What Is a Vault for a Casket and Is It Required in the USA? 

Planning a funeral can be a challenge as most people aren’t aware of the rules and regulations involved with burying the deceased. Aside from the grief that comes with losing a loved one, a funeral also requires you to heed certain norms. One such norm is the use of a vault during burials. 

A vault for a casket is a container that holds the casket after the burial. The burial vault helps protect the casket and ensures the ground above it doesn’t sink. Although there’s no law requiring a vault, most graveyards commonly require one to bury the deceased. 

This article will discuss more about burial vaults and whether you should get one for a deceased loved one. Let’s get started.

Why Do Graveyards Require a Vault for a Casket?

Most graveyards require a vault for a casket as the mud at a gravesite tends to seep into the crevices of the casket, causing the ground to sink. By encasing the casket in a vault, you can prevent dirt from entering the casket, ensuring the gravesite is stable and solid.

As such, a burial vault serves two main purposes:

Prevents Sinking

The stability of a gravesite can be affected by numerous factors, including heavy rain and soil erosion. However, the most common cause of sinking is due to the crevices on a casket. Dirt gradually falls into these tiny gaps, causing the ground on a gravesite to eventually sink.

Some cemetery rules and regulations require that they top up the soil in the case of a sinking grave. While this may not seem like much trouble, it actually costs a decent amount of money to pay for the material and manpower to fill the grave. As this responsibility often goes to the cemetery, they prefer to do what it takes to ensure they can prevent the sinking. 

As such, most cemeteries use burial vaults to help prevent sinkage at the gravesite. These vaults are rectangular, sealed boxes that stop dirt from getting into the casket. So with the help of a vault you can protect the gravesite from sinking and looking unsightly. 

Protects the Casket

Protecting the casket is another prime reason why cemeteries often require vaults. Caskets can be pretty expensive, and most range from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the material you choose. Protecting these caskets for as long as possible can ensure you get your money’s worth. 

If you’re considering a green burial for your loved one, a burial vault would be of no use. Burial vaults are typically made from harsh materials (usually concrete) which do not biodegrade. But while manufacturers don’t design vaults to be good for the environment, there are other benefits to consider. 

If you want to preserve your casket for as long as possible, a vault can protect it from outside elements. Aside from dirt seeping into the crevices, a vault also stops water and insects or earthworms from finding their way in.

Aside from preventing sinkage, which is inevitable if you’re using a plain casket, a burial vault can prevent the heavy dirt on top from caving in on the casket and damaging it. 

A gravesite typically contains a significant quantity of dirt covering the casket. The weight of this dirt along with the weight of any machines or manpower can cause the casket to cave in. A burial vault is more sturdy and will protect the casket, preventing it from caving in and getting ruined. 

This Youtube video might give a better understanding of what a burial vault is and how it works:

Do You Need a Burial Vault in the USA?

You don’t need a vault for a casket in the USA unless the cemetery specifies one in their rules and regulations of burial. While it isn’t a legal necessity to bury someone in a vault, most cemeteries require one. As such, it’s challenging to find a cemetery that will bury the deceased without a vault. 

For some of us, it’s worth spending the extra time to search for the right cemetery as a vault can be pretty expensive and you may not have the money to pay for one. Most burial vaults cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the quality and material you select. 

Reasons To Consider a Vault for a Casket

Aside from the protection they offer, burial vaults give you the opportunity to say goodbye to the deceased in a unique way. You can create art, write a special message, or even get a picture featured on the vault.

While protection and prevention of sinking are the two prime reasons to get a vault, there are a few other reasons you may want to consider investing in a vault. Some of these include:


Burial vaults can be significantly altered to one’s tastes and are perhaps the most customizable aspect of the burial process. This freedom to alter it in your own way is probably why the price of a vault varies so much.

Most manufacturers accommodate requests for nameplates, honors, and other special features on your vault. You can even print words that meant something to the deceased on the surface of the vault, giving the burial a more personal and serene touch.

Some companies even allow you to print pictures on the vault, and you can make a collage of some meaningful memories and have it imprinted before the burial.

Aside from customizing the vault, you can decorate on top of it before the burial takes place. Many families opt for a vault specifically so other family members and loved ones can write personal messages to the deceased.

With a vault you can take it even further than simple personalized messages. Some people like to attach their favorite photos or cards to the vault instead. Aside from parting with a meaningful memento, attaching a card instead of writing a message also helps save time during the funeral service. As such, consider investing in a vault if you’re hosting a larger crowd at the funeral.


