Everything You Need to Know About Building a Casket

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Selecting a casket is a very important purchase. It’s also a very personal one. Maybe you’re buying a casket for a loved one, and none of the options available to you through a funeral home or traditional supplier stand out. Or, maybe you’re planning for your own funeral, and you’re struggling to find a casket you feel genuinely represents your identity.

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You have other options if you feel this way. For example, you could order a custom casket from an artist or supplier who specializes in casket design, but it may end up being more expensive. You might also feel a casket is such a personal item that you’d like to have a more direct role in creating yours.

If so, there’s yet another option: You can build your own casket.

Can You Actually Build Your Own Casket?

The short answer: Absolutely! While it’s worth noting that local laws often require that caskets for burial meet certain standards, so long as your homemade casket meets the necessary criteria, you can certainly build your own casket for the burial of yourself or a loved one.

Many people don’t realize that. They believe they legally must purchase a casket from a funeral home, which is not the case. The law actually requires that funeral homes accept suitable homemade caskets (or caskets you bought from another vendor).

This is an option worth keeping in mind if casket prices seem too expensive. Building your own casket may be a way to save money. Just check the local laws to familiarize yourself with the standards your casket must meet.

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What Do You Need to Build Your Own Casket?

The specific casket materials and tools you’ll need when building your own casket will vary from one project to another. In general, though, you’ll need the following:

A well-stocked toolkit

To build a casket, you’ll likely need a hammer, drill (with various drill bits), saws, sanders, screws, tape measure, hinges, and nails. Those are the very basics. 

Safety equipment

There will probably be times while building your own casket when you’ll need to wear gloves, safety goggles, durable clothing, and steel-toed boots.

Space

It may go without saying, but you shouldn’t get so enthusiastic about building your own casket that you forget to consider the amount of space you’ll need to complete the project. That space also needs to facilitate the project with a work table, access to electrical outlets, and proper ventilation.

Materials

This blog will later describe how to find plans and tutorials describing how to build your own casket. The specific plans you use will tell you which materials to purchase. That said, for a DIY casket project, the materials will primarily be durable woods.

Where to Find “Build Your Own Casket” Plans (Free and Paid)

You may need to refer to a more in-depth video tutorial or similar resource if you want to build your own casket but lack much experience with these types of projects. However, if you’re confident in your DIY skills, you can refer to basic step-by-step plans. Places to find them include:

Free

  • A search for DIY free casket plans brings up several links to Pinterest boards and posts. You might just find exactly what you’re looking for there.
  • Piedmont Pine Coffins is a casket supplier with a focus on natural burials. You can download plans for a basic DIY plywood casket via their website if you first sign up for their email list.
  • Wayne of the Woods is an online hardware store that also offers free plans for a variety of projects. The site’s plans for a coffin won’t be suitable if your goal is to build your own burial casket, but they’re perfectly acceptable if you simply want to build a Halloween prop. Additionally, building a coffin prop could help you determine if you want to graduate to building a genuine casket later.

Paid

  • CasketPlans.com offers a few different plans for popular types of caskets. Although you do have to pay to download them, the prices are relatively low, with most starting from $39.95.
  • Many DIY books offer plans for building your own casket. Depending on which book you purchase, this may be a fairly cost-effective option, as you could find a book that offers several plans in one volume.
  • Etsy and similar platforms offer a few downloadable build-your-own casket plans, often at fairly low prices.

Where to Buy a “Build Your Own Casket” Kit

You have several options from which to choose when you want to buy a build your own casket kit. The following are a few noteworthy examples to consider:

Amazon

Major online retailers such as Amazon offer plenty of build-your-own casket kits, like this one. Buying from an online retailer typically gives you the freedom to browse a wide range of options. This could make finding the perfect kit for your goals (and finding an affordable casket) much easier. 

Just remember that you don’t want to sacrifice quality in favor of savings. Buying a casket online gives you the opportunity to vet a seller to determine if you can trust them to offer a reliable product. Make sure you do so before rushing into a purchase. Just because a kit is affordable, that doesn’t mean it’s worth buying.

Casket suppliers

Many online casket suppliers also offer build-your-own-casket kits. You may prefer this option if you want to be certain you’re buying one from a company that specializes in caskets.

Etsy

Etsy doesn’t just offer downloadable DIY casket plans. You can also find some casket kits, like this one, on the platform.

Granted, while some of these kits are large enough to serve as a person's casket, many are smaller. They’re either merely decorative, or they’re pet caskets. That still might be the best type of kit to begin with if your DIY experience is minimal. Before building a casket for yourself eventually, you can practice by building smaller caskets for pets. 

How to Build Your Own Casket From Scratch

There’s no one specific method for building your own casket from scratch. The following are simply a few general steps you might follow if this idea appeals to you:

1. Budget

A quick Google search on the topic of building your own casket will reveal many tutorials. These include Youtube videos, in-depth blog entries, and casket plans.

