Above-Ground Entombment

Some people may want options beyond a traditional in-ground burial at a cemetery. One of the alternatives available is above-ground entombment. Families can choose above-ground entombment at most cemeteries for both caskets or urns.

What is an Above-Ground Entombment?

Above-ground entombment is an option wherein an individual is placed into a sealed and secure crypt or niche, within a mausoleum or columbarium. The process of placing an individual into a crypt or niche is referred to as ‘entombment.’ Similar to a traditional burial, an above-ground entombment ensures that caskets and urns are kept secure, clean and dry. Rather than burying a casket or urn in the ground, cemeteries typically offer two above-ground options, mausoleums or columbariums.


Where do Above-Ground Entombments Take Place?

Above-ground entombments are often within a community mausoleum, private family mausoleum, or columbarium. Most modern-day entombments are made within public mausoleums, also known as community mausoleums. A mausoleum is a free-standing building housing crypts and niches within which individuals are entombed. Mausoleums can be either 'indoor mausoleums' or 'outdoor mausoleums’. Within the mausoleum building itself, crypts serve as the final resting place for casketed remains and niches serve as the final resting place for cremated remains. Various sizes and configurations of crypts and niches are available to accommodate individual entombments, the entombment of couples (tandem crypts), or the entombment of entire families. A public, or community, mausoleum serves as the resting place for many unrelated individuals. A private mausoleum, or a family mausoleum, is exclusively for the entombment of members of a specific family.

Above-Ground Entombment for Cremated Remains

Above-ground entombment of cremated remains takes place within cremation niches. Cremation niches are burial chambers approximately 12x12x12” and may be integrated parts of larger mausoleums or freestanding structures. A group of cremation niches is collectively referred to as a columbarium.

A cremation niche may be for an individual or for companions and are typically made from marble, granite, or glass. Each type offers different benefits.

  • Glass front niches allow the urn and personal effects, including pictures, to be displayed.
  • Marble and granite crypt and niches may be marked with an individual’s biographical information and epitaph.
  • The stone face of the crypt or niche can either be carved or affixed with a bronze plaque to the exterior face of the burial chamber. Modern engraving and casting techniques allow for pictures to be included alongside the memorial text.

Primary Advantages of Above-Ground Entombment

The primary advantages of above-ground entombment include the understanding that the casket or urn is kept secure, clean, and dry. Most crypts are sealed with an inner wall of metal, sealed with glue or caulking, and then covered with the outer shield face.

Visitation can be easier if the location of the crypt or niche is indoors or if the family has a private crypt.

Families can contact their local cemeteries to understand if above-ground entombment meets their needs.