The best part about a burial vault is that you can move the body of the deceased to another location if necessary. Some families often relocate and wish to take the body of their loved one with them. In such cases, a burial vault can come in handy. 

While caskets made from certain materials will last a significant amount of time, they break down relatively quickly. No matter how sturdy the casket, it will deteriorate or cave in, and it can be troublesome to move the body of a loved one in such a casket. A vault lasts much longer than a casket and will stay stable over time so you can readily move the body to a new location.

The process of digging up a grave and transporting the body of your loved one can cost anywhere between $8,000 and $20,000. While this is a substantial cost, moving graves would cost even more if you had to transfer the body to another casket. As such, investing in a vault during burial can help reduce the costs of moving the deceased. 

How Long Does a Burial Vault Last?

A vault for a casket will last anywhere from fifty to one hundred years. This timeline will vary based on the material you choose and how securely you seal the vault. Additionally, most vaults come with a warranty which you can check if you want a more accurate idea of its longevity.

If you’re looking to preserve your loved one’s body for an extended time, a vault is your best bet. The right vault and casket combination can protect the body of the deceased for decades to come.

Vaults can last a long time when they’re made from the right material. While you can find metal or even plastic versions, most burial vaults are commonly made from concrete. This material ensures that the vault stays sturdy and protects the casket for a long time. However, concrete isn’t the only reason that vaults last so long.

The fact that vaults are sealed properly plays a significant role in their longevity. Caskets made from most materials don’t seal fully the way burial vaults do. As such, the body of the deceased isn’t properly protected once it’s been buried. 

Sealed vaults  help to add an extra layer of protection and use tape or a similar adhesive meant to withstand the elements after a burial. 

Vault Longevity And Casket Type

It’s quite obvious that metal caskets last longer than wood caskets and are often even sealed to prevent water and dirt from entering. So, combining a metal casket and a concrete vault will provide maximum protection to the body.

Wood caskets are solid, yet made from organic material which deteriorates quickly underground. While most wood caskets last a few years, they are prone to possible cave-ins. The continuous weight of the dirt on a gravesite can cause a wood casket to collapse under pressure. A collapsed casket will expose the body of the deceased, allowing water and dirt to enter. 

Image of a steel Casket with Flowers on top in a cemetery

As such, a vault can extend the amount of time that your loved one’s body is kept safe from outside elements. Whether you choose a wood or metal casket, it’s best to invest in a vault to help protect the casket in the long run and preserve the body of the deceased. 

Where Can You Buy a Vault for a Casket?

You can buy a vault for a casket from the funeral home, the cemetery, or other retailers that also sell caskets. The price of a vault will vary based on where you shop for it, and there are no laws to protect buyers from any additional fees charged by the manufacturer.

You can source vaults from the same place you source a casket as most retailers offer both. However, If you’re looking for a specific design, or you want to customize your vault, you may need to look around a bit more. While vault prices may not vary as much as caskets, it’s best to consider multiple options before investing in one. 

You May Have to Pay Extra For Using a Vault 

Thanks to regulations from the FTC encouraging the fair purchase of caskets, most states forbid funeral homes from charging a fee for using a casket from an outside merchant. This law prevents unfair treatment and additional fees if you purchase your casket elsewhere. 

Before the FTC put these guidelines in place, it was common for funeral homes to charge a fee for using an outside casket. Some homes would even refuse to conduct the service if you didn’t buy a casket from them.

Without this guideline, funeral homes would charge high casket prices without worrying about competition. After these rules came out though, manufacturers began offering caskets at lower prices. 

Unfortunately, this rule doesn’t apply to vaults, and the funeral home is free to charge you a fee in case you decide to use a vault for the burial. So, before purchasing a vault from an outside source, consult with the funeral home and see if there are extra charges involved. 

By first asking them, you can get a more accurate estimate of your budget for the funeral. Through this consultation you will know if it’s worth investing in a vault from an outside source. Some funeral homes may offer their own vaults at a decent price, and you might consider these if it costs less than buying a separate vault and paying the fees involved.  

Final Thoughts

It’s important to consider whether you need a vault for a burial as it can help protect and preserve the casket and the body for years to come. A vault can be a pivotal part of the burial, whether you plan to move in the future or just want to ensure the coffin doesn’t cave in. 

It’s best to ensure you check with the cemetery regarding their rules for vaults before making any final purchases. The best part is, if you decide to use a vault you can personalize or even decorate it before the burial.


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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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