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How Long Should Paint Last on a Headstone?

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Alecia Milano
Posted by Alecia Milano on October 8, 2019

Paint is often used to highlight unique features on a headstone. Contrasting colors emphasize meaningful inscriptions, highlight important dates and keep lettering legible.


Sefcik - Bevel Memorial   McNamara, Theresa-1


While our skilled artists hand paint each stone with high quality paint made specifically for granite, the paint color on an outdoor memorial slowly fades over time.

Paint degradation can be troubling. Your loved one’s headstone serves as a lasting celebration of the life lived. It’s a central place you and your family gather at to remember moments shared together.

To ensure the paint on your memorial stays intact for you to appreciate for years, we explain the factors that cause fading, and what to do when the memorial needs a refresh.


Factors that Cause Headstone Paint to Fade

As with anything located outside, outdoor elements like rain, snow and sunlight all cause paint to diminish over time. However, the speed of paint degradation depends on two main factors: headstone type and memorial location.


Memorial Type

The lifetime of the paint on a headstone depends on the style of the memorial.

Paint on an upright headstone is guaranteed for five years, while the paint on a flat, lawn-level headstone is guaranteed for three years.


Collins - Upright Monument - York Township Cemetery - Monument   Siembieda - Flush Memorial - Cleveland Ohio-1-1

Upright monument (left). Lawn-level memorial (right).


Due to weather and climate changes, rain and snow can sit in the letters over time and erode the paint.


Memorial Location

Location also plays a role in the lifespan of paint on a headstone. Memorials placed under trees or in low areas where water collects will fade faster than memorials placed on high ground.


What to Do When the Paint Fades

It may feel worrisome when the paint on your loved one’s headstone begins to fade. As a lasting representation and celebration of the life lived, you want it to look its best at all times.

Fortunately, when it’s time, there are two options for repainting your loved one’s headstone.


Option #1: Repaint the Headstone On Your Own

Your first option is to repaint the headstone yourself. If you choose to do this, there are a few factors that must be taken into account to get the desired result:

  • The stone must be clean. Sometimes headstones are placed under trees or low areas with sitting water. Mud and dirt, as well as grass clippings and leaves, can settle into the letters. This adds a step to the repainting process because you need to carefully clean the memorial before you can repaint it.
  • The stone must be entirely dry. Repainting a headstone is dependent on the weather. Your memorial must be dry before you repaint it. The best time to repaint is mid-summer when it is hot and there is the least amount of rain, dew and frost. *In fact, repainting is typically only possible in Northeast Ohio from June through September.
  • The stone must be hand painted. When creating a new headstone in our facility, we use stencils for accuracy. But when a stone is placed in a cemetery, it must be repainted by hand.
  • Granite paint cannot be easily removed. Even if a minor mistake is made, granite paint is extremely hard to wash off of a headstone. Especially if the paint were to come in contact with an unpolished area on the memorial.

If the conditions are right and you have a steady hand, it is possible to repaint a headstone yourself. Here are some tips to help get you started.


What You Will Need:

  • A fiber or soft brush, not a wire brush.
  • A mild, oil-free soap like Dawn dish soap. Do not apply any oil-based soap, wax or polish, because it will stain the memorial.
  • Clean water.
  • Paint made specifically for granite. We use Lithichrome paint at Milano Monuments. However, we recommend connecting with a memorial provider prior to choosing paint.


Tips for Rinsing:

  • Use plenty of clean water. It may take as much as 20 gallons to clean an average monument.
  • Do not use a pressure washer.
  • Get the monument thoroughly wet before cleaning.


Tips for Cleaning:

  • Start cleaning at the bottom with just water and elbow grease. Work your way up to the top.
  • Rinse thoroughly with more clean water.
  • Do not let the monument dry until you are finished rinsing.
  • Some monuments will require more than one cleaning depending on how stained or dirty it is.


Tips for Painting:

  • Use the correct type of paint for granite, such as Lithichrome paint.
  • Make sure the brush is fiber or soft, not a wire brush.
  • Take your time. It is nearly impossible to clean paint off of unwanted surfaces on granite.


If painting a memorial on your own, Milano Monuments has painting kits available for purchase. Contact us online or call (216) 362-1199 for more information.


Option #2: Contact a Memorial Professional

If repainting the headstone on your own feels overwhelming, we recommend calling a professional.

Painting a headstone is a tedious task that involves careful consideration and should be handled as such.

When contacting a professional, be sure to send a current picture of the memorial, as well as the location of the burial plot. That way, they can send a specialist to the memorial for further inspection.

Once the memorial specialist evaluates the headstone, they will note any areas of the memorial that need attention and make recommendations based on their observations.


Have Your Memorial Professionally Repainted Today

A painted headstone experiences fading just like other objects that are painted and placed outdoors. If you feel comfortable repainting the monument yourself, we encourage you to take your time and follow the recommendations provided above.

If you are overwhelmed by the repainting process, contact us today. We will provide you with the information and next steps needed to get the memorial looking like new.


Milano Monuments Contact Us Today Alecia

Topics: Memorialization

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