Frequently Asked Questions About Monuments, Headstones, Tombstones, Gravestones, and Memorials
The purchase and design of a family monument is a personal choice. It is important to keep in mind that almost any design is possible. For example, an upright tombstone can be in the shape of a single or double heart, a cross, or other available designs. Within the slant monument selection, you can choose from different styles of tops, as well as different styles of back and edges-a smooth (sawn) or rough (rock-pitched) back. If you have a sense of the type of headstone, carving, and lettering, a reputable monument dealer can provide you with a very accurate cost estimate.
The desired size of the gravestone should be determined by personal choice, the number of names to appear on the monument, and the size of cemetery plot. In some instances, tombstone size may also be determined by the cemetery. Monument measurements generally refer to width, height, and thickness of the granite. These measurements can vary considerably. It is important that the headstone be large enough to accommodate the names of the people it is meant to identify, yet not so large that it does not fit on the cemetery plot. As a benchmark, a monument which measures 2’6″ or greater in width will allow ample room for lettering. This however should be discussed with a monument dealer. In addition, most gravestones require a foundation (concrete base) which will be slightly larger than the monument and should be taken into consideration for overall size a compared to the cemetery plot.
The color of granite desired is equally as important a decision as the style of the monument. Most tombstones are made of superior granite. However be cautious when something appears too good to be true. There are inferior granites on the market. Some of the various colors available include Medium Barre Gray, Dark Barre Gray, North American Pink, Impala Black, Canadian Pink, Premium Mahogany, and Jet Black, just to name a few. The color of granite selected will play an important role in the overall cost of the headstone selected. Generally, the more available the color, the less costly the monument. The different colors and costs should be discussed with a reputable monument dealer.
Lettering and Carvings
Personalization of a monument can be achieved by the carvings and lettering desired. As a general rule, if it can be sketched, it can be carved on the gravestone. The more complex the sketch, the higher the cost for the carving. Many monument companies have a stock supply of carvings from which individuals may select. They range from floral carvings to wildlife carvings to religious and fraternal carvings and can include a variety of outdoor scenes as well.
There are two basic styles of carvings available-a flat carving or a sculptured carving. A flat carving is etched into the tombstone and appears flat on the surface while a sculptured carving is deeper and appears three-dimensional. As a rule, sculptured carvings appear more prominent and add more beauty to the monument.
Generally, the price of the headstone will include the basic at-need lettering of family and individual names as well as dates of birth and death. If the stone is purchased prior to death, it would only include the dates of birth. The price you pay for the monument typically includes a four number (i.e., 1999) date as opposed to the full dates (i.e., Jan. 1, 1999) Full date inscriptions are available at a slightly higher, per letter charge. However, depending upon the gravestone selected, the full dates may also be included in the total price. Your monument dealer can discuss this prior to the purchase of the monument. Additional lettering is also available at an additional charge. For example, if you wish a tombstone for a husband and wife to have an inscription reading “Forever Together”, this would be placed on the monument in a position which would accent the monument. Generally, a short verse to be included on a headstone is placed on a banner-type panel and is priced as a flat carving. Some individuals elect to have additional lettering on the back of the gravestone, i.e., “Our Children …” This additional lettering is priced at a per letter charge and can vary between monument dealers.
Once a monument has been set, additional lettering (i.e., dates of death for individuals who might have died since the tombstone was purchased) can be added as needed.
Generally, at the point when monument companies have several lettering requests to do in a specific area, they will coordinate these requests and go directly to the area to complete the required lettering. Monument dealers must wait until they have several requests in a particular area as it would be cost prohibitive to go to a specific cemetery each time stone lettering is requested. Your funeral director or monument representative can provide you with accurate costs associated with cemetery lettering.
When selecting a monument, consideration must be given to the style of monument desired. The four basic styles are as follows: upright monument (with base); slant monument (with or without base); bevel marker; or grass marker.
Question: Are there other costs associated with the purchase of a monument?
Answer: In addition to the cost of the headstone, there will undoubtedly be a charge associated with the foundation work or setting fee as required by the cemetery. A foundation is not to be confused with a monument base. The foundation is a level concrete pad upon which the tombstone is placed. Preparation at the gravesite includes digging deep enough to allow the finished foundation to be unaffected by frost. The foundation eliminates the tipping of the monument caused by settling and frost during the colder months. Foundation charges vary depending upon the requirements of the cemetery. A representative from the monument company can provide you with a more accurate estimate. In cemeteries where only flat grass markers are allowed, the cemetery may have a setting fee. This is a fee for preparing the gravesite to allow the grass marker to be flush with the ground. Like cemetery foundations, this charge can vary depending upon the size of the gravestone and the cemetery selected.
Question: What do I need to do once I have decided to order a monument and how long will it take for my monument to be completed?
Answer: During the initial stages of monument selection, information for lettering and carvings will be obtained from the family. This information is then provided directly to the monument company who will generate a paper sketch of how the finished headstone will appear. Families are asked to carefully review this information and, if correct to the satisfaction of the family, provide their approval signature. Any changes should be made at that time. Once the tombstone has been lettered changes are difficult and costly.
Completion of the monument depends upon a variety of factors, including the type of monument ordered, the time of the year the order is placed, and cemetery requirements, to mention a few. Generally, headstones which are ordered during the winter months can be completed and set by Memorial Day of the following year. However, this may not always be the case. Special gravestones, (shape, color, carvings, etc.) require additional time to complete and deliver. Similarly, if a monument order is received only weeks prior to Memorial Day; it is unlikely that the monument company will have time to satisfactorily complete the work by Memorial Day. Remember that this is a permanent memorialization and it could take several weeks to complete. The delay can be due to the fact that several other tombstones are also in the process of completion or additional time is needed to obtain the stone from quarry. Feel free to contact your monument dealer to inquire on the anticipated delivery date.
Question: Do I need to prepay for the entire headstone when ordering?
Answer: Prepayment of a monument at the time of ordering can vary between monument companies. When purchasing a monument, St.John Memorials does not require a payment in full prior to ordering. However we do require a %50 deposit prior to commencing the requested work. Once the monument has been completed and meets the approval of the family, a statement indicating the balance is provided to the family.
Question: Am I allowed to place any type of tombstone on my cemetery lot?
Answer: To give all lot owners general protection, most cemeteries retain the right to approve the type of memorial to be placed on a gravesite. Some cemeteries have restrictions on size and design of headstones, while others require that only flush-with-the -ground plaque be placed.
After determining if any cemetery restrictions prevail and deciding your individual needs and desires, a reputable retail monument dealer should be contacted. St.John Memorials offers monuments to the general public. For a price quote and information contact us by calling (315) 364-8266.
Answer: St John Memorials is located at 3401 New York 34, Scipio Center, NY 13147
You can contact us by calling (315) 364-8266