sectional burial liner patent sketch

Complete Guide to Grave Liners & Burial Vaults


The casket and headstone are common expenses for a burial, but did you know that a grave liner or burial vault can add to the cost? 

In this article, you will find out everything you need to know about grave liners and burial vaults, what purpose they serve and why most cemeteries require them. You will also discover the difference between the two, their costs, and the best way to purchase.

First, A Word About Burial Containers 

Cemetery with graves and flowers

Before diving in on grave liners and burial vaults, let us establish one fact first: both are considered outer burial containers.

An outer burial container is any container designed to surround a casket when placed in the grave. Its types include burial vaults, grave liners, and grave boxes. Sometimes these are called casket vaults or casket liners.

Burial containers were used historically to protect the casket from grave robbers. In modern times, they are mainly used to support the earth’s load.

Caskets are not designed to withstand the weight of the soil above and the heavy equipment that might pass over the grave. Also, caskets deteriorate over time which can result in the ground caving in. A grave liner or burial vault can prevent this.

Every vault is considered an outer burial container, but outer burial containers cannot legally be called vaults.

In most areas of the country, state and local laws do not require the use of an outer burial container. However, most cemeteries require this to preserve the integrity of the casket and the structure of the grave. 

What Is a Grave Liner?

A grave liner, also sometimes called burial liner or casket liner, is an outer enclosure that protects the top and sides of the casket from the earth’s load.

It does not have a protective bottom or any sealing qualities. Because of this, grave liners do not protect caskets from outside elements.

Grave liners are usually made of concrete, but the material can also be made of wood. They are also less expensive than burial vaults.

Types of Grave Liner

There are two types of grave liners:

  • Sectional burial liner
  • Solid liner box

A sectional burial liner consists of six sections that are assembled in the grave by hand. Each section is 1 ¼ inch thick and is made of reinforced concrete with thin wires. It is not waterproof or secure, but is supported by the dirt that is packed around.

A solid liner box is made of 1 ½ inch thick concrete that is reinforced with a heavier gauge of iron mesh. Compared with a sectional burial liner, this is much more secure—and also more expensive.

sectional burial liner patent sketch
From an abandoned 2004 patent offering a sectional grave liner that’s easy to construct and made with recycled plastic.

What Is a Burial Vault?

A burial vault is an outer enclosure the surrounds the casket from the earth’s load and other outside elements. 

Vaults may be constructed of different materials: concrete, metal, polymer, or fiberglass. Also, they can support up to 18 inches of soil weighing over 4,000 lbs.

As opposed to a grave liner, they have sealing qualities that provide protection from the following:

  • Water or Moisture
  • Uneven grave space
  • Bugs or Vermin

Because a burial vault surrounds the entire casket, it is stronger and more protective than a grave liner. 

Aside from effectively sealing the casket, it is also virtually waterproof because of an added copper or plastic liner. These attributes make burial vaults (typically) more expensive than grave liners. 

Burial Vault Dimensions

The following are common dimensions for a burial vault (width x length x height):

  • Standard Adult – 30″ x 86″ x 24.5″
  • Oversized Adult – 36″ x 92″ & 42” x 92″
  • Infant/Child Vault – 23″ x 60″

Burial vault dimensions will be determined by the casket size itself.

Grave Liner and Burial Vault Cost

Prices varies widely and fall in a broad range. You could expect to pay between $400 to $1,500 for a simple concrete grave liner.

Reinforced vaults lined with plastic or steel can range from $600 to about $3,000.

For a high-end, metal-clad burial vault made of stainless steel, copper, or bronze, prices can start from $2,000 and go up to $13,000.

The purchasing of outer burial containers is included in the mandatory disclosures on the General Price List (GPL). It states there that buying one is not required by local and state laws in most areas of the country. However, many cemeteries require some form of outer container.

Traditionally, grave liners and burial vaults are purchased from the cemetery or the funeral provider.

However, you can buy directly from a third-party dealer, either locally or online. Buying from an independent retailer might save hundreds of dollars.

Take note that you have a right to do comparison shopping. Your funeral home should provide an itemized price list and description of outer burial containers.

Use this chance to compare prices from various sellers before buying what you prefer. This way, you give yourself the best opportunity to consider the options and recognize the best value.

Lawn Crypts

Cross on a Lawn Grave

If you are not satisfied with the two types of burial containers, you might get more peace of mind from a lawn crypt. They are twice the height of burial liners and considered drier and cleaner. The lawn crypt has built-in drainage that prevents water from filling up inside.

Many cemeteries have them pre-installed. Because of this, it would take less time and manual labor to prepare a container for the casket. You will only need to expose the lawn crypt before burial, open its lid, lower the casket, and close the crypt once again.

Lastly, the cost of the burial plot is typically included in the price of the lawn crypt already. It would be like buying a grave space and a burial container in one.


What is an outer burial container? 

Any container designed to protect the casket and support it from the earth’s load when buried. Both a burial vault and a grave liner are considered outer burial containers.

What is the difference between a grave liner and a burial vault?

Both are outer enclosures that surround the casket when lowered into the grave, but burial vaults create better seals compared to grave liners. Consequently, a burial vault protects the caskets from outside elements.

Is it required to use a grave liner or a burial vault?

It depends. In most areas of the country, state and local laws do not require that you buy a burial container for the casket. However, most cemeteries require this to prevent the ground above the grave from sinking as the casket deteriorates over time. Check with your cemetery about their rules and ask about their options.

Can I buy grave liners or burial vaults online?

Yes. Some online retailers can ship a burial container to your cemetery in 1 to 3 days, depending on your location. Your funeral provider and cemetery are required to accept the burial container you purchased elsewhere. Just make sure that the liner or vault you choose will meet the requirements of the cemetery, and will work with your chosen casket.


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1 thought on “Complete Guide to Grave Liners & Burial Vaults

  1. Patricia Castro

    I fully understand the difference between the two. My father was a funeral director/mortician and also owned the cemetery. I was born in 1945 and from the age of 2 until I left home at age 18, we lived above the funeral home. I remember my mother going around saying, “Shhhh” during funerals held downstairs. This was in Port Orchard, Washington. I need to get in touch with a liner sales person near Vallejo, CA. I have my grave already paid for. Now all I need to do is get the liner. If anyone knows who I should contact, please let me know.

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