Some people buy a casket the same way they would purchase a dishwasher. They survey all the different types, styles, and features and look at local and online vendors. They may even search for sale caskets or scratched-up models so that they can save an extra few bucks on the purchase.
If you look at purchasing a casket this way, here is a guide for you. Let’s discuss the different types of materials used in the construction of a casket. We will review high-end materials as well as caskets used for a cremated body.
What are caskets made out of? There are many different types of caskets, especially if you consider all the different kinds of wood used to construct a casket. Here are some of the most popular.
1. Steel Metal Caskets
Steel metal caskets are very common. They come in a wide variety of colors and finishes. You can personalize some aspects, from the finish of the hardware to the interior color.
Steel metal caskets (and caskets made from all materials) come in half-couch or full-couch designs. Half-couch lids include a split in the middle, so only the top half can be opened. Families choose this style for open-casket visitations. Full-couch lids are not split and often used for funerals where an open-casket viewing does not occur.
Many people choose steel metal caskets because of their durability — rated by the thickness of the material, which is measured by its gauge. A 16-gauge casket is more durable than an 18-gauge casket, so a 16-gauge casket is usually more expensive.
You can also purchase metal caskets with a rubber gasket or seal. This gasket may reduce the amount of water that will seep into the casket, but no product is completely airtight. (You can learn more about gasketed or "sealed" caskets here.)
Metal caskets sometimes also come with small drawers that allow the burial of the deceased with a particular item.
Even though casket prices vary widely, the average cost of a metal casket is around $2,000.
2. Copper, Bronze, or Gold Casket
Copper, bronze, or gold caskets are typically expensive and may cost more than $5,000, up to the tens of thousands. Instead of being measured by the material’s thickness (or gauge), they're measured by the weight of the material per square foot. A typical copper casket weighs 32 or 48 ounces per square foot.
You can purchase these with or without a rubber gasket or seal and personalization options.
Tip: If you want the copper, gold, or bronze look without the price tag, you can buy a steel casket with the metallic finish of your choice. For example, here's a bronze-finished casket that's actually made of steel.
3. Stainless Steel Metal Caskets
Stainless steel metal caskets are also highly durable. The stainless steel exterior may be covered with a wood veneer so it still has the same wood casket look.
Stainless steel caskets do not corrode as easily as standard steel caskets. This means that stainless steel caskets tend to be more expensive than those made of standard steel.
4. Mahogany, Walnut, and Cherry Caskets
You can purchase solid wood caskets made from mahogany, walnut, and cherry. These woods tend to be the most expensive, although the price varies widely.
Wood caskets have a more traditional look since all coffins were initially made from this material. Even though wood caskets will break down, the amount of time it takes to decompose varies greatly depending upon the conditions of where the casket is placed. Mahogany, walnut, and cherry caskets are some of the slowest woods to decompose in normal conditions. Caskets made of this type of wood also tend to be the heaviest type of casket.
Wood caskets made from artisans may also be expensive, depending upon how intricate the design.
5. Oak, Birch, and Maple Caskets
Looking for a medium-range wood casket? You may want one made of either oak, birch, or maple.
These materials also tend to be lighter than mahogany, walnut, and cherry. Consider the casket’s weight if the pallbearers are required to carry the coffin and the body a great distance.
6. Pine, Poplar, and Willow Caskets
The lightest (and usually least expensive) type of wood caskets is generally made from pine, poplar, or willow.
Some people consider these as eco-friendly caskets, especially if the wood is untreated and natural materials are used for hinges and handles.
You can also buy "toned" poplar caskets, which are treated to look like more expensive woods such as mahogany or cherry.
7. Veneer Casket
If you prefer the look of wood but don’t want to purchase a more expensive, heavy hardwood casket, you may choose a veneer casket.
A veneer is a very thin sheet of real wood placed over less expensive material, such as fiberboard or pressed wood.
8. Laminate Casket
Another cheaper option to hardwood is laminate caskets. Laminate caskets usually have the look of real wood but are created with plastic and bonded to a composite base.
Laminate caskets do not feel the same as real wood, but since most people only look at caskets, the feel is not necessarily considered.
9. Cloth-Covered Fiberboard or Pressed Wood Casket
One of the least expensive casket materials is fiberboard or pressed wood, covered with sturdy, cloth-like material.
Besides being extremely affordable, this type of casket comes in various colors and styles.
10. Wicker, Seagrass, and Bamboo Caskets
More people are choosing caskets based on how quickly they will break down. Caskets marketed as eco-friendly options include those made from seagrass or bamboo. You could also purchase a wicker casket, which can be made from various materials such as willow. Most of the time, these options are made without metal hinges or handles.
If you are interested in having an eco-friendly burial for yourself or your loved one, make sure you educate yourself on what this means. Some eco-friendly cemeteries will not bury embalmed bodies and may not allow synthetic flowers or decorations placed at the gravesite.
11. Kosher Caskets
It’s worth noting that some Orthodox Jews choose to be buried in kosher caskets when planning ahead for their funerals. Kosher caskets avoid sabbath-day manufacturing. They must wood, even though the wood may be stained or unstained, polished, or unpolished, and no metal or plastic materials used in the construction of the casket.
Even though kosher caskets are similar to eco-friendly coffins, they can be made with treated wood while eco-friendly materials are usually untreated.
12. Eco-Friendly Caskets
We have already discussed green choices when making your casket selection. Still, since this category has grown in popularity, whole industries have developed that have researched green/biodegradable caskets. Some caskets are made with materials that encourage rapid breakdown.
Make sure you choose a cemetery that will be able to fulfill your wishes. Many cemeteries still require caskets placed in an underground cement vault. If this is not your desire, you may need to find a green cemetery near you.
13. Cardboard Caskets
Cardboard caskets are not always used for burial. They're often used for burial alternatives, namely cremation.
Before bodies are cremated, professionals remove all metal fillings and medical devices. Bodies get put in a sturdy cardboard casket before being placed in the crematorium.
However, you can also use a cardboard casket as an inexpensive and eco-friendly burial option.
Other Things to Consider When Purchasing a Casket
There are other factors to consider when choosing a casket besides the type of material.
Consider the funeral arrangements when choosing a casket. An open-casket visitation may require a half-couch casket. If the casket is not opened during the services, you can purchase a full-couch casket.
Also, consider whether the weight of the casket is important. If the casket will be buried on private property or must travel across uneven ground, you may consider purchasing a casket made from a lighter material.
Finally, keep in mind that burial with a casket isn't your only option. If you choose cremation instead, your remains could be transformed into a real diamond with a service like Eterneva, or into beautiful stones with Parting Stone.
Even though no one likes thinking about prices when they are mourning the loss of a loved one, a casket’s cost should be considered. Some families make decisions based on emotions rather than the economic reality of the situation. This is easy to do during difficult times.
As you can see, there are many different types of caskets available in the marketplace. Make it easy for your family members—choose your casket before you need it.