Wednesday, December 8, 2010


So, let’s talk about caskets. Those seven foot long, two and a half feet wide, two and a half feet tall boxes. Metal or wood, sealer or non-sealer, gasketed or non-gasketed, ornate or plain, fixed hardware or swing bar. Now I bet you’re confused.
The one and only thing all these have in common is they all do the same thing. Provide a “vessel” for the final disposition of a set of human remains in the ground, or to be cremated later.
Sounds kind of cold doesn’t it? It’s meant to, in fact I bet your thinking, “Well, if that’s the way you put it, I can make that myself”. Well guess what, YOU CAN! The law states in Arizona that the family has the right to provide any type of casket-like container for human remains internment to the mortuary and it can not be refused. (Or words to that effect). Cemeteries don’t care, as long as you use a dome liner; put it in a vault or a grave box. If it’s GOING IN THE GROUND, it is the law and they are just glad they sold the plot.
Let’s talk about the lifecycle of a casket.
A casket is born when a family purchases it.
 It is ordered by the funeral home from a local distributor. It is then delivered to the funeral home, inspected, dusted and shined. The deceased is placed in the casket. The visitation is then set up.
NORMALLY the casket is viewed for about three hours at the visitation - or all night/overnight vigil for some of you old-schoolers.
The casket is then taken for a ride in a nice car (hearse) for about 25 minutes.
The casket is then placed in a church for about 45 minutes.
The casket is then taken for another ride in a nice car (hearse) for about another 25 minutes. (This time probably with escorts.)
It is then displayed at a cemetery for about 30 minutes.
It is then lowered in the ground and covered with dirt. Total in ground life after being covered with dirt? Five months to five years.
So let’s just add up the total time use of the casket for the event.
3 hours + 25 minutes + 45 minutes +25 minutes + 30 minutes = 5 hours and 5 mintues.
This does not equal eternity, nor will the casket last for eternity. But you would be surprised how many times the word “eternity” may come up in a casket sale by a very clever sales representative.
Caskets are made by a variety of manufacturers in America and now abroad. I will list them below, along with what I would name as their equivalent in cars;
Batesville – Cadillac
Aurora – Lincoln
York – Chrysler
Astral – Chevy
There are various distributors in America. A vast majority of caskets made in America are made in or around Indiana. Over the last 5 years there has been a great influx of caskets from China that have SWAMPED the casket market. Casket distributors have tried desperately to hold out on this flood but have failed and now most distributors AND the big 4 (named above) are even including those Chinese caskets purchased at half the price of what it costs them to make them. China produces some spectacular wood caskets and very, very ornate caskets. In the end, I have YET in my 12 years in the funeral industry had a family ask me if a casket was made in China. By law, the seller must reveal this to you.  And even then, few care.
Caskets come in different thicknesses; steel 16 gauge, 18 gauge, 20 gauge, and copper or bronze 48oz or 32oz. The lower the steel gauge, the thicker the metal. The higher the oz, the thicker the metal. So why would you need one thickness over another? I don’t know! Personal preference or maybe you just WANT to spend more money.
A vast majority of wood caskets are imported from all over the world. Some are made here, but most are imports. No woods are gasketed or sealers.
Definition of Hardware:
Swing bar = handles are able to be swung on the side of the casket. (more expensive)
Fixed Bar = handles can not be moved (less expensive)
Corner pieces = corner pieces on the casket, the more ornate, the more expensive.
Gasket = rubber gasket goes around the inside of the casket, between the lid and bottom portion (more expensive)
Cranking locking device = key locking device on the foot of the casket, cranks the lid down on the gasket (MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE)
Head Panel = goes on the inside of the lid of the casket, embroidered, personalized (more expensive)
Single Color = that’s it, single color paint job, no gasket, simple fixed hardware. (VERY LEAST EXPENSIVE)
Look, in the end, there are about 500 different things you can know about caskets. If most casket venders were honest, you would not need to read this.  For the record, about 50% of your funeral home bill can be the casket sale if you’re not careful. Of that, about 50% to 70% of that casket cost is profit, which goes directly into the pocket of the funeral home.
Casket stores are interesting, but unfortunately most of them (not all) are starting to see the fat profit in caskets and are busy slamming the funeral home to you while they take money out of your other pocket.
You can buy a casket at ANY funeral home for ANY reason, even if it’s for a funeral at another funeral home.
The lesson here is why you would consider spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a box that is going in the ground after being viewed for a little over 5 hours.  This is a box that is probably nicer than any furniture you have in your house, or nicer than any car you have ever had. This has nothing to do with dignity for the deceased. This has nothing to do with laying them to rest in style.
This has to do with a casket purchase that you made, that’s all. If you want to do this, by all means go for it, but wouldn’t that be put to better use for something like……maybe a nicer marker, everyone will see that for a long, long time.
I have walked many cemeteries in my day, and in all those walks I have never been able to distinguish what casket was an ornate mahogany or a brushed metal bronze under my feet, or which one was a simple pine box under that beautiful marker.
When someone sees a beautiful headstone in a cemetery, someone is much more likely to think, “Man, how his kids must have loved him…”


  1. You provide really great insight to the purpose and the different aspects of a casket. I have recently had a relative that is declining in health rapidly, and we are trying to decide what to do for the casket. There are just so many options, but we think we will be getting a wood casket. Which type of wood do you suggest would be the best?

  2. I would recommend a veneer casket, more affordable and they can do allot with style. Good Luck.