Buying a casket or coffin is not a task that most people are prepared for or have much experience with. Families often know where their loved one would like to be buried or interred, but casket or coffin preference is sometimes overlooked. Making a choice can be a complicated, overwhelming and usually expensive. To help, we have created a casket buyer’s guide to help you make a choice that suits the needs for the funeral you are planning and the budget you are working with.
Before choosing a casket, it is essential to define what it is. A casket is a box or container designed to hold the body of a person who has died. However, it also plays a vital role in the funeral process. It is used for the viewing of the body, in burial or interment, for transportation and cremation.
Some people use the terms "casket" and "coffin" interchangeably, but there are important distinctions between the two. Both serve to hold a body, but they differ in shape and usage.
A casket is a rectangular container, with four sides, that is built to contain a body. It has a hinged lid lined with cloth and is specially designed and decorated to memorialize the person whose body it contains. A casket can be made from many types of materials but is usually made of metal or wood. The hinged lid makes it more suitable for a viewing at a funeral service as it can be easily opened and closed.
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A coffin is also a container to hold a body, but it has six sides. The top of the container is wider than the bottom, so it tapers to conform to the shape of the human body. The lid is removable and has no hinges. Coffins are usually more simply decorated and are generally made of wood. Compared to a casket, a coffin is usually the cheaper option because less wood is used to make it. That said it is often more difficult to come by, and additional charges may apply to locate and ship the model you're seeking.
The cost of a casket is highly dependent on the material it is made from. Metal caskets, for example, are typically a more expensive option as the material itself is more expensive. In contrast, a biodegradable casket can cost as little as a couple of hundred dollars, depending on the material.
Casket prices range anywhere from $900 to $20,000. It is important to note that buying a casket from a funeral home is often more expensive as there is usually a substantial mark-up. Most caskets are usually priced in the $2,000 to $5,000 range. However, funeral homes may also offer the option to rent a casket, which is significantly cheaper, usually falling on the higher end of the $900 to $2,000 range. People rent caskets as a more affordable option so their loved one can be prepared for a viewing. After a funeral service, the body is transferred to a less expensive casket for burial, interment or cremation.
Understanding the weight of a casket is important if there will be pallbearers at a funeral. Weight of a casket and the body within it usually ranges from 350 to 400 lbs (159 to 181 kg), but can be heavier if the deceased requires an oversized funerary container. Assuming six pallbearers, each person will need to be able to bear the weight of up to 67 lbs (30 kg). For reference that is about the weight of an adult labrador retriever or a queen-sized bed box spring.
The weight of the casket depends on the material used. For example, a thinner piece of wood, such as plywood would typically be a lot lighter than a casket made of bronze or copper. Other factors that affect the weight of a casket include the size, decoration, and materials used on the inside.
Caskets typically come in two sizes: standard and oversized. Standard caskets usually weigh 160 to 220 lbs (72.5 to 100 kg), depending on the material. They can carry a body that weighs up to 300 lbs (136 kg). Oversized caskets typically weigh 220 to 280 lbs (100 to 113 kg) and have a weight capacity of around 500 lbs (227 kg). The size of the casket can also affect the cost. Oversized caskets, for example, may not fit in a standard burial plot. Additional fees may apply for a larger plot.
Decorations and inner materials often do not affect the weight as much as the size of the casket. However, the addition of handles made from heavier materials, for example, would add to the weight of the casket.
Caskets typically come in two most common types – metal or wood. However, there are other varieties as well.
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Metal caskets are usually made from bronze, copper, or steel. These are often more expensive because they last longer than wood caskets and allow for better sealing, which helps preserve a body longer. One caveat on metal caskets; they are not suitable for cremation. However, a metal casket can be used for viewing, burials, and interment. It can also be replaced with a combustible cremation casket if needed.
Steel caskets are typically categorized by the thickness of the steel, also known as the "gauge." They come in a variety of thicknesses, with a 16-gauge being the thickest and most expensive. Other gauge options such as 18-gauge and 20-gauge are not as thick and are typically less expensive.
Copper and bronze caskets are often the more expensive metal casket option. This is because these materials are more resistant to rust and corrosion. They are categorized and priced by weight.
The price range for metal caskets usually falls within $2,000 to $20,000, with copper and bronze caskets typically costing $6,000 or more.
The weight typically ranges from 180 to 220 lbs (81 to 100 kg) for a standard-sized metal casket.
Wood caskets are usually made of hardwood, including oak, walnut, mahogany, and cherry. Softwood such as pine is also used. These are usually slightly cheaper. Using rare woods such as mahogany usually increases the price relative to other options.
Wood caskets can also be made more affordable by using lower cost types of wood. These are covered with cloth, laminate, or veneer. For example, plywood caskets can be laminated to provide the look of hardwood caskets at a much lower price.
Fiberwood or fiberglass has also become a popular, lower cost option. These caskets are made from wood or glass fibres but are stronger, lighter, and made with finished material that resembles metal and wood.
Wood veneer is another popular option. Veneer caskets have a wood base covered with thin layers of more expensive wood. This provides the look and feel of solid wood at a lower cost.
