Burial Containers
Submitted by: Bill
There are basically three types of outer burial containers.

The differences between them is composition of materials and shape.

For years everyone thought it was a state law that required the outer container. What it really boiled down to was the Vault maker made a profit, Funeral Home made a profit. They had a great selling point, which played on the heartstrings of the families. This box would take care of your Loved One Forever.

Remember the older funeral homes that started out as "Furniture & Undertakers" then the others that were "Livery and Undertakers".

It is not a state law, it is a cemetery rule, a vault cuts down on cemetery maintenance.

Back to the beginning: Caskets were the original outer containers. Then some woodworkers and Furniture Stores found that they could make some fancy wood boxes and make a profit. In some instances they lasted a bit longer than the casket, since many of them were made out of cedar.

If you would remember years ago the graves all had mounds of dirt. Today they are flat. Why the mounds were there to fill in the dirt as the wood caskets and wood boxes rot and the earth collapsed into the grave.

Cemetery maintenance was a bear either way. The mounds were eventually removed for ease in cutting the grass, for the same reason some cemeteries only allow flat stones, ease of care.

Then modern technology stepped in and we see the Concrete Vaults, Concrete Boxes and Stainless Steels and today Plastics and Fiber Glass.

How many of you have had basements? Are they all dry or do you see some water seepage now and then. My basement floor slabs periodically sweat. Water is a powerful gift of mother nature and always wants to penetrate through concrete, including basements and cemetery vaults. Some cemeteries have so much ground water that they have to pump out the grave before the family arrives for the grave side service.

There are:
Vaults, they have a rounded lid.
Boxes, have flat lids
The round lid does distribute the weight of the earth a bit better than a box

Concrete Boxes have flat lids and absolutely no seal, there is a groove about 1/8 -1/4 inch thick which fits on the inside edges, this is your seal. The sides, and bottom of the box are about 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick. This may or may not contain some screening material which is just there to keep it all together until it is in the ground.

Oh by the way some of them have 2 or more 6 inch diameter holes in the bottom, why you might ask? To let the water in and out, keeps everything in the ground. Even the ones without holes have a drain hole at one end but after a bit this plugs up with mud and you now have a concrete box full of water.

Many cemeteries bury in rows (public grave areas). If you dig a grave on Monday and fill it in then on the next day or next month put a back hoe leveling pad on this grave while digging another grave, chances are you will crack the lid of the previous burial. We did this on several burials during the removal of the cemetery I alluded to in an earlier note and these were 30 year old graves.

Vaults look fancier, but when we took a metal detector to check one out, it had some nice fancy Silver or Bronze finish, but absolutely no rebar in the concrete. And, they still leak, but they do have a seal, of sorts.

The Steel Vaults are by far the best but then they too leak after the rubber seal fails and the Stainless Steel ones cost a bundle.

There are steel boxes as well, all one does here is hope that the lid stays on long enough to get some dirt on top of it. The fit is poor to terrible, no seal, just it's own weight.

The National Cemeteries are now using a fiber glass dome, no bottom, just a dome. Cuts down on dirt compaction.

Caskets are a whole other story, the next time you are at an office supply store check with them on the gage of metal they use in their filing cabinets. Then when you hear or see the advertisement for 20 ga. metal caskets you will have a measuring point, remember metal rusts. Check your older cars, why don't the newer ones rust, heck they are mostly plastic.

Last, always remember "Funerals are For the Living, not the Dead". Ole Uncle Joe will never know. Take Uncle Joe out to dinner while he is alive and can enjoy himself. Take him for a ride in a Cadillac today rather than his last ride in a $100,000 plus Cadillac Hearse which by the way will cost more than renting a Cadillac to take him to dinner.