Burial liners are relatively modern concepts in the United States and are unheard of outside of this country. In Europe and other parts of the world, the earth is mounded over the grave to allow for settling. As the ground subsides over time, more soil is simply added to level off the ground.  Some religious traditions discourage the use of liners because they slow down the return of the body to the earth. Green cemeteries, which offer natural burial, do not permit them for the same reason.

Many American cemeteries, however, require graves to have an outer burial container in the form of a burial vault or grave liner. The enclosure is placed in the ground before burial and then the casket is lowered into it. The purpose is to prevent the ground from caving in as the casket deteriorates over time. Sunken ground not only presents a safety hazard for cemetery visitors, it also creates a nightmare for maintenance workers; mowing lawns and performing other grave maintenance are much easier when the ground is even.

A Grave Liner
A grave liner is a basic burial frame made of reinforced concrete. It generally covers only the top and sides of the casket. In many cases, it will satisfy cemetery requirements. The cost of a standard grave liner averages between $400-$800.

A Burial Vault
A burial vault is much more substantial – and consequently more expensive. A vault is a sturdy box designed to completely enclose the coffin inside it. Vaults are available in concrete, metal or plastic, and are available in a variety of simulated finishes including granite, marble, and wood. High-end models have such extras as steel, copper, or bronze interior lining and decorative handles, personalized nameplates and cover emblems. You can even find vaults with sports themes or ones embellished with photos. They can run anywhere from $1,200 – $18,000.

Keep in mind, however, that neither grave liners nor burial vaults are designed to prevent the eventual decomposition of human remains. While a high-quality burial vault can prevent water and soil seepage and slow the rate of decomposition, it will not put off the inevitable.

Minnesota state laws do not require a vault or liner.  Unfortunately, funeral providers may not always tell you that, so you need to do your homework and find out which cemeteries do.  In the Twin Cities some kind of burial container – a burial vault or grave liner – is the norm, but they are less commonly required in outstate areas.

Before showing you any outer burial containers, a funeral provider is required to give you a list of prices and descriptions. It may be less expensive to buy one from a third-party dealer than from a funeral home or cemetery. Compare prices from several sources before you select a model.