Solid wood caskets are usually the most expensive type of wood caskets. This is because solid wood implies that the entire casket is made from one type of wood, unlike when veneers are used. Nonetheless, the prices vary depending on the type of wood used, so it is possible to find economical choices with this type of casket.
Wood caskets typically range from $500 to $9,000, with cheaper options such as laminate and veneer, usually falling within the $800 to $4,000 range.
Weight limits for wood caskets often fall within the 150 to 350 lbs (68 to 159 kg) range.
Cremation caskets are made from cheaper and more sustainable materials such as cardboard, pressboard, or canvas. These are designed less for viewing and, instead, to contain the body during the cremation process. As mentioned above, these can be used to replace metal caskets or other caskets that are not suitable for cremation. This type of container is also commonly used for final disposition in the case of a rental casket.
The cost for this type of casket varies but typically falls under $700. They weigh significantly less than other types of caskets, as little as 200 lbs (91 kg).
As the name suggests, biodegradable caskets are made from biodegradable materials. These types of caskets are often suitable for what are called “green” burials, which are interments that are designed to have a smaller impact on the environment. These types of caskets include simple wood caskets, woven caskets, and shrouds.
Simple wooden caskets are made solely of wood, without metal, varnish, or glue. These types of caskets can be easily personalized and are accepted by most green burial sites.
Woven caskets are usually made from wicker, bamboo, or willow. These are often beautiful, unique, and well-made pieces. The material is also sturdier, making for easy transport of bodies.
A shroud is a piece of fabric used to wrap the body. Shrouds are made of many materials, including cotton, silk, muslin, wool, bamboo, or hemp. Shrouds are highly customizable and are often preferred for green burials as fewer resources are used.
Again, the prices and weight depend on the type of material chosen. However, these types of caskets are often on the cheaper and more lightweight side. Woven caskets, for example, typically weigh under 150 ibs (68 kg), whereas a cardboard casket would weigh around 20 to 80 lbs (9 to 36 kg). Wicker caskets usually range from $900 to $1,500, but shrouds may fall in the $195 to $1,000 range.
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Rental caskets have become increasingly popular over the years. It can provide a way for families to afford more expensive and extravagant casket styles at a fraction of the cost. It also benefits the funeral home as the casket can be reused.
Rental caskets have a removable wooden box that contains the body and is used as an insert into the rented casket. For a viewing, the body appears to be inside the casket, but the remains never touch the casket interior. After ceremonies and viewing are complete, the insert box is easily removed and can then be buried or cremated.
As mentioned above, rental caskets usually cost between $900 to $2,000. Since they are often made from cheaper, thinner materials, they are often also lighter.
Typically, caskets are used to inter remains at a cemetery or graveyard.
A crematorium requires a "casket or rigid container" to cremate remains and so casket remnants can be mixed with human ashes that are returned to the family.
In the case of alkaline hydrolysis, sometimes referred to as liquid cremation or aquamation, no casket or rigid container is required.
With a burial, a grave is dug, and the casket or coffin is placed within it, often along with artifacts, personal items, or memorial materials (e.g., pictures, flowers, etc.). Afterward, the soil is returned to the grave and filled to be level with the ground or slightly mounded.
Caskets can also be interred in a mausoleum, which is a building often made out of stone, designed to house the remains of one or several individuals above ground. This is sometimes referred to as a tomb. How the body is interred depends on the type of mausoleum. For example, public mausoleums typically hold many individuals and are open to the public for visitation. In contrast, private mausoleums are often found on private property and restricted for family use.
With both burial and interment, the options are limited by the size and type of caskets. For example, a custom-made casket must fit within the dimensions of a standard burial plot, or arrangements must be made, typically at an additional cost.
If a direct cremation is selected, then a utility casket can be used for body transfer and to contain the body during cremation. It is usually one-third or one quarter the cost of a burial or interment.
However an urn that contains cremated remains may also be buried in a grave, or deposited in a niche.
Cremations typically range from $2,000 to $10,000 (See Eirene’s all-inclusive pricing). Burials and entombment typically range from $4,000 to $12,000.
Caskets are typically purchased from a funeral home. However, that can be expensive. Typically there is a mark-up applied that ranges from 30-50 per cent.
Still, caskets can be bought from third parties, such as casket suppliers and online retailers. In addition, they can be purchased from Canadian suppliers or international ones. Caskets can also be custom made.
Buying caskets from a third party can save some money, however there are a few important things to consider.
On top of the price of a casket, there will likely be a shipping cost.
If you are ordering from outside the province or country, the shipping cost is likely to be higher, and the wait time to receive the casket can be days or weeks, which can complicate funeral plans as a body must be embalmed or refrigerated, which will incur additional charges.
Ontario does not have legislation that requires funeral homes to accept third-party products such as caskets. However, if the provider allows it, it cannot charge the consumer extra if it is safe, and appropriate for the intended use, and meets the requirements of the cemetery or crematorium.
Eirene’s team is available 24/7 to provide guidance and answer your questions.
Below are some casket suppliers found in Canada:
If you have a question about funerals, cremation or end of life choices, get it answered by our experts via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or see our contact page.
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