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Suitable Urns for Outdoors and Burial

Typically, cremation urns are displayed indoors and most any material will suffice for this need. However, a growing number of individuals elect to have their loved one’s ashes placed in an urn that will ultimately rest in an outdoor setting. This leads many to question what urn materials are suitable for outdoor display and burial.

Why the Outdoors?

It could be that the surviving family member is uncomfortable keeping the urn in their home. Or the decedent made pre-arrangements to have their ashes kept in a cemetery. Maybe the surviving family member created a garden and would like to display the urn in a tranquil setting. Whatever the reason may be, there are instances in which a cremation urn will be displayed outdoors.

Here are some common places where urns are kept outdoors:

  • An outdoor columbarium niche in a cemetery
  • Burial in a cemetery grave space
  • Display in an urn garden on cemetery property
  • Display in a home garden or on private property

Suitable Urn Materials for Outdoors

Depending on the actual application some urns do better than others when used outdoors.

Outdoor Columbarium Urn Niche any metal urn such as bronze urns, brass urns, pewter urns, cloisonné urns and stainless steel urns will work well out doors. Keep in mind that the metal may oxidize so discoloration from tarnish/patina is expected. Also a good choice for this setting is cultured material urns (urns made from composites or resins), also ceramic urns and glass urns. Again, take in to consideration that even though the urn is in a niche it may be exposed to the exterior elements.

Burial in a Grave Space if direct burial is the case then metal urns and cultured material urns would be recommended. They have the strength to withstand the underground forces which can cause physical stress to the urn. Some cemeteries require an urn burial vault and if that is the case most any urn that is recommended for a columbarium niche will work. The urn burial vault is normally sealed and will protect the urn from moisture and the elements

For those who desire a more eco-friendly approach to burial there are biodegradable urns which can be used for earth burial or sea scattering. They are designed to disintegrate over a period of time if buried, or within minutes if released in the water.

Display in a Garden some individuals have fashioned gardens that are a tribute to their loved one and plan to display the cremation urn as the centerpiece. It is best to select an urn that will withstand the direct elements of nature for this type of setting. Metal urns such as bronze urns or brass urns will work well, but as mentioned previously they most likely will oxidize and form a greenish patina or tarnish. Composite material urns will also work very well, but some of the coloring may fade over a period of time so select a light colored one. Urns such as cloisonné urns can stand up to the elements, but the enameled coloring may fade from sun exposure.

Non-Suitable Urn Materials for Outdoors

Not all urn materials will weather the outdoors. Materials such as wood urns will develop cracks that may result from a dry environment. While ceramic urns and glass urns may work in a columbarium niche, they are not recommended for burial without an urn burial vault. The same goes for natural stone urns such as marble urns and urns made from onyx or slate.

Alternative Outdoor Options to Urns

With cremations on a constant rise, the options for storing the ashes have also increased to include new and interesting products - especially for outdoors.

Cremation Markers flat grave markers that have a hole cored through them to house a receptacle for storing the ashes. They can be engraved or have a bronze plaque mounted with the decedents information.

Cremation Benches made from granite these memorial feature a cored hole in which the cremains are stored before the bench seat is set in place sealing the opening.