PRESERVING MEMORIES AND PROFITS: The Overlooked Role of Urn Vaults

By: Stephen Noyes
Monday, December 11, 2023

We all know when families enter a funeral home, they are faced with numerous decisions. As funeral professionals, our responsibility is to guide these families through all their options. One aspect of this education that is often overlooked pertains to urn vaults. These containers, specifically designed to protect and preserve both urns and cremated remains, play a pivotal role in the interment process. However, despite their significance, we sometimes fail to educate families about the purpose, benefits, and options available. This oversight not only leaves families in the dark but also has the potential to cost your business thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

“Keep your loved one’s urn clean, dry, and safe.” This simple message is a good starting point for educating families about urn vaults. The urn options families are faced with are nearly infinite, but regardless of whether the urn is made of metal, marble, wood, MDF, or another material, a vault can benefit it, especially if it is an urn of high value. Having this protective barrier prevents moisture, frost, and other elements from compromising the integrity of the urn and its precious contents. Preserving an urn with an urn vault can give families solace and security.

Like burial vaults for caskets, urn vaults benefit the cemetery plot. These sturdy containers not only provide structural support, ensuring the integrity of the burial site, but they also play a vital role in reducing the ground from settling or shifting. This is especially important considering the heavy equipment used in cemeteries. Urn Vaults not only guarantee a stable and even cemetery surface, but also safeguard the aesthetic appeal of the plot and memorial marker, ultimately reducing the maintenance work for grounds crews and providing a lasting and dignified tribute to the departed.

Like the urns they are designed to protect, the available urn vault options today vary greatly. They differ in materials, weight, strength, aesthetics, and price. The following provides an overview of the benefits and disadvantages of some of the more prominent types of vaults, including a new vault that was recently launched. Plastic urn vaults are a highly cost-effective choice, making them accessible to a wide range of communities. They are lightweight, typically weighing less than ten pounds when empty, therefore easy to transport and resistant to moisture, safeguarding the cremated remains from environmental elements. These vaults often come in a variety of designs and colors, allowing for some degree of personalization, sometimes literally by the family’s hands. While plastic vaults are affordable and functional, they lack the family to have some personal choice. Although concrete is a strong material, it is also heavy. Concrete urn vaults are the heaviest and most challenging to handle, requiring heavy equipment for installation. Their cost is more expensive than plastic options, making them a less budget-friendly choice. Because concrete is porous, it can chip during transport or installation, potentially requiring additional work for cemetery grounds crews.

One of the newest urn vaults on the market is the Infinity Urn Vault- representing an innovative option that combines the durability of concrete or steel with the lightweight properties of plastic. It is lightweight due to its material: glass-infused recycled plastic, and its significant strength and durability arise from its engineered domed shape. These features make it the easiest vault to install; just one person and an auger can have the vault installed within minutes. Because of its shape, the Infinity Urn Vault can also nest into one another, creating savings in both store space and freight. Unlike all other vaults, it does not require any adhesive to seal, as it has a rubber gasket that pressure fits, allowing a watertight seal and the ability to reopen the vault at any time. As of now, the Infinity Urn Vault only comes in one size and one color, which may feel limiting to families choosing a vault.

If you work with or are a cemetery that requires urn vaults, you may be surprised how many cemeteries across the country do not require them. Cemeteries of all sizes and religious affiliations have differing vault requirements. Even some catholic cemeteries do not always require an urn vault. A recent assessment of five cemeteries from around the country that do not currently require urn vaults shows the potential revenue they could gain if they did require urn vaults. This is a small sample size but does provide a glimpse into the impact increased urn vault sales could generate. The survey collected data on the number of annual cremation burials (burial defined as placed in the ground), number of vaults sold each year, and the retail price for their urn vault option(s). How many families are burying urns without a vault? How many of those families would have chosen to utilize a vault if they were presented with, and understood the options? How much revenue is being missing out on? Depending on volume and pricing, it could be tens of thousands of dollars. Urn vaults benefit cemeteries by contributing to the longevity and stability of cemetery plots, safeguarding against settling and ground shifting, even in the face of heavy equipment use. When funeral homes educate families about the benefits and choices of urn vaults, they not only provide a valuable addition to the cremation and interment process, they can also contribute to the financial health of their business. Funeral Directors do more than prepare bodies for burial. They also serve as educators and guides to grieving families, assisting them through the grieving process and navigating the extensive choices within the industry. This includes the often-overlooked importance of urn vaults. These unassuming containers can provide both families and funeral homes with a sense of permanence and security.

Stephen Noyes is the Brand Director for Infinity Urn Vault at Terrybear Urns & Memorials. He has been in the death care industry for over a decade, working with cemeteries in Georgia, California, and just about everywhere in between. He lives in Minneapolis with his family.

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