Choosing a Mausoleum: Weighing Costs & Benefits

Mausoleum at cemetery

A mausoleum is a building above the ground built to house bodies of the deceased. It is an alternative for those who do not want to be buried in the ground (in a grave) upon their death.

How Do Mausoleums Work?

A mausoleum is a place to entomb the deceased without burying them. They are stand-alone structures that house one or more bodies of people who have paid either for the entire building itself or for a crypt within a larger public mausoleum. Rather than picking out a burial plot and paying for it, you'll select a crypt in a mausoleum (or pay to have a mausoleum built) as the final resting place for yourself or your loved one.

Inside a Mausoleum

Inside the mausoleum, you'll find the crypts that hold the casket. The deceased are entombed within the building's walls, although they may be stand-alone structures within the mausoleum. Mausoleums often have lighting, ventilation, and seating options like benches. Many may feature flowers, wreaths, or even candles, as memorials for the deceased. Some have stained glass, decorative statues, or religious ornamentation as well. Mausoleums are found in sizes from small enough for one person to large enough to hold thousands.

inside a mausoleum

Mausoleums vs. Crypts

The crypt is the place where the casket and body are placed for entombment. Crypts can be single (for one person), double/companion, or larger to house more than one person in the same space.

Mausoleums vs. Columbariums

A columbarium is a mausoleum for holding the remains of a cremated person(s). The cremains are usually in urns and may be freestanding, although sometimes the cremains are entombed within the walls with plaques or other signifiers for each deceased person.

Common Types of Mausoleums

Typically, most mausoleums house the caskets above the ground, although there are several common types to choose amongst. A mausoleum can be made in numerous styles, from walk-in (vestibule) to walk-up. When speaking about mausoleums, most people picture the walk-in style.

walk-up mausoleum

Public or Community Mausoleums

A public or community mausoleum is one that anyone can choose for entombment. It is usually open to the public, at least during certain hours, and you can pay a fee to reside there.

public mausoleums

Private or Family Mausoleums

A private mausoleum is one held by a family or other closed group. Only members of that family or group are allowed to be entombed in it and the public is not allowed in. A private or family mausoleum may be on private grounds or in a cemetery, but with locks and other security in place.

Family mausoleum

Lawn Crypts

A lawn crypt is a mausoleum that is built underground. Even though the crypt is below ground, the casket and deceased's body are not buried in dirt. Rather, they are housed in the structure built below the lawn.

Garden or Outdoor Mausoleums

A garden mausoleum is essentially an open-air mausoleum. It may feature more natural settings and elements. Unless it is on private grounds, the area itself would be public.

outdoor mausoleum

Cost of Entombment in a Mausoleum

Like other funeral costs, entombment in a mausoleum prices will vary greatly depending on your choices and location. Any services (such as a religious service or memorial, luncheon or reception, and officiate) will have the same costs associated with an entombment in a mausoleum as would a traditional burial service. Additionally, if you plan a visitation or wake, you'll still need to have the body prepared. Costs can vary depending on your final mausoleum choice, but may range from:

  • Community option (indoor or outdoor) - $4,000+
  • Lawn crypt - $3,000 to $10,000, depending on how big it is
  • Private walk-up - $50,000 to $125,000 or more, since you'll need to build the structure around the casket
  • Vestibule/walk-in - $200,000+ (upwards of a million or more), because you need to erect the entire building

Like all other choices, your materials, design, and location will all factor into the cost as well.

Pros and Cons of Choosing a Mausoleum

Deciding whether to select a mausoleum over an in-ground burial is a personal one that should take several things into consideration before choosing the final resting place.

Pros

People choosing burial and cremation options should take the following benefits into consideration.

  • Comfort level of deceased - Some people simply do not like the idea of being buried in dirt. In this case, it may be best to choose entombment in a mausoleum.
  • Family tradition - If the family owns a private mausoleum, or is traditionally entombed in a particular public one, it keeps everyone close together.
  • Weather is unimportant - Burying someone in the ground requires generally good weather, so if you live in a climate where the ground is frozen for long periods of a time, this is a good alternative. It is also a good option in flood-prone areas.
  • Maintenance - Entombment in a mausoleum allows family and friends a place to visit that is clean, often pleasant to look at, dry, and well-maintained. Indoor mausoleums also offer protection from the elements.
  • Eco-friendly - People who are concerned about taking up valuable land may find large public entombments in mausoleums a viable option.

Cons

A few drawbacks to mausoleums include:

  • Privacy - If you cannot afford a private mausoleum, you may find close crypt quarters with deceased strangers and their visitors disconcerting when compared to gravesites that are spaced several feet apart.
  • Maintenance - While a good mausoleum will have excellent maintenance, some are not as well-built or frequently maintained as others, whether public or private and the building may start to crumble and fall into disrepair. Over the years, privately held property may change hands and new owners may not have as rigorous maintenance schedules.
  • Smell - While generally mausoleums generally do not smell due to ventilation of both the mausoleum itself and the casket, plus drainage and liners, there is always a chance of problems that can cause some odors from decomposing body.

Making a Mausoleum Your Final Resting Place

When it comes to deciding between having yourself or your deceased loved one buried or entombed in a mausoleum, you'll need to weigh the pros and cons along with the cost. Knowing what kind of mausoleum options are available can also help you and your loved ones make the right decision.

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Choosing a Mausoleum: Weighing Costs & Benefits