When choosing a headstone, most focus on the design of the monument, as it is the lasting celebration that honors a loved one. And while you want the headstone to look unforgettable, you also want it to last.
Outside elements like rain and snow impact the lifespan of all stones—but some more than others.
In the past, monuments and memorials have been made from marble, slate and limestone. However, nearly the entire monument industry converted to granite because it’s durable and does not naturally deteriorate even 1/1000th of an inch in 1000 years.
So, what makes granite so durable? Read on to find out why granite is the ideal material for memorialization, and then learn some maintenance tips to keep it looking good as new for generations to come.
What Makes Granite So Durable?
Granite is a broad category of rock that ranges across the color spectrum—from grays and blacks to reds and blues. It isn’t made by people or machines, but by geological processes in the earth that spans over thousands or millions of years after molten rock has cooled. For this reason, granite is the most durable headstone material.
But despite its natural strength, not all granite is the same in terms of reliability. Grade is the term used to signify granite quality, and it reflects:
- Structural integrity.
- Suitability for cutting, crafting and finishing.
Low commercial grade granite is prone to chipping, degradation and discoloration over time. Craftspeople will have difficulty engraving or etching low-grade granite, especially for fine details. The low density, flaws and inconsistencies in poor granite diminishes the material’s sharpness and pristine appearance when cut or polished.
In terms of cost, high-grade granite is naturally more expensive. But the advantage of superb granite can be seen from the start and is especially recognized in the decades and centuries to come.
Ask your memorial provider about their granite grade or quality, or ask if they have a warranty. Providers that offer a warranty on their memorials back up their words with a commitment to you and confidence in their granite.
How Granite Stands Up to Weathering
Weathering is the break down of stones to form sediment. There are three ways stones deteriorate:
- Physical weathering is when the stone deteriorates due to natural processes like abrasion, frost and ice splitting.
- Chemical weathering happens when the stone interacts with air, acids and water.
- Biological weathering is the weakening and ensuing breakdown of a stone by plants, animals and microbes.
Different rock types weather at different rates. Igneous rock, like granite, weathers especially slowly because it is hard for water to penetrate. Other types of rock, such as marble, are easily weathered because they dissolve in weak acids, like water.
Without question, granite has become the staple headstone material. It is accepted by almost all cemeteries, and will last for generations to come.
Tips for Granite Headstone Maintenance
Although high-quality granite is incredibly durable, hard irrigation water, tree sap, birds, grass clippings and other naturally occurring situations can stain the headstone or lessen the contrast of lettering and designs. Simple cleaning from time to time can help the headstone maintain its original beauty.
Here are easy cleaning steps you can use to ensure your loved one’s headstone maintains a consistent look over time:
- Choose high-quality granite.
- Clean the memorial with clean water.
- Do not use a pressure washer.
- Do not use any soap or other chemicals.
- Get the monument thoroughly wet before cleaning.
- Use a sponge or a fiber or soft brush, not a wire brush.
- Start cleaning at the bottom with just water, then 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. Should you need a more effective cleaning, please see your local memorial specialist for further advice or assistance.
Want to Learn More About Granite Headstones?
For more information on material selection, headstone design and cost, check out our Memorial Cost Guide. It will help you navigate conversations with memorial providers with a better understanding of what impacts the memorial’s look, quality and cost.