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The Most Common Headstone Issues and How to Solve Them

When loved ones leave us, having a memorial or monument is often an essential part of our grieving process. Having a place to visit those we've lost and to share with future generations is a tradition practiced in many cultures. There are many common issues with headstones of all designs. Improper installation, lack of adequate cleaning, no maintenance, waiting too long to repair, selection of the wrong material, incorrect spelling or fonts, cracks or scratches, and other related problems. 

Here, we would like to discuss the most common headstone issues and the solutions available to help anyone experiencing them. 

Dirt and Debris Build Up

Through weather, storms, lawn maintenance, and more, dirt and debris can build up on a monument, dulling its original luster. As we always want the best for our loved ones, even when they have passed, many families may wish to learn how to clean the memorial stones of their departed loved ones regularly. 

While we recommend considering a professional monument restoration and cleaning service as a solution to avoid any accidental damage, there are means for you to clean a memorial that avoids damage if done correctly— providing that the headstone or memorial is made from a high-quality granite. 

It's important to note that there are some things you should avoid doing to clean a granite memorial: 

  • Avoid chemical cleaning agents
  • Never use a wire brush
  • Never use shaving cream, bleach, or vinegar
  • Never use a powerwasher
  • Avoid any protective coating, as it is impermeable to water vapor and is more likely to stain or damage the granite beyond repair

While granite is a rugged stone, cleaning agents' chemicals could permanently stain the stone. This is because granite is a porous rock, meaning they have minuscule holes that the human eye cannot see—but can absorb things like cleaning chemicals, which can cause granite to darken and stain over time. 

Wire or harsh bristle brushes could scratch a granite memorial's beautiful, polished surface. Should a loved one's memorial be made from marble or any other stone, we strongly recommend forgoing cleaning it yourself and hiring a professional, as marble monuments are extremely difficult to clean safely. 

If followed correctly, the below guidelines will help you keep your loved one's granite memorial clean. 

  • Use a very soft brush or a microfiber cloth
  • Use natural or distilled water only
  • Use plenty of water, more than you think you need
  • Always keep the stone wet during the entire washing process
  • Begin at the bottom and work your way upward
  • Rinse thoroughly when finished
  • Optional: Use glass cleaner once the stone is completely dry for a streak-free shine. However, the glass cleaner must be thoroughly polished and dry to the touch on the granite's surface. 

It is also essential to note that these modern techniques to clean a newer granite headstone may not apply to many older ones and stones not created from granite. 

Monument No Longer Level

Due to the weather, such as extensive ground freezing and thaw, or torrential rains and flooding, a loved one's headstone may begin to lean or become unlevel. In cases like these, the best solution is to reach out to the cemetery or professional restoration service. Professional headstone restoration companies have the proper tools to level the headstone and ensure it is appropriately balanced according to the cemetery's guidelines and any local regulations. 

What do professionals do to fix the issue of a leaning headstone?

  • Begin by running the line levels and measuring the row the headstone is placed within. 
  • Remove a small amount of dirt around the stone. The amount removed depends on the severity of the stone's leaning, decreasing any stress from the stone before lifting. 
  • Lift the monument. A rolling aluminum gantry with a one-ton chain hoist is most often used to lift the monument. During the raising of the stone, one person should operate the gantry, and one person should always stay with the stone. 
  • The next step is to widen and deepen the hole to allow for gravel or other material the stone will rest on and tamp the soil down. 
  • The aluminum gantry is used to lower the stone carefully back into place.
  • Last, a level is used to ensure and monitor that the stone stays plumb and level while gravel is placed all around it. Once the gravel is placed and carefully tamped down around the stone, the original sand, soil, and sod are placed back around the memorial. 

Legacy Headstones cares deeply about every aspect of what we do, from working with families to create a perfect memorial that captures a loved one's life to helping our customers and bereaved families to answer any question about memorials we can. We hope that we have been able to bring you solutions and, ultimately, comfort.