When someone you love has died, you have an innate desire to find some tangible way to mark their life, to create a memorial for the deceased. Whether it is a family member, friend, or beloved pet, we want something enduring to mark not just their passing, but their life. This is how headstones came to be. Many people find solace in designing a custom headstone engraved with the name and the dates of their departed.
But other people feel a desire to make a homemade grave marker, either for the cemetery or their own property. This can be a beautiful way to feel close to the one who died and memorialize the relationship you shared. There are many ways to make a homemade headstone, and we’re going to share our favorites with you.
Before you commit to making a headstone, decide what you want to accomplish. Ask yourself the following questions:
Home burials are legal in every state except California, Indiana, Washington, and the District of Columbia. If you’re planning to bury a family member on your property with a homemade headstone, contact your local zoning board to determine if there are regulations you need to follow for a home burial and to get any required permits.
If you’d like to install your homemade headstone at a cemetery, contact the cemetery’s administration to learn if they can accommodate your wishes. Some cemeteries have strict guidelines for the size, shape, and material of the headstones they will accept.
When making your homemade grave marker, consider the material you will work with. Unless you have special tools and experience using them, your best choices are wood, concrete, stone, and fabric. Consider the pros and cons of each before you choose.
When making a DIY headstone, wood may be the most accessible material to work with. It is inexpensive and can be customized or decorated in many ways, including:
But there are other considerations — for example, grave markers made from wood will deteriorate far faster than stone or concrete. This is especially true when the wood is in contact with the earth or is in a rainy climate.
You might choose to make your homemade headstone from reclaimed wood from the side of a bard, weathered driftwood, or the planed and finished lumber from a home store. For a classic tombstone shape, 1-inch thick, planed lumber is the best choice.
If you choose to make a concrete base for the wood headstone, the wood will last longer.
Concrete is an excellent material for making a homemade grave marker. Using homemade molds or concrete stamps, you can form it into many shapes, and it give the headstone a traditional look. In addition, it is inexpensive and durable for decades.
Plan your homemade grave marker carefully before you mix the concrete because, once the concrete mix is ready, you’ll need to move quickly. You can build a cross or a more traditional tombstone shape out of wood using ½-inch thick pine or plywood.
Build the wood form using wood screws to make removing the form easier. But there are so many options for the concrete form to take, giving you nearly unlimited possibilities for your headstone.
Consider using cheap aluminum baking pans or plastic edging from the home store to achieve various shapes. Some people make upright headstones of concrete, while others choose a stepping stone style.
Once the concrete is poured into the mold, smooth it out and be sure it fills all the edges of the form. Use a concrete stamp to add beautiful texture to your homemade grave marker. Get creative with letter imprints or natural articles like leaves, twigs, shells, or vines.
Allow the concrete to fully set and dry out of the direct sun for two full days before unscrewing and removing the mold. Finally, wash down the concrete, and your homemade headstone is ready to be placed.
A simple but lovely option for making a homemade grave marker is to use a natural stone. You might find a large stone in your garden or on a nearby nature walk, or you can visit your local landscaping rock and boulder store to purchase one.
Decorate your stone grave marker with stencils and paint, paint pens, or consider engraving. A Dremel tool with a diamond bit will allow you to engrave any stone surface. It will take time, but the results are beautiful and long-lasting.
If you paint the stone marker, seal it with a brush-on or spray-on concrete sealer to ensure your artwork looks its best.
Fabric may be an unlikely material for a homemade headstone, but what we’re suggesting here is not a headstone but a grave marker in the form of a flag or banner. You can create a garden flag to use as a homemade grave marker.
To make your own garden flag grave marker, use nylon, polyester, or vinyl mesh, so that it will stand up to the elements. Then, choose any color or pattern, and embellish it with embroidery or fabric paint. Alternatively, consider buying a custom-printed garden flag with the message you choose.
Whatever path you choose, designing and making a homemade grave marker can be very healing. The process is an excellent way to look past the tearing grief and refocus on the beauty in the life you are memorializing.
If you decide to bring your creativity to a professionally carved granite headstone, Legacy Headstones is here to make your vision a reality. If we can assist you in selecting and designing your custom headstone, please don’t hesitate to call. We will be honored to help you to memorialize your loved one.