What Are the Types of Caskets?

Families may be faced with an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to planning a funeral and burial for their loved ones. To simplify the process of choosing a casket, here we provide an overview of the various types of and materials for caskets, as well as add-ons and other features.

Metal Caskets

Steel is the most common choice for metal caskets. It comes in multiple gauges, or measures of thickness: the smaller the gauge, the thicker the steel. Caskets most often come in gauges of 16, 18, or 20, with 16 being the thickest and normally the most expensive.

Caskets are also available in semiprecious metals such as copper and bronze. These metals are generally considered durable, and they’re usually available in 32 ounce or 34 ounce, referring to the weight of the material per square foot. Copper and bronze are lovely metals, and the caskets can be very beautiful, though they are often costly, with some reaching as much as $50,000.

Metal caskets often have a gasket as an included feature or add-on, unlike more naturally porous wood caskets. A gasket usually refers to a rubber seal around the lid of the coffin that is intended to keep out air and water. In some cases, gaskets may be required to transport remains across state lines.

Ultimately, the presence of a gasket, or even the thickness or weight of the metal used to make a casket, will not prevent the natural decomposition of remains. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule prohibits funeral homes from claiming that these features will preserve a body indefinitely. They often only contribute to the cost of the casket and the funeral.

Wood Caskets

Solid wood caskets are the most traditional type available, and the type of wood often determines the cost. Softer woods such as pine and aspen are the most affordable, and hard woods such as mahogany and oak are the priciest. The price differential is comparable to furniture manufactured from the same types of wood: a piece of high quality cherry or walnut wood is rarer and thus more expensive.

Some of the most affordable caskets are made of plywood covered in hardwood to give the appearance of a solid wood casket. These can be a good option for families who may not have a lot to spend, but still want their loved one’s casket to have a traditional wood finish. Caskets are also available in veneered wood: for these caskets a wood veneer is painted over a fiberboard base. They can also give the appearance of solid wood at a lower price point.

Alternatives and Casket Features

Direct cremations do not require a casket, but for funerals or viewings that will occur before cremation, a cremation casket is an option. These can also serve as the cremation container provided that they are fully combustible, leak proof, and have no metal parts. Cremation caskets are often constructed from less expensive woods, corrugated wood, or cardboard.

Families making green or environmentally friendly funeral plans can also explore caskets made from bamboo, willow, felt, help, and banana leaf. Many of these alternative materials can also be used as cremation caskets, and are designed to be biodegradable.

Almost all caskets, regardless of material, come with half couch or full couch options. Half couch options feature a casket lid in two pieces, so that the upper half of the deceased can be displayed during the funeral service or viewing. Full couch caskets have a one-piece lid that can also be lifted. The interior liners can be made from a variety of materials, including polyester, satin, linen, velvet, and crepe.

Final Thoughts

The most important factors in choosing a casket are the wishes of the deceased and their family. There are many options in all price ranges for families to honor the memory of their loved ones in a fitting and elegant fashion. No casket can keep the natural elements at bay forever, but families can certainly find an option that’s both attractive and affordable.