Coffins and caskets

Coffins and caskets are one of the most expensive items for any funeral.

A coffin has a familiar shape and widens out from the top and narrows toward the feet. The lid also comes off with a coffin.

A casket is shaped with straight sides and has a hinged lid.

There is a wide range available. Coffins and caskets vary in materials and costs.

  • Solid timber
  • Craft wood/timber combination
  • Particle board
  • Plain craft wood or chipboard
  • Cardboard (“Lifeart” coffins)

What about re-useable coffins?

Some companies can rent a coffin for the funeral. This comprises a normal looking coffin shell with a chipboard box inside. Only the chipboard box is cremated or buried. The outer coffin shell can be kept and hired for re-use.

Things you should know

Burials or cremations are not permitted without a sealed coffin or casket (except where some religious institutions have obtained exemptions).

A family carpenter can make the coffin — but it will have to comply with government regulations, the funeral director’s handling and strength requirements and any crematory requirements such as coffin dimensions.

Metal liners, metal inserts, PVC or latex-based rubber materials are not permitted in or on coffins or caskets used for cremation because unacceptable emissions or residues can result.

Depending on the size of the funeral director’s business, you will be able to choose the coffin or casket from floor stock or from a catalogue. You may notice that different funeral directors ask higher or lower prices for exactly the same product.

With burials, some people like to place religious or sentimental items inside the coffin or on its lid. In most cases this will not be a problem. However, problems can arise with items placed on top of the gravesite itself. For aesthetic or safety reasons the cemetery may not allow this. It is always wise to get advice from the funeral director or cemetery beforehand.

There are also a number of items that cannot be placed inside coffins during cremation as these can cause explosions. The Australian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association publish a document relating to contents of coffins.

Useful tips

  • Don’t be rushed into selecting and coffin or casket. Take your time and ask lots of questions.
  • Choose a coffin or casket within your price and budget.
  • Ask the funeral director to see the entire range of coffins and caskets on offer.
  • Don’t be swayed by the funeral director to upsize. Stand your ground.
  • Don’t feel shamed if you choose a coffin or casket at the lower price range. You are among friends.
  • Purchase your own coffin or casket from a private supplier.
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