Frequently Asked Questions



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Questions about Cremation

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What is a niche?

A niche is a space in a columbarium, mausoleum, or niche wall to hold an urn. Read more about cremation niches.

What is the average cost to inter an urn in a columbarium?

A typical 9″ x 9″ x 9″ size cremation niche in a columbarium, purchased pre-need (before death), averages $750 to $2,800. Expect to pay 20 to 25 percent more if purchased at need (at time of death). The cost of a cremation niche includes the property holding the urn, endowment care, one inurnment (including labor), recording of the process, and name and dates engraved on the urn. Most columbariums and mausoleums will charge an additional $200 for a Saturday inurnment. Read more about cremation niches.

Is embalming necessary for cremation?

No. However, if there is a delay between time of death and time of cremation, the body will need to be preserved in some way until cremation can take place. In some situations, embalming may be necessary if the family wishes to have a viewing prior to cremation, or if the body is being transported a long distance.

Is any other preparation required prior to cremation?

The body does not have to be embalmed for cremation unless the circumstances require it. Prior to cremation, any implants that use batteries (such as pacemakers) must be removed from the body. If left in the body, batteries may explode during cremation and cause damage to the cremation chamber or injury to the crematory operator. The body is usually placed in a container made of combustible materials (fiberboard, pressed wood, etc.) before it goes into the cremation chamber. In some states a container is not required.

Can extremely overweight people be cremated?

Yes. An extremely obese person can be cremated, but it will require access to a crematory that has a retort (cremation chamber) large enough to accommodate the body. If there is no local cremation facility with an oversized retort, it will be necessary to transfer the body to a facility which does. You will incur additional costs for transportation, usually calculated per mile; extra cost for an oversized cremation container; and excess weight of cremation charge. Depending on the exact services, these additional charges may cause an oversized cremation to run $100-$500 more than a standard cremation.

Can the bodies of infants be cremated?

Yes. Many crematories have special, small-sized retorts (cremation chambers) that are especially designed for fetal remains or the bodies of infants.

How hot does the cremation chamber get?

Temperatures inside the cremation chamber are maintained between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit during the cremation process.

How long does it take to cremate a body?

On average, it takes anywhere from one to three hours to completely cremate the human body, depending on such factors as the weight or size of the body, the percentage of body fat to lean muscle mass, the efficiency and performance of the cremation equipment, the temperature inside the cremation chamber, and the type of container or casket holding the body.

Are cremations done individually?

Human cremations must always be performed individually. The law requires that only one human body can be placed in the cremation chamber at one time. However, pet cremations may be done either individually or communally (where more than one pet is cremated at the same time).

Why is refrigeration of the remains necessary prior to cremation?

Unless the body has been embalmed, refrigeration serves as a temporary means of preventing it from decomposing until cremation can take place.

Is the body exposed to an open flame during the cremation process?

Yes. The cremation process involves subjecting the body to high heat and constant flames that are produced by a furnace that is powered by natural gas, propane, or diesel fuel. The temperature inside the cremation chamber is maintained at a constant temperature between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. The intense heat of the flames vaporizes all organic matter and leaves only mineral fragments that resemble dry bone.

What happens after the cremation is complete?

After the body is completely cremated, all that remains are brittle mineral fragments. The cremated remains are allowed to cool down, and are then removed from the cremation chamber. The fragments are processed to a uniform granular consistency (called “cremated remains” or “ashes”) and returned to the family in either a temporary urn or a permanent urn.

I’ve heard you don’t get real ashes back from cremation — what do you get?

The cremated remains that you receive are not really ashes in the common sense of the word and do not look like ashes. They have been processed into granular particles with a consistency similar to sand.

What do “ashes” or cremated remains look like?

Cremated remains that have been processed have the appearance and consistency of coarse sand, and are a whitish color.

Is it true that the bones are crushed after cremation?

The cremated remains resemble brittle bones but are actually mineral fragments. They are processed or ground to a uniform granular consistency (“ashes”) in a device known as a "cremulator." The processed remains are then placed in a temporary or permanent urn and returned to the family.

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