Urn Vaults Explained: Purpose, Cost & If You Need One

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There are some aspects of funeral planning that people may not know much about, and one of those subjects is the cremation process. When their loved one dies, they may feel as if they are at the mercy of the funeral director because they don’t know what is required to buy or how much it should cost. 

If your loved one wished to be cremated and have their remains buried, the funeral director or cemetery superintendent may add a line item to your bill that you never considered: an urn vault.

Jump ahead to these sections:

First off, what is an urn vault? Below, we explain what an urn vault is, discuss its purpose, and the approximate cost. Afterward, you can decide if it is a necessary purchase for you and your deceased loved one.

What’s an Urn Vault?

An urn vault is a sturdy container that is buried in a cemetery plot. Once it is in the ground, the urn with ashes or cremated remains is placed inside. The vault is closed, and then the soil is placed on top. 

If you have never planned a funeral or paid little attention to the graveside services you have attended, you may not know that caskets are placed in burial vaults as well. If the family chose a traditional (full-body) burial, more than likely, the casket was lowered into a vault structure that was buried prior to the service. The vault is closed over the casket before the soil is placed on top. 

A burial vault serves several purposes.

Some people are uncomfortable thinking about their loved one’s physical remains being exposed to the natural elements. A vault gives an added layer of protection between the soil and the ashes or body.

Others embrace the idea of having physical remains become part of the earth. They may like the idea of “natural burials,” and feel a strong connection with Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself as he talks to the grass wondering, “It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps.” These individuals may wish not to have an outer burial container because they view the body as “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

This leads us to the second purpose of an urn vault.

Even if you like the idea of burial without a vault, the cemetery staff may not allow it. Burial vaults and urn vaults are required by cemeteries because, without them, the ground may be more likely to cave in at burial spots when the casket or urn collapses. The second purpose of the urn vault is to keep the cemetery attractive and safe for those visiting or working on the grounds with heavy equipment.

Now that you have a general idea of what an urn vault is and its purpose, let’s answer some additional questions. 

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Are Urn Vaults Waterproof?

Urn vaults are designed to be waterproof. The lid fits snugly to the vault, and adhesive is typically used to seal the lid to the bottom. Some urn vault companies offer a 50 to 75-year warranty for their products.

Are There Different Types of Urn Vaults?

Urn vaults vary based on the composition material, size, and design. 

Some urn vaults are made from high-strength concrete and reinforced with a bronze, copper, stainless steel, or high-impact plastic lining. Others are made with durable polymer plastic. Regardless of the material used, the lids are usually sealed with adhesive.

Just as urns vary in size, so do urn vaults. If you are placing an urn inside the vault, make sure the vault is large enough to accommodate the urn you chose.

Some urn vaults are designed to be utilitarian structures that keep the ground from collapsing at the place of burial. Other urn vaults are extremely decorative and personalized. You can also purchase an urn vault with two compartments.

When choosing an urn vault, here are some things to consider:

  • Many urn vaults are designed to hold boxes of cremated remains. Typically, the crematorium staff will place your loved one’s cremated remains inside a durable plastic bag. The bag will then be placed inside a sturdy cardboard box. This box can be placed directly inside an urn vault.
  • A decorative urn can be placed inside an urn vault. Make sure the urn vault is big enough to hold the urn you chose. Some choose to place additional memorial items inside the urn vault next to the urn.
  • Remains can be placed directly inside of the urn vault without an accompanying urn. You can keep the cremated remains inside the plastic bag that you received from the crematorium.
  • Some urns do not require the purchase of an urn vault. They are referred to as “burial urns,” and are typically made from metal, granite, marble, onyx, or durable resin. Burial urns can be personalized before burial.

How Much Do Urn Vaults Cost?

Burial urns range from $100 to $500. Lower-priced urns are typically made from a high-impact polymer material and are not decorative or personalized. Burial urns, or those made of granite, marble, or other decorative material, are typically at the higher end of the price range.

If you are planning a funeral on a budget, the least expensive option is to place the remains directly inside a low-priced urn vault. If you wish to have an urn for display at the memorial service, you could purchase a decorative urn for around $100 and buy a low-priced urn vault for another $100. 

How Do You Know If You Need to Purchase an Urn Vault?

The cemetery staff or funeral director will tell you whether you need to purchase an urn vault. Urn vaults are commonly required in most modern cemeteries. If you wish to bury your loved one’s cremated remains without an urn vault, ask if you can place the ashes directly into the earth. 

You can also search for a natural cemetery in your area. Although there are many types of natural cemeteries, some require biodegradable caskets or urns for burial.

What Sizes Do Urn Vaults Come In?

Urns come in a variety of sizes, but they tend to measure around 15 inches by 15 inches by 18 inches. As you shop for an urn, look for a diagram showing the container’s interior measurements. This will tell you whether the urn you purchased will fit inside the urn vault.

Where Can You Buy an Urn Vault Online?

If you are purchasing an urn vault for no other purpose than that it is required by the cemetery, you might leave the purchase of the urn vault to the cemetery staff. Ask the price of the urn vault to see if it is in line with the prices online.

If you plan to buy the urn on your own, make sure you buy one that will fit inside the urn vault they provide. As mentioned before, urns can come in a variety of shapes and styles. 

If you like the idea of purchasing a burial urn (that does not require a burial vault) for your loved one, communicate this desire with the cemetery staff. They may ask to see the specs for the urn before they allow it to be buried without a vault.

Here are some online stores that offer urn vaults and burial urns. Before you go through with your purchase, make sure that the urn vault can be delivered well before you need the item. Also, keep in mind that personalized burial vaults can’t be returned in most cases. 

Wilbert

Wilbert urn vaults come in three categories: premium, standard, and basic protection. Most of the urn vaults are highly decorative, but they sell a clear urn vault as well.

Mainely Urns and Memorials

The urn vaults sold by this online company are typically utilitarian instead of decorative, but they do have one urn vault that allows you to add a photo of your loved one on the lid.

Trigard

Trigard urn vaults are made in the United States and come in a variety of options, styles, and colors. Unfortunately, you can’t purchase directly from the company website, but the website provides assistance with finding a Trigard dealer in your area. 

Perfect Memorials

Perfect Memorials offers burial urns and urn vaults. Their products can be personalized.

Funeral Direct

Funeral Direct offers one type of urn vault, but it can be personalized and comes in a variety of colors.

Amazon

Are you surprised that Amazon sells urn vaults? You shouldn’t be. Companies that sell urn vaults often create Amazon stores to widen their reach.

Benefits of Burying Cremated Remains

Even though you might not have known that you need to purchase an urn vault to bury your loved one’s cremated remains, there are benefits to choosing cemetery burial.

The Catholic church allows cremation, but only if the remains are placed in a Catholic burial plot or columbarium niche. If your loved one was Catholic, this is important to consider when determining what to do with their cremated remains.

Most people place a headstone at the site of burial. This gives people a place to go to reflect on the life of the deceased. In addition, it may give you a sense of peace to leave flowers at the burial site on special days throughout the year. A headstone also provides people with a permanent record of the life of your loved one.

Finally, some people feel comforted knowing that the cremated remains of their loved ones have a permanent home instead of being tucked away in a closet waiting for the next generation to consider.

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