When planning a funeral for yourself or a loved one, most people are aware that they need to purchase certain items like a casket and a headstone. However, there are also additional needs that can take families by surprise. One common funeral necessity that often surprises families is the need to purchase a burial vault.
What is a Burial Vault?
A burial vault is a sealable container made of metal or concrete that houses the casket and protects it from damage. Vaults also prevent the soil from collapsing around the casket, which keeps the cemetery ground level. While vaults are not required by federal law, they are a very common part of the traditional funeral. Many families opt to utilize a casket because they want to preserve their loved one’s casket and protect it from water damage.
The History of the Burial Vault
Burial vaults date back to the mid-1800s. Early vaults were made from wood and were referred to as “the rough box,” but by the late 1800s, bricks became a more popular choice for vaults because of their durability and longevity. Vaults were originally designed to prevent graverobbers from stealing valuables - or even the body itself - out of the casket. Overtime, the practice of burying loved ones with jewelry and valuable goods went out of favor. Vaults continued to be an important part of the American funeral because they prevented the ground from sinking as the soil settles.
By the early 1900s, burial vaults were primarily used, not for security, but in order to keep the ground from collapsing. Because early wood caskets would decompose completely as time went on, this caused the soil to fill the space left by a casket. In many historical cemeteries, you can still find the areas where the ground shifted and exposed the remains of the casket. Towns with historical cemeteries are usually quite aware of this phenomenon and many have reburied older remains inside modern caskets and vaults in order to keep them from being exposed.
Today, burial vaults are a standard part of every traditional burial. Many family members take solace knowing that their loved one will be protected from the elements by their vault. This can bring peace of mind and make coping with the loss a little easier. Additionally, by keeping the gravesite pristine, family members can enjoy visits without the anguish of witnessing a sunken grave.
Are Burial Vaults Required By Law?
This is a very common question. In short: it depends. There is no federal law requiring burial vaults; however, some states like Massachusetts and Louisiana do require them for non-natural burials. There is a common popular perception that vaults are required by law; this is because many individual cemeteries have policies that require vaults in order for a person to be buried there.
Cemeteries usually require vaults because they keep the ground level by preventing the grave from sinking under the weight of the dirt and machinery on top of it. Not only does the requirement keep cemeteries looking well-kept, but it ensures the safety of both visitors and maintenance staff.
If you have questions about requirements for burial, you will need to check your local laws and call your local cemetery to inquire about their policies. There are some burial locations that do not require a vault. Most church cemeteries, small private cemeteries, and township cemeteries will not require a vault. Similarly, in certain states and regions, it is completely legal to be buried on your own property, given that you go through the proper channels. If you were to be buried on your own property, then you would not be required to utilize a vault unless you wanted to. Certain areas set aside for green burials also do not use vaults; however, if you wish to be buried in a traditional cemetery, then you will most likely want to purchase a vault.
Should I Purchase a Burial Vault - Why and Why Not?
In places and situations where a vault is not legally required, you have the important choice of whether you want one or not. Whether you are deciding for yourself or a loved one, there are several factors to consider.
- The Cost: high-quality burial vaults usually run between $900 and $3,000. More affordable grave liners are in the $700 to $1,000 range. Unlike a casket, funeral attendees will not even see the vault; only the people who open and close the grave will see it. For some families, it is not worth spending thousands on an item that no one is going to see.
- Preservation: The phrase “worm food” is often thrown around in conversations about burial. This is a deeply unpleasant image, and it can be hurtful to families to think about this happening to their loved ones. If you want your family members have a dignified resting place, then a vault is a great way to ensure that they will be protected from the elements. A sturdy, sealable burial vault will prevent dirt and moisture away from the casket and your loved one.
- Beauty of the Gravesite: If your family often returns to loved ones’ headstones to visit them, then a vault could be a great way to maintain the eternally peaceful appearance of their final resting place. Because vaults prevent the soil from shifting over time, they are an ideal solution to prevent sinking and ensure that the casket is not exposed in the event of flooding.
Choosing a Burial Vault: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a burial vault and a grave liner?
Both vaults and grave liners are boxes that surround the casket and prevent the ground from collapsing over time. The key differences are the cost, the quality, and the purpose.