Review your options to find a tutorial you believe you’ll be able to follow. You should also exercise your judgment to determine whether the person who wrote or filmed the tutorial seems to be a genuine authority on the subject.

Regardless, you may want to select multiple tutorials to get started. Doing so will help you set a more reasonable budget. 

Check the list of materials from each tutorial you’re considering. Then, research how much you would probably have to spend to buy all the necessary tools and materials. Keep in mind that you may need to buy extra materials just in case you make any mistakes during the actual building of the casket.

Compare the estimated total costs next. This is key to determining which build your own casket project fits your budget and also suits your tastes.

An important point: Make sure your shopping list of supplies includes safety equipment that a tutorial might not have mentioned. For example, if you’re going to be working with heavy materials, you may want to wear steel-toed boots.

2. Prepare your workspace

You can easily avoid a major headache by remembering to prepare your workspace before you start piling up your materials or tools.

Refer to the video or plans you’re using to determine how much space you’ll need to comfortably make your own casket. If you don’t have sufficient space on your own property, but you still very much want to build your own casket, there may be studio or garage space in your area you can rent out.

Also, make sure your workspace is free from obstructions. The process of getting started will be much less frustrating if you clear away enough space to fit all your supplies and easily move around in ahead of time.

Tip: Some have found that building caskets with friends gives them an opportunity to bond by directly addressing a topic that many wish to shy away from. So if you don’t have enough space on your own property to build your own casket, but a close friend or family member does, you might ask if they want to work on this project together at their place.

Just make sure you’re confident that they’d be okay with this request! They should be the type of friend who you’ve worked on DIY projects with before, and who won’t find the idea of building your casket too off-putting.

3. Make a schedule or plan

You don’t want to waste your money by rushing through the process of building your own casket and ending up with a shoddily finished product as a result. This is particularly true if you’re building your own casket with the goal of your loved ones burying you in it one day.

Set a reasonable schedule to give yourself enough time to complete the project. If you don’t regularly undertake DIY projects such as this, setting a realistic schedule first will help you mentally prepare for it. It will also help you avoid abandoning the project because it was taking longer than you expected.

4. Get to work!

All that’s left to do now is follow the instructions your tutorial provides! Just be sure to follow them very carefully and closely. Overlooking one step could make a major difference in how the project turns out.

Alternatives to DIY Caskets

If you want to get more involved in your own or a loved one's final disposition, but you don't want to put together a whole casket, here are a few ideas: 

  • Cardboard caskets. A cardboard casket gives you the opportunity to paint designs (with non-toxic paint) or decorate the casket with other items, like paper cutouts and flowers. 
  • Pine caskets. Similarly, you can find simple caskets made of pine and other softwoods. These are more traditional-looking than cardboard, and they still allow you to add your own touches. We like this affordable pine casket on Amazon
  • Cloth caskets. Cloth caskets are actually made of fiberboard or pressed wood. They're then covered with cloth for a unique, soft look. Cloth caskets are more affordable than metal or hardwood options, and they're also quite customizable. 
  • Burial shrouds. You might decide to forgo the casket altogether, and instead opt for a burial shroud. Burial shrouds are highly customizable, as well as affordable, but you'll need to find a green cemetery that allows shroud burials. 
  • Custom urns. If you or a loved one choose cremation as your final disposition, you can still customize your final resting place. Foreverence, for example, offers one-of-a-kind, 3D-printed urns in all shapes and styles.

Building Your Own Casket: An Option to Consider

Whether you’re building your own casket for practical use, or you merely want to tackle a unique DIY project, the info in this guide will help you get started. As you grow more confident in your casket-building skills, you’ll feel more confident in getting creative with casket design!

Another option that's a bit simpler than a casket is to create your own urn. If you use a service like Foreverence, you can easily customize a 3D printed urn for yourself or a loved one. Another personal choice is memorial jewelry in the form of an Eterneva memorial diamond. These are fully customizable as well, giving you a lot of say in the final product.  

If you're looking for more on caskets, read our guides on cloth caskets and what caskets are made out of.


Sources

  1. Chun, Rene. “Why New Zealanders Love DIY Coffins.” The Atlantic, The Atlantic Monthly Group LLC, August 2019, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/08/diy-coffins/592777/
  2. “The FTC Funeral Rule.” Federal Trade Commission, www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule
  3. Goodstein, Ellen. “10 things funeral directors don’t want you to know.” Bankrate, Bankrate, LLC, 18 November 2003, www.bankrate.com/finance/jobs-careers/things-funeral-directors-dont-want-you-to-know.aspx#:~:text=You%20can%20also%20use%20a,casket%20from%20an%20outside%20source.
  4. “Traditional Burial.” Funeral Consumers Alliance, Funeral Consumers Alliance, funerals.org/?consumers=earth-burial-tradition-simplicity/

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