Do you need to install a headstone? Do you need to mark a grave? We get these questions all the time. What follows is some strong advice on where to start and what you need to think about when ordering a headstone.
You need to know if the cemetery you are dealing with has any restrictions on the type, size or color of markers they allow.
Restrictions are usually done so all the markers look alike and the cemetery has a uniform appearance. Think of the Normandy cemeteries, and the rows of crosses, as an example cemetery with a significant restriction. These restrictions are usually absolute and they prevent any non-conforming marker from being placed in the cemetery. This is why you must check with the cemetery before you buy a headstone to know if there are any restrictions.
Some restrictions are not as pronounced as the Normandy crosses, but are still imposed for the overall appearance of the cemetery. These include limits on minimum sizes, limits on marker types, and at times on what can be engraved on the marker.
Some restrictions are imposed so that the cemetery can charge more for their service. These sorts of restrictions include limits to a certain supplier, or source quary, or limits allowing only certain, non-industry-standard dimensions, which can only be easily provided by their chosen supplier.
The variety of possible restrictions is wide and it is not possible to know what those restrictions are without first contacting the cemetery. To find out, you must contact your cemetery administrator and ask what, if any, are their specific restrictions on markers.
You may already have been given that information in the paperwork, or in the contract, you received at the time of burial. Do not presume that any marker will work.
Within any constraints imposed by the cemetery, you are then free to select any marker that suits your purpose and budget.
You will need to gather the personal information that will be placed on the stone. This includes names and dates, and it may also include any other information you wish to place on the stone.
When you finally fill out the order form you'll want to carefully check dates and spelling, especially for unusual names, so there are no unpleasant surprises when the stone is delivered.
Headstones range in types and sizes from simple, flat markers (sometimes called grass markers) up through large monuments. There are several common shapes and each shape comes in a variety of sizes and colors.
Flat Markers are designed so the top surface of the stone is installed flat with the grass. These markers come in various sizes ranging from 8 inches by 16 inches up through 12 inches by 48 inches. The 3rd dimension listed on these markers is the thickness, usually 4 inches thick. So: 8x16x4 means 8 inches tall, 16 inches wide, 4 inches thick.
Flat markers are manufactured with either sawed sides or rock pitched sides. Most installations end up with the sides buried in concrete so the edges don't matter for final appearance. Sawed side stones ship better, though, since those smooth sides don't snag anything in transit. We are generally shifting to sawed side inventory for this reason.
Beveled Markers Beveled markers have a slanted face making them easier to read and usually sit on top of a stone base. The bevel can also just be set on a cement pad.
Slant Markers stand up, with a polished sloping front face. The back is vertical and unpolished, though can be polished at additional cost. The formal inscription is placed on the polished sloping face. It is also common to put a limited inscription, say a last name, on the back of the stone at additional cost. Because the stone is sloped, it sheds water and thus is a candidate for colored rock dye accents. These markers have an optional matched stone base and when not used concrete is used instead.
Monuments stand vertical and also come with a matched base. The vertical nature of monuments makes them excellent candidates for colored rock dye accents. Inscription can be placed on both sides of the monument.
Grave markers are almost always made out of granite.
Marble was once more common and can be found in older cemeteries but it is not as durable and tends to weather more easily than granite. All of the stones we sell are made out of granite.
The precise color and grain of the stone is determined by the quary where the stone originates. Most common colors are available from different quarries, and so they are given common names like gray, rose, red and black as shown here.
More exotic colors like Cat's Eye, Tropical Green and Blue Perl come from limited quaries and identify a narrowly available stone.
There is always slight variation in specific stones because of variation in the natural grain of the stone.
Black is a particularly interesting color because when polished it becomes highly reflective, giving a stunning final presentation. This effect is particularly noticable on larger stones. On dark stones like black, blue, green and red, designs and lettering are done in white.
Our online order forms for the standard markers list off the standard available colors. When we do fully custom work the variety of possible colors is much wider, and customers choose from specific stones in our inventory or request a special order from one of several different quaries.
