How Long Does It Take to Engrave or Install a Headstone?


It takes a variety of unique characteristics to be a modern headstone engraver. Of course, a tombstone engraver needs to have artistic skills. They need to know a lot about the typography and design of stone carving. A headstone engraver needs to have a steady hand and sharp eyes.

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On the other hand, modern headstone engravers also need to be technologically savvy. Even though some tombstone engravers proudly use traditional carving techniques, others use computers or high-tech machines to engrave the stone. 

Finally, a headstone designer must be skillful enough to work with families who may not agree on a design or aren’t sure what they want. Since most people know nothing about headstones, the designers must patiently explain all the choices available and learn enough about the deceased to create a meaningful tribute.

After you realize all the costs and skills involved in making a beautiful headstone, it should not be surprising to learn how much headstones cost. Let’s learn more about this industry and how much time it takes to get a gravestone installed for your loved one. 

How Long Does It Take for a Headstone to Be Made and Installed? 

Most headstone companies with an online presence say they can complete the engraving and installation of a headstone within two or three months. With this said, the amount of time is dependent upon a lot of factors. 

First, the amount of time depends upon the popularity of the headstone company. A craftsperson who hand carves intricate headstones may be booked for years. If you hire a company that uses modern methods of engraving, you may not have to wait as long.

Second, you may have to wait longer for a larger headstone with a customized design. While some families are content to choose an image from the company’s website, others may want a more complex or unique image on their loved one’s stones. This artistry takes skill and time.

Next, besides considering the design that will be engraved on the stone, you also have to consider the shape of the stone itself. Before the stone can be engraved, it needs to be prepared and shaped for the process. Do you want a unique headstone in the shape of a beloved mountain range? Then that is going to take more time. Picking a stone that is already shaped and prepared for engraving will speed up the process.

Also, the weather can play a factor in the installation of a headstone. If you live in a climate with a lot of snow and rain, your installer may need to wait a long time for perfect conditions before the work can be completed. 

The cemetery rules may play a factor in how long you have to wait for a gravestone to be placed. Some cemeteries guidelines state that upright stones can only be installed after the ground settles for six months. Other cemeteries ask that installers place a ground-level stone after waiting six weeks. Some cemeteries do not have such rules and may use a tamper to level the ground in preparation.

Finally, one of the most important reasons that the installation of a headstone may be delayed is because of the family. Some families struggle with the design of their loved one’s headstone. They may argue about the design or how much to spend on the stone. They may argue about the headstone’s sayings or quotes. Even if a single person is the ultimate decision-maker, they may struggle to make choices while in a fog of grief. 

As you can see, making a blanket statement that says how long it takes to install a headstone is difficult since there are so many factors to consider. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

How Long Does It Take to Touch Up or Change the Engravings?

Some headline engraver’s websites say to expect a 60-day wait for touch-up work to be completed. Of course, the amount of time you will have to wait is challenging to determine because it depends on various factors.

Touching up or adding dates to a headstone is an extremely weather-dependent process. In most cases, the work is done outside, so it cannot be completed if the stone is wet or cold. In some areas of the country, the family of a person who died in October may have to wait until May or June to have the death date added to the headstone.

It takes a great deal of time and skill to touch up or add to the engraving of a stone that is already in place. The style of lettering needs to match what is already on the stone, which the current company may or may not have completed. Matching the technique is also a problem, since the previous engraver’s skill may not be equivalent to the one hired for the job. 

Finally, the length of time you need to wait depends upon the engraver’s workload and how far they need to travel to complete the work. They may first need to visit the site before determining the best method to complete the job. 

Can I Speed Up the Headstone Delivery or Installation Process?

There may be several reasons that you wish to have a headstone installed quickly.

Perhaps, family members who are in the area tying up loose ends may like to see the headstone installed before returning home. They may ask for a rush job so they can check this item off their to-do list before going home.

Maybe a terminally ill person would like to see their headstone before death. They may want to see their design come to fruition and be running out of time.

Some people find funeral planning to be an agonizing process. They feel like a wound is opened each time another decision has to be made. They may want to complete all of their hard choices as quickly as possible so that they can focus on acceptance and healing.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, here are some tips on how to speed up the headstone delivery and installation process.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

Visit the cemetery first

Before you visit with a headstone engraver, make sure you have purchased a plot in a cemetery. Many cemeteries have precise rules regarding the types of headstones that can be installed. Bring those specs to the headstone engraver. 

The designer needs to know whether upright or flat stones are preferred. Some cemeteries also have a preference regarding the color and style of the headstone, which may vary from section to section. 

Having these specifications in hand with you when you visit the engraver will speed up the process.

Research types of headstones

Once you know what types of headstones are required in a cemetery, you can deliberate on what style headstone you want. Learn about the best stones for monuments in your area. Visit a cemetery to see what kinds of headstones appeal to you. Look online for examples as well.

Being somewhat knowledgeable about the engraving process may speed up your discussion with the engraver.

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

Consider design and wording before visiting the engraver

Even though you certainly want to seek the assistance of a professional designer, it is a good idea to have general ideas before visiting the engraver. If time is of the essence, you may want to choose stock images instead of customized ones.

Shop around

Some cemetery staff members may make you feel as if you need to purchase a headstone through them. This is not the case. You can buy headstones from other businesses located anywhere in the world. 

If you are in a hurry to have the process completed, talk with several different companies. Explain your situation and ask for an approximate delivery date. If none of the companies can comply with your needs, ask if you can pay extra for a rush job. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Other Things to Consider

Even though this article focuses on the length of time it takes to have a headstone installed, don’t feel pressured to make decisions soon after your loved one’s death. Sometimes the choices you make during highly emotional moments might lead to regret later.  

If you have the time, let things settle down a bit before making decisions. Besides reflecting on the perfect headstone design for the one you love, you may also need to wait for final bills to come in to see how much money is available for the purchase of a headstone. 

If you're looking for more resources on buying a headstone, read our guides on cremation monuments and headstone design ideas.

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