) for every good and service they offer. The price list breaks down the cost for each item or services the funeral home offers, including caskets and outer burial container prices.
While it is common for funeral homes to offer package deals, the Funeral Rule prohibits any funeral home from forcing you into purchasing a package plan that may contain items you don’t need.
Consider The Materials Used To Construct The Burial Vault
Different types of materials have unique advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it is important to consider these before making a decision.
Concrete is the most common material used for burial vaults. It is durable, cost-efficient, and can last many years in different climates and soil conditions. However, concrete can be prone to cracking over time.
Metal burial vaults are also popular due to their durability and strength. They are available in various colors and designs to suit individual needs. Metal vaults are lightweight and easy to transport; however, metal can corrode over time and may not be suitable for all climates.
Ultimately, the choice of material depends on personal preference and budget constraints.
Ask About Warranties
When considering the purchase of a burial vault, it is important to look for warranties offered. Most burial vaults provide a manufacturer warranty, but the length and what is covered under warranty can vary depending on the type of vault purchased.
Some warranties may cover all damages caused by weathering or other elements, while others may only cover certain damages. Knowing precisely what is covered can save you money down the road if something happens to go wrong with your vault.
Make sure you are comfortable with all the terms and conditions associated with any warranties before you decide which burial vault to buy.
Alternatives To A Burial Vault
While burial vaults are a common option for protecting a casket, they can be very costly. If a burial vault is too expensive and out of budget, there are cheaper alternatives.
Concrete Grave Liners
A grave liner is a basic concrete grave box with a lid that encases the casket, preventing the cemetery ground from shifting and keeping the grave site neat and orderly. Since grave liners are made of durable concrete, they are strong enough to protect the casket from the weight of the ground collapsing onto it.
Concrete grave liners are an affordable alternative to burial vaults and generally meet the minimum requirement for most cemeteries that require a casket encased in an outer burial container. A concrete grave liner’s average cost can range from around $700 to $1500.
Cremation Urn Vaults
Cremation is the process of burning the body to reduce it to its basic elements, known as ashes. The ashes are then placed in an urn or scattered per the family’s wishes or can be placed in an urn vault and buried within the cemetery grounds.
Urn vaults are becoming increasingly popular among families that wish to honor their loved ones elegantly and meaningfully. In addition to being a beautiful memorial option, urn vaults provide a safe and secure way to store cremated remains.
Constructed of durable materials, such as heavy-duty plastic, stone, marble, bronze, and concrete, urn vaults are designed to resist the elements, decay, and other environmental hazards.
With the ability to be personalized with engravings, urn vaults are a unique way to commemorate the life and legacy of a cherished family member. Urn vaults can also store other mementos, such as jewelry and photos, to preserve memories for future generations.
There are many benefits to cremation, including cost-effectiveness, the ability to have a memorial service, and the flexibility of the final disposition. The average cost of a basic urn vault is around $100 to $200 but can be much higher depending on how elaborate the design is and the materials in making the urn vault.
Burial Vault FAQs
Why Are Burial Vaults Necessary?
Burial vaults are necessary to protect the casket from the weight of the earth and cemetery maintenance equipment passing over the grounds. Although local laws do not enforce the requirement of a burial vault, it is the cemetery’s choice to require one. Burial vaults also help to delay the decomposition of the casket and provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance to the cemetery grounds.
What's The Difference Between A Burial Vault And A Casket?
A burial vault is a large, sealed outer container placed in the ground before a casket is placed inside. The vault’s purpose is to protect the casket from the weight of the earth and any possible water or other natural elements that may enter the grave.
A casket is a container where a body is placed for viewing and burial. A casket or coffin cannot support the weight of the earth or keep natural elements from entering and damaging the casket and therefore requires the need of a vault or liner at the very least.
How Is A Burial Vault Installed?
A burial vault is typically installed before the day of burial. Installation typically begins by digging the grave to the standard depth and width for the selected burial vault type and size. Then, the burial vault is placed into the excavation site and positioned according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Next, the surrounding ground is leveled off, compacted, and secured in place. Finally, additional soil or gravel may be added to fill any remaining gaps and ensure a secure seal.
Once the burial vault has been installed, cemetery staff will check it for security and make sure all regulations have been met. They’ll also inspect any other equipment used in the installation process and ensure proper disposal of excess materials. Once these steps are completed, they’ll approve closing the grave with traditional backfill methods or with special materials such as concrete slabs or pavers.
After installation has been approved, family members can customize their loved one’s grave with flowers, statues, monuments, mementos, and other memorial items, depending on local cemetery regulations. This helps provide a memorable tribute while helping preserve their memory for years to come.
Are There Any Restrictions On The Size Of A Burial Vault?
The size restrictions are an important factor to consider when selecting a burial vault. Typically, the size of a burial vault must comply with local cemetery regulations and any laws or regulations imposed by the state. Therefore, the dimensions of the burial vault should be checked before purchase to ensure it meets all regulations and requirements.
Furthermore, depending on the type of casket chosen, some burial vaults may need to be larger than others to provide adequate support and protection. It is recommended that individuals consult with their local cemetery to determine what type and size of burial vault will be necessary for their situation.
Does A Burial Vault Help Preserve The Body?
Burial vaults can help preserve the remains from being damaged, but they do not help preserve the body. Burial vaults are designed to protect the casket or urn and the grave site from the weight of the earth and elements above. A burial vault does not keep the body from decomposing. Embalming can help preserve a body for up to a few days or weeks after the burial.
Can Burial Vaults Be Personalized?
Burial vaults can be personalized. For example, some manufacturers offer the option of having a personalized plaque or engraving on the top of the vault. This could include the deceased’s name, a memorable phrase or sentiment, or even a meaningful symbol. Other personalization options include adding a photograph or a unique design to the vault’s exterior.
These options allow a unique and meaningful way to remember and honor a loved one. Additionally, many companies also offer a variety of finishes, such as granite, marble, and bronze, for the exterior of the burial vault. This allows for further customization, as the deceased’s family can select a finish that best reflects the personality and style of their loved one.
In conclusion, burial vaults are an important part of the funeral process. They protect the casket from the elements and provide a secure place for loved ones to rest. Therefore, understanding the different types of vaults, materials used, installation considerations, and warranty information is important.
While the price may be a factor in your decision-making process, it shouldn’t be the only factor. Take the time to research your options to decide which burial vault is right for you and your family.