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Funerals/depth needed for urn placement in cemetery


What is the depth needed for placing an urn in a church cemetery in North Carolina?  I have been told 16 inches of fill dirt on top of urn but I cannot find any legal info from the internet.

Hi James,

The depth of an urn placement generally is - and always SHOULD be - up to the cemetery and its customers, and never a legal matter! There's no health and safety reason to place the urn at ANY depth; although precious and important to loved ones, as far as a government is concerned, most cremated remains are just calcium (bone) and you should be able to bury them however deeply you and your cemetery (or your own shovel on your own property) can agree on.

Generally, the amount of fill dirt is decided by each cemetery, based on how they prefer to care for their grounds. 16 inches is a good number - even a little shallow if you're not using a biodegradable urn. (Putting a plastic or metal urn in the ground is like putting a boulder there, and makes it impossible for that amount of soil to absorb water anymore for the grass and vegetation on the surface. Given that we're headed into Summer drought conditions across most of the country, helping the earth retain as much water as possible in the "soil sponge" is really, really good for Nature.)

My general recommendation is that if you use a biodegradable urn, the remains should be at least 15-20 inches down UNLESS they're mixed into the soil. Mixed well can be at any depth but it's best for all if it's actually under the surface so that the clay can help free up the calcium.

If you're using a non-biodegradable urn, or an urn in an urn vault, I like the grave even deeper, but it's hard to dig small deep holes so 24 inches is usually as much as we can get.

Hope that helped!




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Cynthia Beal


Typical questions include 1) Where can I go for a natural burial? 2) What types of coffins, urns and other "packaging" are best for natural decomposition? 3)How do I plan for a natural funeral? 4) Do I have to be embalmed? and other questions in this vein. I'm available to answer general consumer questions about natural burial, home and natural funerals, and sustainable cemetery management. I answer questions about general cemetery matters, and offer suggestions about how to deal with remains, cremated or buried, interment rights, rules for cemeteries and plot owners, covering conventional as well as alternative options. I also answer questions from professionals, home funeral guides, and family members about how to manage a natural funeral either in the mortuary or at the home, how to best use natural coffins and urns, and how to convert cemeteries to natural, sustainable practices. I will answer questions from volunteer cemetery managers about how to offer natural burial in their rural, Pioneer, or non-profit cemeteries. If I don't know an answer I'll refer the questioner to someone who does. DISCLAIMER -- I am a certified pre-need sales person in the State of Oregon. I am not a licensed attorney, tax adviser, estate planner, funeral director, embalmer, accountant, public official, or any other professional that may be associated with issues the question brings up and any answers I provide should not be relied upon if such expertise is required by the asker (as per the All Expert suggestion). I provide my own personal opinions, based on my experience in business, Nature and its systems, and with human beings after 55 years of life on the planet.


Natural burial and sustainable cemetery management experience: I'm the founder of the Natural Burial Company and a member of the Cemetery Association of Oregon. Over 25 years in the natural products industry, and over a decade of running the Natural Burial Company, founded in 2004. I've done some consulting for existing and start-up natural cemetery operations. I'm currently an instructor at Oregon State University, facilitating the creation of a program in sustainable cemetery management and stimulating research in cemetery-oriented processes and functions, and I own two historic cemeteries the feature natural burial, based in Oregon.

ICCFA - International Cemetery, Crematory and Funeral Association Green Business Network Funeral Consumers Alliance

American Cemetery Magazine; Funeral Business Advisor; Real Goods Source Book; American Funeral Director Magazine, etc.

There is no degree in natural burials or funerals, and no accredited education provided for sustainable cemetery management. We're developing a program at Oregon State University but it hasn't fully launched yet.

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