6 Popular Types of Above Ground Burials


Are you trying to make that all-important decision about where to bury your deceased loved one? Maybe you don’t like the idea of burying your loved one underground.

Perhaps you feel that traditional burials aren’t eco-friendly, and you’d prefer a green burial option.

Jump ahead to these sections: 

  1. Family-Owned Mausoleum
  2. Cemetery-Owned Mausoleum
  3. Sarcophagus
  4. Columbarium
  5. Garden Walls
  6. Scattering Garden

As you think about your or your loved one’s final resting place, you may be comforted to know that you have several above-ground burial options available to you. 

Use this information when you seek funeral quotes from businesses in your local area. It’s also worth noting that the term “above-ground burial” is often referred to as entombment in the industry.  

1. Family-Owned Mausoleum 

Family-owned mausoleums are one option — and there are definite benefits to having a family-owned mausoleum. It’s comforting to know that your final resting place will be near other family members.

Small mausoleums that hold one or two remains can cost $25,000 to $50,000 to construct. Mausoleums that contain multiple members of the family may cost $200,000 or more. You also need to pay to place your structure within a cemetery, and that real estate can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The benefit comes in here: Once the initial expense is taken care of, the subsequent family members only need to pay a nominal fee to reopen the crypt when other family members die. 

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

2. Cemetery-Owned Mausoleum

Most families can’t afford to construct a mausoleum that costs the same as a small home. Instead, you can plan to be entombed in a public mausoleum. 

There are two primary varieties of public mausoleums. 

Indoor mausoleums

Indoor mausoleums are indoor structures that allow mourners to view a wall of sealed crypts. Each crypt is labeled with a small plaque inscribed with the deceased’s name, as well as the birth and death dates. Indoor mausoleums are usually quiet, peaceful places to visit. Many have benches for visitors to sit on. Some have soft music playing in the background. 

The average price of entombing a loved one in a public mausoleum is $4,000. Some can be as low as $2,000 or as high as $40,000. The area and the placement of the crypt determine the cost — the higher the vault, the lower the price. 

Garden mausoleums

Garden mausoleums are a more affordable option for entombment. Garden mausoleums do not have an indoor space for survivors to visit. The vaults open to the outside, and mourners can visit the crypt as they would visit a headstone at a cemetery. 

Both indoor and garden mausoleums have similar costs. You have to pay for the crypt space and must pay to have the crypt opened and then subsequently sealed when the casket is placed inside.  

Both indoor mausoleums and garden mausoleums may also offer options to have ample space for multiple caskets. Some allow you to purchase one crypt to hold two coffins. The placement of the casket depends on the design of the mausoleum. 

Regardless of the type, you will find many mausoleums in the famous cemeteries in New Orleans. Residents have few other options when their city is built below sea level. 

3. Sarcophagus

You are more likely to see a sarcophagus in a museum in the United States than most cemeteries. 

A sarcophagus is a stone-carved casket meant to hold a corpse. They were used in Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. They were usually highly decorated and are now considered works of art.

Most sarcophagi in modern times are false. Even though the structure looks the right size and shape to hold the remains of a body, they are actually placed over a buried casket. This type of memorial was popular in the northeastern part of the United States at the end of the 1800s. This trend ended in the 1950s when flat headstones became popular because of the ease of ground maintenance. 

You may struggle to find a real or false sarcophagus for sale in the United States. If you find one, know that placing it in a public cemetery can be very expensive. One cemetery in New York state charges $220,000 for a 378 square foot area to place the monument. 

Another website offers mummification services for $67,000. This company cautions that the price of a sarcophagus ranges from tens of thousands to over $100,000.

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

4. Columbarium

A columbarium is similar to a mausoleum. Instead of holding full-sized caskets, a columbarium holds urns, which contain the cremated remains of your loved one. 

A columbarium niche that's usually around nine square feet costs around $700. A larger niche that holds multiple urns is around $3,000. The cost of the container isn't included. You’ll have to pay to have the niche open and subsequently resealed.

Some columbarium niches are built within an indoor mausoleum. Others are built onto the interior side of a religious building’s wall. The spaces are marked with engraved labels.

You may also find columbarium niches built into the basement of a building. One example of this type of entombment is in Sacred Stones in England.

While columbaria can be made with a wide variety of materials, the latest trend is that the niche is constructed with a glass door. Inside, you can see the urn holding the remains of the loved one. Also, people have been known to place other mementos that were important to the deceased.

5. Garden Walls

Just as there are indoor mausoleums and garden mausoleums, there are outdoor versions of columbarium niches, too. These are called garden walls. Visitors to garden wall niches are exposed to outdoor elements, just as those who visit a cemetery.

Most garden walls are placed along a decorated walkway. These paths often have benches so visitors can sit and quietly reflect or pray.

Garden wall pricing varies greatly upon the location of the wall and the amenities offered to visitors. Plan to spend thousands of dollars on a single space in a garden wall.

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

6. Scattering Garden

Some cemeteries now offer scattering gardens. These gardens are available for survivors to scatter the remains of their loved ones. Some choose to place the remains in a scattering garden because it provides a place where family members can visit in the future to reflect on the life of their loved one. 

Some scattering gardens allow family members to add their loved one’s name to a plaque or wall as well.

Choose What’s Best for You or a Loved One

There are many benefits to above-ground entombment rather than burial or cremation. Go through the paperwork your loved one left behind. You may be surprised to find that your loved one already purchased a cemetery plot or crypt in a mausoleum.

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