What is a Burial Vault?

Though you can’t see them above ground, a burial vault is an option many opt for when planning for their eternal resting place. A burial vault encases the casket, protecting it from heavy machinery used in cemeteries, and of course, the earth above it.


Burial vaults benefit both the family of the deceased and the cemetery grounds. Over time, a casket may buckle under the weight of the ground and decay. This causes the ground above it to sink, which can be unsettling to family members visiting deceased relatives. Burial vaults help prevent this, keeping the grounds pristine for visitation.


These enclosures are made of wood, brick, metal, fiberglass or concrete and have been used since the 19th century to prevent grave theft. Since then, they have become a popular burial option to help ensure the ground does not sink at the gravesite.


There is a misconception that vaults are sealed and air tight. This would cause the vault to rupture and fail as pressure builds from decomposition gasses. A vault does not seal the casket, but rather it acts as a strong encasement that protects the casket.

Louis Cicalese, cemetery trustee in New Jersey is president of the board of the historic Harleigh Cemetery and serves as an advisor to a number of non-profit cemetery organizations in New Jersey.