Grave liners are normally cheaper, ranging from $700 to $1,000, and can be made out of concrete, metal, or plastic. The purpose of a grave liner is primarily to prevent the soil from sinking into the grave over time. However, grave liners are not designed to protect the casket, so they have holes for water drainage and do not seal. Grave liners come in two different designs: the first is a box with a removable lid; the second is bottomless with sides and a lid.
If you are concerned about the appearance of your loved one’s final resting place, but want to save money, then a grave liner may be right for you.
However, if you are concerned with preservation and protection from the elements, then a more high-quality grave vault is the better option. Vaults are a little more expensive because they are built from high-quality concrete or metal. Unlike liners, they are designed to completely surround the casket and seal out soil and moisture.
Is a metal or concrete burial vault better?
Metal and concrete vaults have their advantages and disadvantages. For one, concrete vaults are usually more expensive, but they are also very secure and can withstand heavy loads of soil. On the other hand, metal vaults are more affordable and can offer greater protection against water damage.
At Overnight Caskets, we offer an assortment of high-quality metal burial vaults at an affordable price. Our metal burial vaults are made of durable 12 gauge steel. They are constructed using a double weld technique that provides added strength and longevity by welding each seam on both the inside and the outside. Our metal vaults are built to last and to protect your loved one. The specialized construction technique ensures that our vaults can handle up to 5,000 pounds of pressure. Additionally, our powder-coated finish resists rusting and allows every vault to survive underground conditions.
Metal burial vaults from Overnight Caskets are ideal for protecting your loved one from the elements. All of our vaults are equipped with an elevated base, which raises the casket and ensures that it will never be sitting in water. Our vaults are also ideal for creating a water-tight seal; features like the domed top maintain air pressure in order to prevent water from seeping in.
Do specialty caskets require a special vault?
Burial vaults are standardly sized to fit most caskets, whether you opt for a wood or a metal casket. However, if your loved one lived in a larger body or if they were extra tall, then they may require an oversized casket. Depending on the size of the oversized casket, you may also require an oversized vault.
Please contact Overnight Caskets if you have concerns about casket and vault sizing. Our 24/7 toll-free number and online chatbot are here to answer all your questions.
How to Save Money: Buying a Vault Online
Funerals can get expensive, especially if families are not prepared. Vaults are a key area for overspending because they are often an unanticipated cost. Many funeral homes markup prices by thousands of dollars in order to make the largest profit possible. One of the best ways to save on funeral costs is to purchase materials online. At Overnight Caskets, you can buy high-quality, affordable caskets, burial vaults, and headstones for a fraction of the price of the funeral home.
There are many benefits to purchasing funeral items online:
- It’s more affordable. Overnight Caskets gets our inventory from an independent manufacturer. As an online retailer, we are able to charge much less than a funeral home because we don’t have as much overhead. So when we save, you save. Additionally, shopping online allows you to utilize coupon codes to save even more.
- A better buying experience. When you plan a funeral the traditional way, you end up going to the nearest funeral home where they attempt to upsell you and throw in extra costs and packages. While in a haze of grief, it can be difficult to make smart financial choices and to resist the pressure. Shopping online involves no pushy sales people, no extras, and no manipulative sales tactics. You can just buy what you need and have your order quickly shipped to you.
- You can shop around. Shopping online allows you to have multiple tabs open at once to compare goods and prices. It also gives you the time you need to do research and ask questions.
The FTC Funeral Rule
Under the FTC’s Funeral Rule, you are allowed to purchase funeral items from a third party retailer and the funeral home must accept them without additional fees. This rule also offers other consumer protections that can help save you money when planning a funeral. It allows you to only pay for the services you want, get accurate price information of all services ahead of time, receive an explanation of local burial laws, and use an alternative container in place of a casket.
When you buy a burial vault online, it can take between 1 and 3 days for delivery, depending on the location. The funeral home and cemetery are required to use the vault you purchase. However, make sure that you confirm with the cemetery when the vault will be delivered so that their staff is ready for it.
Contact Overnight Caskets to Learn More!
Have questions? We are happy to help. Contact us to learn more about your funeral options. If you or a loved one needs a high-quality, affordable vault that is guaranteed to provide a dignified resting place, please browse our extensive catalog.