Secrets to Funeral Planning: Help During Your Time of Need

« Back to Home

When Is It Time To Replace An Old Headstone?

Posted on

Although a person's grave is their final resting place, is the headstone marking the grave as final as the grave itself? This isn't to suggest that a headstone is a flimsy object in need of regular replacement. But there are many factors that can age a headstone, and as the years go by some ageing and general deterioration is inevitable. How do you know when a loved one's headstone needs to be replaced?

Laid Flat

Short of irreparable damage caused by vandalism or extreme weather, the need to actually replace a headstone is fairly rare. There are instances when a family has visited a loved one's grave only to find the headstone laid flat next to the grave. This can be upsetting, but is often a deliberate act by cemetery management (or the local council overseeing cemetery maintenance). If it was thought that the headstone had deteriorated to the point where it might topple over, it may have been removed from its base and laid flat. This doesn't mean that the headstone must be replaced, but it must be reattached to its anchor (and a new concrete anchor must sometimes be installed).

Foundations And Maintenance

Often, a seemingly damaged headstone only needs to be re-anchored or levelled by adding a new foundation. Any superficial cracks in the stone can be repaired with infilling to patch the crack—much like how a dentist fills a cavity in a tooth with a material that matches the colour of the tooth. Ingrained dirt and general grime can be removed (or at least minimised) with a thorough washing, which must be done carefully so that the stone isn't damaged. This means that it's a job to be done by hand, instead of with a power washer. After its cleaning, it may also become obvious that the headstone's inscription has faded, and may need to be re-etched. 

Crumbling Stone

If the stone appears to be crumbling, sadly, it might be damaged beyond repair. This is a gradual process, occurring over many years. It can happen when water has permeated the stone, gradually weakening it. Climbing plants that have grown over the stone can have a similar effect, with their rootlets (also known as suckers) attaching themselves to the stone and damaging it in the process. If there's any doubt, you should have the headstone inspected by a qualified monumental mason. Refinishing the stone might be sufficient to protect it from further damage, but the stone's structural defects may also be too significant, meaning that a new headstone can be appropriate.

In many cases, a seemingly damaged headstone can be restored with some light maintenance, but there are times when a headstone has passed the point of no return and needs to be replaced.