Metal Vs. Wood Caskets: Which Should You Choose for a Loved One?

The casket is the most visual element to any funeral service. Families want to ensure their loved one looks comfortable, peaceful, and well cared for, an effect enhanced by a beautiful casket. Here we offer a deeper look at choosing between a wood or a metal casket by examining their history and their modern advantages, so that each family can make an informed choice for their loved one.


Wood caskets are a deeply rooted tradition in our past. In England and colonial America, when a member of the community passed away, the casket would be made by hand by the family or a local craftsman. Each casket was made specifically for the individual who would be laid to rest in it. The people who handcrafted these wooden coffins weren’t funeral professionals: they were woodworkers and carpenters who also fashioned chairs, tables, and cabinets.

Links to both human history and the natural world are embodied in the choice of a wood casket. Wood is organic and comforting: the caskets are hewn from trees, and then return their roots to the earth. Choosing a wood casket today means comparing the materials and the finish. Lighter woods like oak offer a lovely grain pattern on a casket, whereas mahogany's darker finish is luxurious. Veneers are also an excellent cost-saving method: thin sheets of wood that are layered on top of each other to achieve the look and feel of a more expensive casket, but for less. The traditional beauty of a wood casket will never look out of place.



In America, metal caskets came into wider use during the Civil War, when for the first time, families had to organize long distance transportation to be reunited with fallen soldiers. These caskets were a luxury item usually reserved only for officers, while foot soldiers made due with more modest and hasty burials.

When metal coffins began to be manufactured on a larger scale in the 1920s, many families were promised that metal would ensure that their loved ones would be preserved indefinitely. Unfortunately, this is not the case — nothing can halt the natural processes of decay, and neither wood nor metal caskets offer guaranteed, long-term preservation. Gaskets and seals on metal caskets can slow the intrusion of outside elements, including groundwater. For example, all of Willow & Werth’s metal caskets are gasketed to a high level of precision and craftsmanship.

Aside from materials, the distinguishing feature of metal caskets as opposed to wood is the presence of a gasket, or seal. These may be required if the deceased is being transported across state lines by air, sea, or train, so the choice of a metal casket may be a very practical one.

Metal caskets can also offer locking systems and waterproof linings to further ease the transportation of remains. From an aesthetic standpoint, metal caskets are an opportunity to showcase a wide variety of color palettes and levels of shine. With options from dusty pink or delicate ivory to classic red or royal blue, it’s easy to find a metal coffin that fits in with the mood and vision of any funeral service.

Comparing Metal Versus Wood

There are a few logistical factors to consider when choosing a casket for a loved one. The most important question is determining whether the remains need to be transported over a long distance, specifically over state lines. In that case, a metal casket may be required by state regulations.

The next is the price of the casket and its features, and how it fits into the overall look and feel of the funeral service. For example, is the location in which the funeral will be held of modern or traditional design? And of course the final considerations are the wishes and personality of the deceased. If they were a passionate environmentalist, for example, wood may be a more fitting choice.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there’s no wrong choice when comparing metal and wood caskets: once the differences in material are accounted for, it’s an opportunity to honor your loved one in the most fitting way. The danger is in letting the funeral industry upsell a massively expensive casket to take advantage of the family’s grief.

Beautifully made caskets from sustainable materials can be affordable without compromising quality, as demonstrated by online sellers such as Willow & Werth. Both the choice of materials and the delivery of the casket are simple and inexpensive, allowing families to spend less time haggling with funeral directors and more time comforting each other and celebrating the life of their loved one.