Savvy shoppers put a lot of time, thought and research into their purchases. Do you remember the process of your first “big” purchase, like your first home? You probably hired a real estate agent, either by referral or reputation, to look out for your interests and ensure you got a good deal. The competence and experience of the realtor you chose was significant because that person guided you through the process that most of us don’t know without formal training.
Choosing a headstone or memorial is much like choosing a home. Both stand in the same place for many years, need to weather well and embody the characteristics of the person who resides there. Just like houses, grave markers are unique—they vary in size, shape, and materials and should be given the same deliberation before making a final purchase. And similar to finding a trusted real estate agent, one of the most important things you can do when selecting a headstone is choose a reputable memorial provider to help guide you through the process.
Ask Your Memorial Provider These Questions
Most of us will only buy one memorial in our entire lifetimes, making the process generally unfamiliar. To make it easier, we’ve come up with a list of 10 questions to ask the company you plan to work with.
1. What Documents Do I Need and Who Fills Them Out?
Depending on the cemetery or final resting place you chose, the memorial company may need a marker authorization form from the owner of the plot. Some cemeteries have specific forms that spell out requirements for settings, size, concrete borders and lawn mower proof edges.
Other than cemetery-required documents, your memorial provider may have additional forms for you to fill out. These may include a contract that outlines what the provider will deliver and what you can expect, or your signature or approval on design proofs as your memorial is completed.
2. Have You Worked with the Cemetery I Chose Before?
Selecting a memorial for yourself or a loved one is a deeply personal experience. Consider more than simply bottom-line prices when selecting your memorial provider.
This is where it can be advantageous to work with a local company as opposed to an online or discount memorial provider. While online prices may look appealing, they often don’t include paperwork and setting fees required by the cemetery.
Local companies generally also know what types of monuments are permitted, size or color restrictions, and if the cemetery allows photos, vases, or companion memorials. This helps reduce the chances of a cemetery denying your memorial—ultimately costing you more time and money.
3. What Types of Materials are Used?
Granite is the stone of choice in the monument industry, and it comes in different grades—a term used to signify its durability, density, structural integrity and consistency. Lower grade granite is prone to chipping, degrading and discoloring over time. Ask your provider about their granite grade, quality and warranty.
Top memorial providers will also have deep-rooted relationships with granite providers. For example, Milano Monuments is one of the select few memorial providers designated as a Rock of Ages retailer—an owner and manager of several quarries that produce the highest quality granite in North America.
4. What Types of Design Techniques are Offered?
Sandblasting (engraving), laser and hand etching are the most common techniques used to inscribe words and designs on stone. The price varies depending on the material being inscribed and the process selected. Remember, you get what you pay for. Hand etching is more expensive, but the difference in quality can be seen through many generations.
5. How Long Should the Memorial Last? Is There a Warranty?
Outdoor elements—especially in Northeast Ohio—can affect how long a memorial lasts. But not all memorials are created equal, and some will last longer than others. Ask your provider which materials they use (hint: granite is ideal), and as mentioned, what grade of stone they use.
Ask to see photos of older memorials the company has designed and placed to see how well they have held up through the years. A company should always be willing to stand behind their work and that includes providing you with a written warranty when asked.
6. Who Builds and Designs the Memorial?
When everything else is equal regarding the materials used and shape and size of the marker, the one difference that remains is the craftsmanship of the person designing the headstone. The best craftspeople translate your vision into something that is beautiful to look at and built to last.
Top memorial providers will also keep your work in-house, reducing costs, timeline and third-party middlemen. That means your headstone vision stays with the company, from initial concept to design to cemetery setting.
Milano Monuments has award-winning craftspeople and memorial designers on staff to provide you with the most detailed, personalized memorial possible.
7. Will You Provide a Preview of the Headstone?
Any company worth its reputation puts the customer first and wants to make sure you’re happy during all phases of the transaction. Look for a memorial provider that has a showroom, so you can see and feel the different kinds of products it offers. Ask for a preview sketch or design proof before production begins. Additionally, top memorial providers will welcome you and your family to view the memorial after it is completed and before it gets delivered.
8. What Is Included in the Final Price?
Companies offer different types of markers, stone, etchings and designs. If they have a fixed price schedule, find out what is included and what costs extra. Reputable companies should be able to offer options to fit your budget.
For more information on what goes into the cost of a memorial, download our Memorial Cost Guide.
9. How Long Will It Take to Complete the Memorial?
Many factors influence how long it will take to complete your memorial, including the material, shape and size, and payment and final design approval.
For example, a simple, lawn-level memorial takes about eight to 12 weeks, while a larger, upright headstone can take up to three months depending on the design and customizations. Soil sentiment, the climate, and religious and cultural traditions can play a role in the timing of headstone placement.
At Milano Monuments, every memorial we make is made by hand and every family makes them special. This takes time to make sure that every memorial gets the care and attention it deserves.
10. Can You Provide Testimonials or Customer References?
To assess a company’s reputation, visit their website, check for online reviews and ask for references. If these aren’t readily available, consider it a red flag.
Work with a Trusted, Family Owned Memorial Provider
At Milano Monuments, we believe in educating families and will take the time to answer your questions. Schedule an appointment with one of our family representatives today who will walk you through the process.