How Long Headstone Paint Should Last on a Memorial [+ How to Repaint It]

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Alecia Milano
Posted by Alecia Milano on March 1, 2022

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

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 for you and your family to gather and remember moments shared together.

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

What Factors Cause Headstone Paint to Fade and Discolor?

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

How Memorial Headstone Type Impacts Paint Degradation

The headstone paint’s lifetime depends on the style of the memorial. Headstone paint on an upright memorial is guaranteed for five years, while the paint on a flat, lawn-level headstone is guaranteed for three years.

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

How Memorial Location Impacts Headstone Paint Longevity

A memorial’s location in the cemetery also impacts how long headstone paint will last. Memorials placed under trees or in low areas where water collects will fade faster than memorials placed on high ground.

When selecting a location for a loved one’s headstone or your own, it’s also important to know that most cemeteries have memorial and monument guidelines for different sections of the property. For example, one area may be restricted to only lawn-level headstones, while another may be dedicated to larger upright monuments.

What Should You Do When Headstone 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 headstone 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 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 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.

When Is the Best Time to Repaint a Memorial Headstone?

As mentioned above, the headstone must be entirely dry for you to repaint it. Because of this, the best time to repaint a headstone is mid-summer when it is hot and there is the least amount of rain, dew and frost. In fact, repainting a headstone is typically only possible in Northeast Ohio from June through September.

What Tools Do I Need to Paint a Memorial Headstone?

With weather conditions right, the next step is to gather the materials needed to repaint the headstone. This includes:

  • 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.

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.

What Kind of Paint Can I Use on a Granite Gravestone?

We use Lithichrome paint at Milano Monuments because it is extremely durable to weather and UV light—meaning it lasts the longest without discoloration. Since all headstones are uniquely customized and finished differently, we recommend connecting with a memorial provider prior to choosing headstone paint.

How Do I Clean a Discolored Granite Gravestone?

The first step in the headstone repainting process is rinsing and cleaning the monument to remove mud, dirt, grass clippings and leaves.

Do not use a high-pressure washer to do this, as it can damage the exterior stone and its porous interior. Instead, use plenty of clean water to get the monument thoroughly wet before cleaning. It may take as much as 20 gallons to clean an average monument.

cleaning-memorialThen start cleaning at the bottom with just water and elbow grease, slowly working your way up to the top of the gravestone.

If a cleaning agent is required, use a gentle oil-free soap like Dawn dish soap. Just be sure to keep the stone wet to prevent the soap from seeping into the stone’s pores. Never let the monument dry until you are finished rinsing.

Some monuments will require more than one cleaning depending on how stained or dirty they are.

How Do I Paint a Granite Headstone?

With your headstone clean, wipe the whole monument completely dry. Now, you’re ready to paint your memorial. As noted, this should be done by hand using:

  • The correct type of paint for granite, such as Lithichrome paint.
  • A fiber or soft brush, not a wire brush.

Start with a small test area, and when satisfied there, move on to the rest of the headstone. Take your time; it is nearly impossible to clean unwanted paint off granite surfaces.

How Do I Remove Unwanted Paint from a Granite Headstone?

There is a high risk of ruining the stone if you try to remove paint from granite. Therefore, if you make a mistake when painting your granite headstone, it is best to contact a professional for advice on how to remove the paint from the granite with the least amount of damage.

Option #2: Contact a Memorial Professional to Repaint the Headstone

If repainting the headstone on your own feels overwhelming, we recommend calling a professional. Headstone painting is a tedious task that involves careful consideration and should be handled as such.

When contacting a professional, 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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