How to Select a Casket - Funeral Basics (2024)

If you decide on a traditional burial for you or your loved one, the next important decision that you will need to make is determining the type of casket. Before purchasing, do some research on various types of caskets and the costs associated with them. Below is a basic outline regarding the process of selecting and purchasing a casket.

Casket or Coffin?

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Before examining the different caskets available, we need to make sure that we know exactly what we are referring to when we use the term. While the word casket is often used interchangeably with coffin, there is an important difference between the two terms: a coffin is hexagonal or octagonal, while the casket is rectangular. Also, a casket often contains a split lid for the purpose of viewing the body, while a coffin does not. The two pictures above illustrate these differences. Caskets are more popular in the U.S., while coffins have a long tradition of popularity in the U.K.


Caskets are generally made of wood or metal. The following are materials commonly used in their construction.


  • High-cost materials: Mahogany, Walnut, and Cherry
  • Medium-cost materials: Oak, Birch, and Maple
  • Low-cost materials: Pine, Poplar, and Willow


  • Standard Steel: Least expensive type of metal casket available. Available in 20-gauge, 18-gauge, and 16-gauge. The term “gauge” refers to the thickness of the metal. The lower the gauge, the thicker the material.
  • Stainless Steel: More durable than standard steel and a little more expensive. Available in the same gauges as standard steel.
  • Copper and Bronze: Have rust-resistant properties that steel lacks. While they do not technically rust, they will eventually oxidize and break down in a manner similar to rusting. Durable, high quality metals, but far more expensive than steel. Unlike steel caskets, they are measured by weight instead of gauge.


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If you want to go green, environmentally-friendly options are also available. Wicker caskets made from bamboo, willow, or sea grass are popular choices. You can also choose a cardboard casket, which is easy to decorate with a digitally-printed design. Burial shrouds made of wool, cotton, linen, and silk are also worth looking into. If you want to be environmentally conscious but desire a traditional wooden coffin, consider a coffin made from sustainably-sourced wood.

Alternative Containers, Cremation Caskets, and Rental Caskets

If you opt for cremation, you will probably still want to decide on a casket or container to use. A cremation casket is a wooden casket that may be cremated with the body after the service. An alternative container, generally made of wood, cardboard, or fiberboard, is a cheaper option. If you want a ceremonial casket at the funeral, most funeral homes offer a rental casket for the service, which isn’t as weird as it sounds. Rental caskets are crafted to include an insert for the cremation container, so the cremation casket is placed inside the ceremonial casket for the service. After the service, the cremation container is removed for cremation, offering the best of both worlds.

Gasketed and Non-Gasketed

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You may have heard people refer to certain metal caskets as “gasketed.” A gasketed casket, also known as a protective casket, is sealed with a rubber gasket to keep the elements from entering the casket. While this seal will protect the casket for a long time, it will not preserve it indefinitely. It simply delays the natural process of decomposition.

Purchasing the Casket

You may want to visit your local funeral home to browse the selection in person. If you do, know that your funeral director is required by law to show you a list of the caskets available before showing you the caskets. Make sure to ask to see a variety of caskets in different price ranges. Some customers buy the first caskets they see and don’t review all the options. Don’t rush through the process of buying the casket. Get the full picture, explore all of the available options, and ask your funeral director if you have any questions. Remember that the funeral director is there to help, and his or her experience can be very useful.

Burial Vault or Grave Liners

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Grave liners and burial vaults are outer burial containers that play an important structural role in maintaining the level of the ground in a cemetery. Over time, caskets deteriorate, weighed down by six feet of earth and the heavy machinery used to dig graves. When this happens, the ground sinks, leaving an uneven landscape in the cemetery. To avoid this, caskets are usually placed in solid structures that can bear the weight of the earth, helping to maintain the structure of the cemetery grounds. The grave liner or burial vault holds the casket solely for this purpose. Though not required by law, most cemeteries require the use of a burial vault or grave liner. However, green cemeteries and nature preserves generally do not. Do some research into the cemetery that you are considering if you do not wish to have an outer burial container.


Caskets are one of the more expensive elements of the funeral and burial process. It’s important to make sure that you know what you want before purchasing. Do some research and visit your local funeral home to ask questions before buying. Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal so that you can make an informed choice that is fitting for the burial you want for yourself or a loved one.

How to Select a Casket - Funeral Basics (2024)


How to Select a Casket - Funeral Basics? ›

Consider the preferences of your loved one and the significance of the material to them. For instance, if they had a fondness for nature, a wooden casket might be a suitable choice. Additionally, pay attention to the construction and craftsmanship of the casket to ensure it is sturdy and well-made.

