Headstones for graves are important purchases. Families want to choose monuments that honour their loved ones and that will stand the test of time.
Andrew Latyshko, owner of Smith Monument Company Ltd. in Toronto, is an expert on headstones for graves. He has provided us with 17+ invaluable tips for purchasing (and maintaining) cemetery headstones, monuments and grave markers.
You can also find the tips summarized in a helpful infographic that you can save to Pinterest for later or share on social media.
Latyshko’s advice is to visit a cemetery and walk around the grounds, observing what you like and dislike about different headstones, monuments and grave markers. “Then, you can bring those thoughts with you to us and we can work with you to modify or expand upon them to make sure that we create something that works for you,” says Latyshko.
Immediately following a funeral, families are usually not in the right frame of mind to make big decisions. Therefore, Latyshko advises his clients to wait at least 3 to 6 months before purchasing headstones for graves, monuments and grave markers. However, each case will be different because everyone experiences the grieving process differently. Choose your words carefully – there isn’t much space to sum up your loved one’s life. You can also use meaningful quotes, bible verses, or song lyrics.
For practical tips on writing epitaphs and quotes that you can directly use, please click here.
3. Don’t be Worried that the Foundation that Goes Under the Headstone Will Interfere with the Burial
There is room at the head of the grave for the headstones’ foundation. The cement will go down four feet below the frost line. Therefore, the headstone foundation will not affect current and future burials.
Cemeteries require a concrete foundation for the very same reason that you put a foundation under your house. A foundation will help stabilize the headstone or monument, which is made of heavy material like granite, and prevent it from moving because of changing soil conditions.
Every single cemetery has different rules and regulations pertaining to the size of the monuments.
You MUST know the cemetery by-laws (i.e. their rules and regulations) before you purchase headstones for graves.
“Some only allow very minimal monuments, such as a simple flat, bronze marker. Others only allow larger monuments, and some have no rules at all pertaining to the size,” explains Latyshko.
Some cemeteries prefer flat bronze grave markers to be installed because it is easier to cut the grass. So you may be disappointed if you had your heart set on an upright headstone or monument for your loved one’s grave.
But every cemetery is different, so you should refer to the cemetery’s by-laws.
When it comes to granite headstones for graves, you can have a wide range of shapes and colours to choose from.
“There are at least a dozen different colours of granite that you can choose from when selecting a monument,” says Latyshko. “The shape and the style are also entirely up to you.”
Smith Monument Company Ltd. sells a lot of monuments with a serpentine or an oval top. But there are many other shapes of headstones for graves, so you will be able to find one that fits your taste and budget.
Some families wish to put wording on the sides or on the backs of cemetery headstones or monuments.
As with all matters pertaining to headstones for graves, whether or not you can do so is dictated by cemetery by-laws.
“Some cemeteries do allow it and others do not,” states Latyshko. “It is entirely based on the different rules and regulations of cemeteries.”
While the granite (the material the headstone is made from) will not fade over the passing years, you should expect that lettering to fade.
Damp conditions will cause the lettering to fade more rapidly. Headstones for graves that are located under trees are more susceptible to damp conditions.
In Latyshko’s expert opinion: “Polishing of a monument gives greater ease to the cleansing of the monument if it needs to be cleaned using just soap and water.
“If a monument has a rock finish or a steal finish where the polish is removed, this becomes a home for things to grow on such as moss and lichen.”
Smith Monument Company Ltd. finds that it usually takes approximately 3 to 5 months to complete a memorial. “[This is] because there is a lot of labour and detail involved in creating a monument,” says Latyshko.
The granite has to be ordered and imported for different quarries around the world. Different colours come from different areas of the world and therefore, it takes time to import.
“In addition to this,” explains Latyshko, “there is the lettering process where the lettering has to be proofed by the family. Then, we have to wait for the cemetery to pour the concrete foundation before the monument can be placed in the cemetery.
“The weather can impact a cemetery’s ability to pour the foundation, which can cause further delays. All of these factors come into play.”
If the ground is frozen, the cemetery won’t be able to pour the concrete foundation that headstones and monuments need for support. The cemetery will have to wait for warmer weather.
Moss can grow anywhere on the headstone or monument depending on weather conditions. Increased levels of dampness, and decreased air circulation, will both increase the likelihood of this happening.
Latyshko advises: “You don’t have to add a wife’s maiden name. It is actually done less and less these days. It has been done for historical purposes so that people walking through a cemetery looking for someone can identify them more easily.”
In other words, the wording on headstones for graves are less dictated by tradition than it was in the past.
Granite headstones for graves are probably about half the price of bronze memorials. The average price range for a headstone is $1,700 to $4,000.
There are a lot of cemeteries that allow you to install blank headstones for graves in anticipation that they will be inscribed at a later date.
However, there are cemeteries that do not allow this. So be sure to check with the specific cemetery to see if they have any by-laws governing pre-made headstones, monuments and grave markers.
When it comes to granite headstones and monuments, as well as marble ones, simply wash them with a soap and water mixture on a regular basis. “You never want to use any oils or waxes on granite or marble headstones as they can bleed into the stone and stain it,” says Latyshko.
Bronze grave markers that have badly deteriorated could be refurbished. But this can be costly, so sometimes you are better off purchasing a new grave marker.
(Check out our super practical post on cleaning and maintaining headstones. It covers granite, marble and bronze headstones for graves.)
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