Once you’ve ordered a headstone — selecting the color and type of stone, its shape and design — it usually takes a little time before it’s ready to be installed.
According to Kelly Pearson, owner of Leominster Monument Company in Leominster, MA, standard delivery time is about 8-10 weeks after the monument has been ordered.
“I can have it done in a week, if need be,” she said, as long as the headstone is in stock and is a standard shape. Rock of Ages markers are also always in stock and can be turned around quickly, Pearson added. Her family’s full-service monument company has been serving Lunenburg and the surrounding area, about an hour west of Boston, for more than 40 years.
Bob and Kelly Pearson, center, are the owner operators of Leominster Monument Company. Kelly's aunt Sarah, left, works in the office and her father, Chuck, does stone work.
While cemeteries in some parts of the country may have restrictions as to when a headstone can be installed, whether it’s to ensure the ground has settled or weather-related issues, Pearson said there are no rules affecting timing in her New England location.
Of course Massachusetts winters come with sometimes challenging weather conditions, which can cause delays. “You’re biggest challenge is getting a foundation in before the ground freezes,” she said. While some years, Leominster Monuments can dig foundations all 12 months, freezing temperatures have been known to cause delays other years. “Sometimes by December, the ground is rock solid and we have to wait to set the monument until the thaw,” she said.
Installing a foundation requires digging a hole roughly 3.5 feet deep, just past the frost line, then filling with poured concrete, Pearson explained. Getting it deep enough is important to prevent any future shifting caused by seasonal freezing and thawing. “A foundation at the proper depth keeps the monument level with the ground and stops it from raising up,” she added. Leominster Monuments typically installs their own foundations but some cemeteries choose to do it in house.
Once that foundation is set, unless there’s five feet of snow on the ground, Pearson said they can install the headstone once it’s ready using a setting truck with a crane.
Of course, every cemetery has numerous restrictions regarding the shape, size, and even color, of the headstone. One cemetery in Boston does not allow any polished monuments, requiring them instead to have a softer Tiffany finish, also known as steeled. Your local Rock of Ages retailer will know all your local cemetery regulations. Click here for tips on choosing a cemetery.
An example of how setters crane in the solid granite bases and headstones onto a foundation.
Other cemeteries need to review the monument design prior to installation, Pearson said, and many cemeteries with religious affiliations require some type of corresponding emblem, like a cross or Star of David, as part of the design. Another reason to work with a local dealer who knows the regulations of all local cemeteries.
One of the biggest changes with the growing popularity of cremation is that families are less frequently buying multiple plots for burials. “Now people are buying one grave lot because you can inter a number of cremains in one cemetery plot,” she explained.
“Cremation has definitely changed things,” she added. One town cemetery she works with allows up to 10 cremains in one plot.
To accommodate this need, Rock of Ages authorized retailers offer companion and family cremation memorials in various styles, including boulders, benches, traditional headstones, and even out-of-this-world custom shapes.
So when do you put a headstone on a grave? When you are ready. Even if that’s months after your loved one has passed. It’s a process not meant to be rushed.
Even after the foundation is set and the monument installed, there is always the possibility of buyer’s remorse and the need to make changes, said Pearson. One mother and daughter came to her soon after the father’s passing and the daughter pressured her mom to select a certain stone. It was ordered and installed and two years later the mother returned to order a new one.
“You don’t want to rush into things,” Pearson said. “It’s better when you take your time and make sure it’s what you want to see when you go to visit a loved one’s grave.”
Learn more about shopping for headstones, download the Granite Headstone Style Guide.