Traditional funeral services are associated with caskets. They’re the boxes that hold the body of the deceased before burial or cremation. These items are also a big-ticket item when it comes to funeral costs.
Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about selecting the right casket, which is an important (and costly) part of funeral planning.
Casket vs. Coffin
You may hear a casket referred to as a coffin. Since they serve the same purpose, both terms may be used interchangeably. There are, however, specific differences between the two. A coffin has six or eight sides, compared to a four-sided rectangular casket. The distinct hexagonal/octagonal shape of a coffin is designed to be wider at the top (to fit the shoulders) and narrower at the bottom, where the feet lay.
Some coffins feature a glass front with a window to view the deceased, whereas caskets are designed with split lids that can be opened during the visitation per the bereaved family’s wishes.
Coffins are often cheaper than caskets because their design uses less material during construction. Caskets are more popular with Americans, as these are often the focal point during funeral services and graveside ceremonies.
Types of Caskets
Caskets are made of a variety of materials, with metal and wood being the most common. Natural, environmentally friendly materials such as cork, bamboo, and banana leaf can also be used to make them.
Bronze, copper, or stainless steel are commonly used to make metal caskets. Because of their non-rusting properties and long-lasting durability, bronze and copper caskets are typically higher-end products.
Steel caskets are just as durable as wood caskets, but they’re less expensive and easier to come by. Gauge, which refers to the thickness of the steel, is frequently used to categorise them. The thicker the metal, the lower the gauge (for example, a 16-gauge steel casket is thicker and more expensive than a 20-gauge model).
Metal caskets are available in a variety of painted finishes, as well as gold plating. A rubber gasket is also included with some metal caskets, which is wrapped around the lid and the box’s base. This “gasketing” feature keeps outside elements out of the casket and is frequently marketed as a protective feature to keep the deceased’s body safe. Caskets that are described as “gasketed” or “sealed” do not prevent decomposition and are not required by law, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule.
Solid hardwood or furniture-grade wood veneer are used to make wooden caskets. The wood used varies, and it could be oak, maple, poplar, pine, mahogany, walnut, and other species.
Although hardwood caskets are more expensive than softwood caskets, all wood caskets are available in a variety of finishes, including high gloss polish, satin, and cloth-covered. Some families prefer a “plain natural finish” on a “simple pine box” (no stain or varnish).
Before being placed in the cremation chamber, cremation caskets are used to hold the deceased’s remains. A cremation casket can be made of wood, natural materials such as wicker, particleboard, or cardboard (cardboard boxes are commonly referred to as “alternative containers”).
For the cremation process, families can choose any casket they want as long as it is rigid, leak-proof, combustible, non-toxic, and free of metal parts.
Caskets made out of natural, biodegradable materials are becoming more popular with the growth of green funerals. “Green” caskets use a variety of renewable and/or recyclable materials including bamboo, cardboard, organic cotton, and willow, and don’t feature metal parts or chemical paints/veneers.
Some funeral homes carry biodegradable caskets but can also be purchased from online retailers. Prices are usually cheaper if you buy online, but shipping fees can add a significant amount to the bottom line.
With the rise of green funerals, caskets made of natural, biodegradable materials are becoming more popular. Metal parts and chemical paints/veneers are not used in “green” caskets, which are made of a variety of renewable and/or recyclable materials such as bamboo, cardboard, organic cotton, and willow.
Biodegradable caskets are available at some funeral homes, but they can also be purchased from online retailers. When you buy something online, the price is usually lower, but shipping costs can add up quickly.
You can make your own casket out of low-cost materials. There are some DIY casket kits available online or in bookshops, each with detailed instructions on how to construct a casket from the ground up. Depending on your skill level, building a casket can help you save money on funeral costs. These are also wonderful ways to pay tribute to a loved one with a one-of-a-kind, personalised tribute.
Almost all caskets come with a variety of decorative and functional features that can be placed both inside and outside the casket, depending on personal preferences.
- Interior Linings – Casket linings are composed of fabric sewn into the interior of the box. Most linings are made out of polyester (including the crêpe designs in many modern caskets), but velvet, silk, and satin fabrics are also popular. Interior linings can be customized with panels that reflect the deceased’s personality (e.g. camouflage, military, sports teams)
- Shell Design – Casket exteriors can be wrapped in high-quality images to make them truly unique, or moulded into distinct shapes that celebrate the life of the deceased (e.g., in Ghana, eccentric caskets are the societal norm).
- Casket Lids – Casket lids come in two types – half couch and full couch. Half couch lids come in two pieces to allow the deceased’s upper body to be displayed during viewing or visitation. A full couch lid allows for the entire body to be viewed in the event of an open-casket funeral.
- Memory Tube – Some caskets feature a leak-proof compartment in the lid that holds identification information. The memory tube is very useful in identifying remains without reopening the lid in the event the casket is ever disentombed.
- Exterior Features – These include handles, personalised casket “corners,” ornamental medallions, and more.
Like any consumer product, caskets come in a range of prices. The total cost of a casket depends on the material used, plus the addition of customized features.
To find the perfect casket that fits your budget, shop around and compare prices before you need to make an actual purchase. Planning a funeral in advance is one of the best ways to get a good deal on caskets, and planning ahead allows you to fully understand funeral costs and find the best deal.
Casket prices generally fall in the following ranges:
- Metal caskets – from £800 (20 gauge steel caskets) to £15,000 (bronze with 14K gold-plated hardware). Some high-end bronze and copper caskets sell for £30,000.
- Wooden caskets – from £600 to £10,000. Top-quality mahogany caskets can cost well over £16,000.
- Rental caskets – £500, to £1,500.
Casket size is also integral to the overall price, as standard exterior dimensions are generally 28” wide x 89” long x 24” tall (with interior specifications of 24” wide x 79” long). Oversized caskets have interior dimensions of 27-30” wide.
Paying for a Funeral Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult
In addition to paying for funeral and burial expenses, purchasing a casket can be an expensive and unexpected burden. Contact us for helpful advice and tips on all aspects of covering the financial aspects of a funeral. Contact Us