Once you've selected the type of marker and color of stone you need to come up with a design for how you want the marker engraved. We engrave each stone on a custom basis so we can carve just about anything on your stone. The problem, though, is getting an inspiration about what you want on your marker.
If you don't already have any ideas for a design then we suggest you browse through our photo gallery since often the decision comes down to having us make a stone like another one that we've made before. This is often the easiest way to select a design.
You can also browse through our store and look at the various designs listed there. Many of the designs are classics, used for 100 years, while others are found nowhere else.
Look carefully through our gallery and one of the things you will notice is photographs attached to the various headstones. Black and white photos are made out of aluminum from an original photo. Color photo plates are also available. They are made with ceramic. Photo plates provide an interesting option when you are planning your project.
Our gallery also includes various colored inscriptions and accents. This coloring is provided by special rock dye. In the gallery you'll find examples where green is used for foliage, red for flower petals and gold for accents like golden crosses. Possible colors include blue, yellow, purple, pink, orange, brown, black, white and many shades of gray.
If you find a design with specific accent color, red flowers for example, and want a different color, say yellow flowers, simply say so in the special instructions for the order. We will happily substitute different rock dye colors.
There are many situations where the headstone is installed before the death of person named on the stone. This happens, for example, when two names are on one stone.
In this case the stone is left without a final date and perhaps even without a final inscription.
Final inscriptions are placed on the stone later. If the stone is to be installed within 60 miles of our shop in Goldendale, we can do the final inscriptions for an extra fee. If the stone is located in other parts of the country, the cemetery care-taker should be able to recommend someone who can come to the cemetery and place final inscriptions and/or final dates.
Our work queue generally runs 2 to 4 weeks, longer in late spring, and shorter in the middle of winter. Shipping takes around a week, so you can generally plan that a stone ordered through us will be delivered within 5 weeks after the stone has been paid for.
If you have a specific date that you need the stone by, that is within the 4 to 5 week range, contact us before ordering the stone and we'll make sure it gets sent in time.
If you need the stone quicker than that, we can put the stone through as a rush order. Rush orders are placed at the front of our work queue. There is an extra charge for rush orders.
Please contact us regarding any special rush order needs.
All of our large headstones are shipped motor freight, so shipping addresses need to be physical addresses, not Post Office Boxes. Our smaller headstones are shipped motor freight or through the US Post office.
Shipping addresses can either be directly to the customer's home address, or to the cemetery, or perhaps to a local installer.
Customers sometimes have stones shipped to their own work location. This is fine with us, but be sure your boss isn't going to mind if a grave marker addressed to you arrives at their loading dock!
We include shipping insurance in the price for our Internet sales. We also handle the insurance paperwork. There is nothing extra for customers to do for their stone to be shipped insured.
Stones are packaged in plywood and wrapped with steal bands which does a nice job of protecting the stone while in transit.
Very rarely there is damage incurred in shipping. If this should happen please contact us. We will need a photo from you of the damage. We handle the rest of the insurance paperwork and will make the replacement stone.
When you order a headstone from us you will receive a granite marker engraved with your chosen design and inscription details. The stone itself needs to be installed in the cemetery. Usually this means the stone is placed in a concrete base.
Most cemeteries have installers that they can recommend for installing headstones. Some allow do-it-yourselfers to install the stone. There may have been some advice on possible installers given when arrangements were made for the burial.
In any case you should plan who, exactly, is going to be installing the stone. They may wish the stone shipped to a specific address or have other special needs.
Choose your installer ahead of time, and know what their fees will be, so there are no surprises once the stone arrives.
Included with each of our headstones is a page of installation instructions. These instructions provide the specific dimensions for the concrete form used to build the base as well as other installation details. That page should be passed on to the installer.
If the stone is to be installed within 60 miles of our shop in Goldendale, we can do the installation for you. Installation is a separately charged item, not included in any of the price sheets listed on this website.
We recommend looking at other headstones in order to get an idea for what is possible. The easiest way to do that is to look through the photographs in our Photo Gallery.
If you are looking for a Flat Headstone then you can order one online.
If you are looking for a larger stone, or need help with a custom design, please Contact Us and let us help you with a design.
The Pioneer Rock & Monument Team