We talk a lot about how overwhelming the process of designing and purchasing a memorial can be. But it’s important to understand the different factors that go into creating a headstone that honors your loved one. To ensure your memorial lasts for years to come, each individual piece must line up perfectly.
Headstones that stand upright are comprised of two granite pieces. The tall piece, or the tablet, is the space that’s engraved with your loved one’s name and other personalizations. The low-lying, horizontal piece that sits under the tablet is called the base. To prevent headstones from shifting or sinking, they are set on a concrete foundation designed to support them.
Why is a memorial foundation important?
A memorial headstone serves as a lasting symbol of a loved one’s legacy. You want to ensure it’s around for a long time, and in the best condition possible. This is why a memorial’s foundation must be poured deep enough and backfilled properly.
In colder climates, a deep foundation is especially important. Otherwise, frost can get under the foundation and lift it up when it freezes, causing it to sink, tip or lean when it thaws. Foundations should be built below the frost line for this reason. In Northeast Ohio, foundations are recommended for all monument markers and the dimension of a foundation will be based on the monument’s size.
How is a foundation made?
Pouring a foundation for a headstone involves building a wooden frame first to form the concrete. The wooden frames are typically the same size as the base of the monument unless the cemetery has specific rules indicating something different for the apron.
Once the hole is dug (in colder climates this translates to about 36 - 42 inches deep) gravel is placed at the bottom of the foundation. Concrete is then poured and finished to be leveled and smoothed.
After 72 hours of curing, the wooden frame can be removed. About a week later, the foundation should be dry enough for the headstone to be mounted.
Who digs the foundation?
One way to determine a cemetery’s standards and quality of work when it comes to digging their foundations is to simply look around. If headstones are set correctly, they shouldn’t tilt, lean, sink or fall over. Crooked or sinking memorials could indicate that the foundations were not poured properly or that the grave has settled. In some cases, the ground around the grave can be disturbed when another burial occurs nearby, making the memorial shift and settle again.
Do I have to buy a memorial from the cemetery?
The short answer is no. We recommend purchasing a memorial through a reputable memorial provider because these are the companies that directly produce the memorial. Cemeteries, on the other hand, typically source their memorials from (oftentimes not local) monument providers, then offer them to families.
Memorial companies have access to higher quality materials (like granite) and offer more options for shapes, sizes and customizations. They will encourage you to take as much time as you need, never rush you through the process and help you select items that work within your budget. Due to cemetery policies and sales practices, you may not get the same customer experience purchasing directly through a cemetery.
Know the Memorial Regulations at Your Cemetery
Memorials should be designed uniquely for each person, but sometimes cemetery rules and fees can get in the way of this. That’s why we’ve created the Northeast Ohio Cemetery Memorial Guide. This interactive map, with a list of 40+ cemeteries across the Cleveland and Youngstown area, provides memorial regulations and fees for each place because the more you know about the differences between cemeteries, the easier it will be to select the right one for you.
Need Help with a Memorial Foundation?
Whether you’re in the preplanning stages or have recently lost a loved one, we want to be a supportive and knowledgeable partner for you throughout the process. At Milano Monuments, we will always be your advocate. To learn more about memorial foundations and headstones, contact us.