Choosing a Casket

A loved one has died and you have been included in the selection process for the casket. Now what?

Types of Caskets

There are several types of caskets. Let's take a look at the two most common caskets, by material: metal and wood.


Metal caskets are further divided into semiprecious and steel caskets. Semiprecious includes the most expensive caskets: stainless steel, bronze and copper. These caskets are noted for their durability and beauty. Mostly impervious to underground conditions, they will maintain a resting place for your loved one far in excess of other metals or wood. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, is one of the earliest metals man worked with, giving its name to an entire age of mankind. Copper has been noted for its ability to withstand the elements for ages. Numerous structures have had copper roofs; the Statue of Liberty is sheathed in copper and has withstood the open elements of salt spray, rain, snow, sleet, and winds of hurricane velocity without fail for over 100 years. Stainless steel is steel alloyed with chromium to increase its resistance to corrosion and rust.
Steel caskets are measured in gauges; the larger the number, the thinner in size. Hence from thickest to thinnest they range from 16ga to 18ga, 20ga and finally 22ga. Colors will be available in almost a limitless selection, especially if ordered as a pre-planned funeral instead of at need. They can be customized to reflect certain colleges, sports teams or hobbies, such as hunting and fishing, or even motorcycling.
Interiors will vary from crepe to velvet, depending on the construction.


Wood caskets are more natural and can range from a simple pine box all the way to mahogany. Popular woods include maple, elm, oak and cherry, and may be in either gloss or satin finish. If you would allow me one personal reflection, metal caskets are produced on an assembly line and are virtually indistinguishable from one another, while wood caskets are unique, depending on the grain and pattern of the wood. Each wood casket is unique, as unique as the individual who will occupy it. A favorite wood may draw memories of a swing from a tree, camping or other outdoor activities, or wood working as a hobby.

An Additional Division

Other funeral directors may offer a distinction between sealing and non-sealing caskets. The difference here is the sealing mechanism that forms an airtight seal against the outside elements. Often, if the deceased is to be transported to another state, it is necessary for the casket to be a sealed casket. And if there is going to be shipment by air or internationally, it is mandated. Sealing caskets are always metal as wood is, by its nature, permeable. Sealers are also usually restricted to the thicker gauges, 20ga and thicker.

Lower End Selections

Finally; there are what are referred to as lower end selections. These will vary from cloth covered particleboard to strengthened compressed cardboard, to plastic units that are serviceable but usually reserved for indigent burials, burials funded by the local community or state when there is no relative to step forward to claim the deceased, or what is termed as charity cases, which may include both of the above as well as other financial hardship situations. Choices here are usually not extended, and the casket is at the funeral home's discretion.

The Choice Is Yours

Regardless of your means or selection, the funeral home should treat your service with the same level of care and respect. A casket should be a reflection of the life lived, not a status symbol.