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Urn Vaults – What are Vaults for Urns and Why Use One?

by Wendy Jacobson

Photo by ann gav*

Have you noticed the many after-death and final resting-place options that exist today? Think of it – in-ground burial, above-ground burial, natural burial, cremation, space burial, and cryonics to name a few. Of the natural burial options, also known as vault-free burial, there are eco-eternity forests, conservation cemeteries, nature sanctuaries, and memorial gardens to name a few. With regard to cremation, choose between scattering ashes on land or at sea, bury the ashes, store them at home or in a piece of jewelry, plant them with a tree, turn them into a tattoo or glass keepsake (to name a few options). Overwhelming?

To narrow the focus a little, let’s look at the option of burying ashes after cremation. And specifically, the use of a cremation urn vault to protect an urn when burial in a cemetery is chosen. 

What is an urn vault?

They are sometimes referred to as burial vaults, and are used to protect burial cremation urns from the elements once buried. You may be asking, “why can’t I just bury the cremation urn by itself,” which is a great question.

Most cemeteries require a cremation urn vault to protect a burial urn or urns against shifting soil, moisture, and the weight of the earth, which can cause the ground to cave in. In addition, cemeteries use heavy maintenance equipment that could inadvertently damage an unprotected urn. Urn vaults protect the cremation urns in all of these scenarios. 

What to look for when purchasing an urn vault

Consumers have a variety of options when it comes to vaults for urns. Along with cost, things to consider include:

  • material / construction
  • size of the cremation urn or urns relative to the cremation urn vault
  • level of protection desired
  • ability to customize /personalize the urn vault

Materials used to construct an urn vault

Hi-tech polymer and concrete are most often used to construct urn vaults. These materials help preserve the urn and ensure a complete seal to protect the contents against moisture. The majority of designs are simple, and constructed with the intention to hold and protect a burial cremation urn of one’s choosing. For example, the Pearl Cremation Urn Vault is made of a high-technology polymer, and will hold one cremation urn.

Cremation urns to bury ashes are placed inside the vault, and are available in many various designs, materials, and sizes to reflect the personality or wishes of the deceased.

Size of urn vaults

The size of an urn vault depends on what is going to be placed inside. Some people opt to have one cremation urn inside the urn vault. Others want two urns – those of a husband and wife, or parent and child – placed inside.  A double vault, such as this granite-finish urn vault, holds two urns standing upright side-by-side. Cremation urn vaults can accommodate both scenarios, and the scenario will determine the size of the vault.

Pay attention to the inside dimensions listed on a vault's product page, as well as to the size of the cremation urn or urns that will be placed inside. Be sure the urn vault is large enough to house the cremation urn of choice. If you have any questions, contact customer service.

Level of protection

Urn vaults are designed to protect cremation urns made of ceramic, metal, wood, stone or marble. In order to provide maximum protection, they should be watertight, with maximum sealing capacity to prevent penetration of water or other liquids, as well as bugs and critters.

Also pay attention to the degree of pressure they can withstand from earth-moving and cemetery equipment.

Some manufacturers make double-layer protection urn vaults. These might have an exterior made of cement, with interiors being made of bronze, copper, stainless steel or polyethylene. It’s not required to add that extra layer of protection. Check with the cemetery or funeral service provider to resolve any questions. 

Customizing an urn vault

Adding customization to the urn vault can provide comfort to the bereaved. Plaques engraved with symbols, words, and images honor the deceased. They can be attached to the front or top of the urn vault. Identification placed on an urn vault can also assist the family and cemetery staff when needed.

Some people opt to add a photo of the deceased. Others place small mementos, such as a wedding ring or other meaningful items, inside the vault.   

Cost of cremation urn vaults

How much you spend on a cremation urn vault depends on the size, material and the amount of customization, if any. And as mentioned, a vault with double-layer protection will impact the price. OneWorld Memorials’ collection of urn vaults range from $98.95 – 165.95.

Many people choose to be buried in a family cemetery plot. If cremation is a choice, a cremation urn vault will protect the ashes of a loved one stored in a cremation urn. It is recommended to check with your funeral provider for any rules that might apply.

*Image and related text can be found here:  https://goo.gl/Gw43B3

Wendy Jacobson is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis with her husband, two kids and dog. She helped market her mother’s book, “Hands Off My Hope: Life Lessons on my Journey with Breast Cancer” at the request of her mom, who died two weeks after publishing it in 2008. She also is the editor of Minneapolis Happening, a digital lifestyle magazine about what’s happening in Minneapolis and the surrounding area.

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