How do you pick a good casket? ›

Consider the preferences of your loved one and the significance of the material to them. For instance, if they had a fondness for nature, a wooden casket might be a suitable choice. Additionally, pay attention to the construction and craftsmanship of the casket to ensure it is sturdy and well-made.

What is the most popular choice of casket? ›

There are two primary materials, metal, and wood, and they offer different aesthetics and benefits. Wood is often the popular choice because it offers a more natural look. It's also diverse and comes in many different species, from mahogany to pine.

What is the criteria for a casket? ›

Casket Measurement Guidelines

A casket needs to fit into a standard burial vault. A standard burial vault is 30 inches wide and 84 or more inches long with at least 24 inches of depth. For safe clearance, your casket should be no more than 29 1/2 inches wide.

What is the best coffin for a funeral? ›

Metal Caskets – Durability & Sophistication

They offer a sleek, refined look and are often chosen for their ability to withstand the elements better than wood. With this being said, it's important to note that metal caskets are not suitable for cremation and can only be used for burials.

What to look for in a coffin? ›

5 Things To Keep In Mind Before Buying A Coffin For Your Loved Ones
  • The type of coffin. There are various types of coffins that you can choose from today. ...
  • The size of the coffin. Coffins also come in different sizes. ...
  • The need for any customizations. You may choose to buy a coffin as it is. ...
  • The customer reviews. ...
  • Your budget.
Nov 28, 2022

What type of casket lasts the longest? ›

Metal caskets appeal to many people because of the wide variety of styles, designs and colors available. Bronze, a semi-precious material alloy, is the strongest and longest-lasting of any casket construction material.

Do you carry a casket head first or feet first? ›

It is important to remember that, when carrying a coffin or casket, the person inside is always carried feet first – the only exception is a vicar, who is carried head first to face their congregation. Coffins are carried feet first simply because of health and safety, rather than any kind of ceremonial tradition.

What's the difference between a coffin and a casket? ›

Coffins have six sides. They are tapered at the head and feet, and they are wider at the shoulders. Caskets are rectangular in shape and have four sides. In addition, they have long rails along the sides to make transportation by pallbearers easier.

What color is best for casket? ›

White is a popular color best suited for open-minded people who are always eager to share with the world. Blue is a versatile color, representing trust, loyalty, honesty, and responsibility. If a person used to be friendly or exhibited confidence, burying them in a blue casket is a perfect choice.

What is the coffin rule? ›

Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere. The funeral provider cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought online, at a local casket store, or somewhere else — or charge you a fee to do it. The funeral home cannot require you to be there when the casket or urn is delivered to them.

Why are caskets locked before burial? ›

People have always tried to protect the body of the deceased for a long time. It's an attempt to care for it even after death. Caskets, be they of metal or wood, are sealed so that they protect the body. The sealing will keep the elements, air, and moisture from getting inside the coffin.

Can you be buried in a casket without being embalmed? ›

The short answer is that embalming is not required by law (in fact, the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Law forbids any funeral home from stating the contrary)...

How much should I pay for a coffin? ›

Coffin cost

Around $1,000 to $2,000, typically from alternative funeral homes or as a build-your-own kit.

How do I choose a casket? ›

Here are some things to think about:
  1. Types of Caskets. Caskets come in two types of materials — wood and metal. ...
  2. Features on Caskets. ...
  3. Casket Cost. ...
  4. Consider Your Loved One's Wishes. ...
  5. Set a Budget. ...
  6. Research the Types of Caskets and Features. ...
  7. Choose a Trustworthy Provider. ...
  8. Share:

What is the best way to buy a casket? ›

The most convenient place to buy a casket is from a funeral home. It might cost you some money, but many people still do that, even if the price is much higher. Funeral homes will show you the options since you might not have and will and energy to look around.

What is the best kind of casket to buy? ›

Although wood caskets have always been some of the best caskets available, metal caskets have also turned into a great option for families over the years. Bronze caskets and copper caskets, in particular, have risen in popularity. Both of these kinds of caskets look amazing and are also known for their durability.

Which type of casket should never be cremated? ›

If the cremation will take place after a traditional funeral service, you may purchase a casket for the service that can serve as the cremation container. A casket that will be cremated cannot have any metal parts, so the casket must be all wood, cloth-covered wood, or an alternative material (bamboo, wicker, etc.).

How many years does a casket last in the ground? ›

It is costly but some families are not concerned with cost. Depending on the wood used or if it is a metal casket they can last for many many years. Some can last as long as 50 years depending on the materials the casket is made of and the type of soil it is buried in.

How much weight can a normal casket hold? ›

Standard caskets usually weigh 160 to 220 lbs, depending on the material. They can carry a body that weighs up to 300 lbs (136 kg). Oversized caskets typically weigh 220 to 280 lbs (100 to 113 kg) and have a weight capacity of around 500 lbs.

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