We recently ran into an issue where the cremains of a 6’2″ man did not fit in a 210 cubic inch urn. To be on the safe side we advertise, just as everyone else, that the calculations are approximately 1 pound of healthy weight to 1 cubic inch of cremains. This calculation for most gives plenty of room in a 200 cubic inch urn remaining.
The problem arose which left us wondering about a particular crematorium’s process and standards. The cremains of this man was about 350 cubic inches. This was about 2 times that of the industry standard. So, we are left asking what was mixed in the cremains? Was it those ashes of another person? Was this just left over cremains that the crematorium had left around? This was screaming to me the need for an investigation.
The poor wife that watched a funeral director attempt to push way too many cremains into a standard urn was left upset and angry at us. The funeral director I also fault for not being honest with his customer and should have told her that the volume of cremains was way more than usual (unless of course he had ownership in the crematorium as well.)
We opted to help out the situation by providing a companion urn at a low cost to replace the standard adult urn. Companion urns typically hold 400 cubic inches or more.
If you have ever ran into this situation or in this situation now, please let the Funeral Consumers Alliance know by filing a report. This kind of unscrupulous activity should be reported to save the next family from unnecessary pain during a very difficult time.
Since most people are not in the market for urns on a daily basis, it can be very hard to even get started. Sometimes there are more questions than answers and with the emotional turmoil, this only adds more stress. Here are some tips.
Keep in mind that you are free to use any container you like
Determine the size of urn you need
Decide where the urn will be kept
Decide what type of material you would like
Decide what design, theme, or style you would like
Other considerations: Scattering, sharing, traveling, lasting
How to Choose a Cremation Urn
1. REMEMBER: ANYTHING GOES
MAIN POINT: You are free to choose and use any container you like, and you are not required to purchase an urn from the funeral home or crematorium.
First off, you can legally keep the remains in almost any container you would like. People have used vases for centuries and recently we have heard the stories of coffee cans, ziploc bags, mason jars, and more. You can modify a violin, a guitar, or a brewing barrel to make an urn if you so pleased. You are not required to purchase an urn from the funeral home, or from anyone else.
There may be some restrictions based on what you intend to do with the urn; for instance, burial in a cemetery requires that the urn either be a vault-style urn, or that the urn be placed inside a burial vault designed for holding an urn. But if you’re keeping the urn at home, anything goes.
2. DETERMINE URN SIZE
MAIN POINT: Generally cremated remains will take up about 160-220 cubic inches of space. Most cremation urns have a capacity of 200 cubic inches.
The basic rule of thumb is that each pound of the person’s body weight will require one cubic inch of space for the ashes. In other words, 1lbs body weight = 1 cubic inch of remains. For example, if someone weighed 185 lbs, the resulting ashes will generally be about 185 cubic inches.
Most cremation urns you’ll find will be standard sized 200 cubic inch “adult” urns. There are also smaller versions known as keepsake urns, and double-sized ones at 400 cubic inches called companion urns. We’ve helpfully tagged all our urns that hold larger-than-average volume as large capacity items.
To calculate with a little more certainty and determine the size urn you need, we have the ultimate resource to help you answer this very question here: What size urn should I get?
3. DECIDE WHERE THE URN WILL GO
MAIN POINT: If the urn will go in your home, choose an urn that is beautiful and represents your loved one in a special way. If it will go in a niche or be buried, you may want to choose something a little simpler and more affordable.
The next main question is – Where will this urn be kept? If you plan on keeping the urn in your home then you have more freedom in the choice than if you want to place it in a niche at a cemetery. Many niches are 11″ x 11″ x 11″. which limits your choice to a cremation urn under 11″ in all directions, so the converted-violin-urn idea is out of the question unless you build a miniature violin.
If you plan on burying the urn in the cemetery, you’ll want to choose something simple, affordable, and durable. Marble urn vaults can generally be buried, and you won’t be required to purchase a protective outer shell vault, since the marble urn won’t biodegrade (as wood urns will) or be crushed by the weight of the ground (as ceramic or metal urns can be).
Or perhaps you’d like the urn to go in a niche with a glass door, so that you can still see the urn. In that case you’ll probably want something that looks nice yet still fits within the confines of the niche – usually something rectangular is ideal, such as a wood cremation urn, perhaps one with an inlay art design.
For display in your home, you’ll want to choose a cremation urn that looks beautiful, reminds you of your loved one, and makes sense with your finances. When keeping the urn in the home some people don’t want to draw attention to the urn as an urn. This is where the design can fool people. Many of our urns have been mistaken as jewelry chests others we offer are actually clocks. There are countless options available, so read on for further considerations.
Another factor is personal choice. Some people prefer brass or granite while others love the richness of walnut wood. This is a personal choice which is sometimes chosen in advance by the deceased, or an easy choice based on a known preference. Let the urn be something that represents your loved one to you, don’t let the salesman sway you by trying to convince you to buy a thousand dollar urn because “he would’ve wanted the quality”, but instead find the most fitting urn to remember them by.
Just about any theme imagineable has been made into a cremation urn. From popular film and TV characters to sports teams, angels to zebra-stripes, simple silk slip covers to ornate replicas of an ancient Han tomb, you can find just about anything and everything for your loved one. Colors, wood types, shapes, nature themes, religious themes, music themes, and more.
6. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Here are some links to other important considerations when choosing an urn:
One last question that comes up often is “how long will the urn last?”
If you are keeping the urn in your home, than how long will similar items last? If it is wood, how long does your hardwood furniture last? How old is that antique that has been handed down for generations? The hardwood urns are built from the same wood as those antiques and with the same high quality finishes that are used on cabinets and furniture sold today.
If you plan on burying the urn, most cemeteries will require a burial vault that can be sealed and are made from high grade polymers or metals.
For those who will place in a niche within a mortuary, the conditions are usually that which are dry enough and sealed to protect wood or metals from corrosion and rot.
I hope that this will help you in deciding what cremation urn will work best, but always keep in mind that it is your choice. Don’t let anyone make you choose some old ugly looking urn because that is all the crematorium offers. Also, keep things within a budget, by not being forced, even if it is merely by guilt, to buy something that can’t be afforded.
First, the rule of thumb is that you will need a 200 cubic inch cremation urn for an adult. This is based on 1 pound per cubic inch (c.i.) – this is based on the person’s healthy weight. This is the hard part to explain, but it has to do with the person’s bone structure and not that of the flesh. Cremated remains are made up of the remaining bone fragments.
Other sizes of urns are available. Keepsake urns are a type of urn that is designed to keep a small portion of the cremains only. The sizes vary on keepsake urns from a pinch to 50 c.i. or more. A child urn typically will range from 30 c.i. to 150 c.i. and again the size needed varies on the size of the child. (I really hate even discussing this and I hope this does not come across offensive.) Infant urns are usually smaller than the 50 c.i. size.
Scattering urns are used in the case that you want the urn to open fairly easily for scattering and can also be kept after as a memorial. Often we are asked to engrave the scattering urns for keeping. Again, this is a choice. You can even keep a portion of the ashes as well and seal the scattering urn.
Second, the material of the urn is your choice. Wood will decay faster if buried, but that is where a burial vault plays a part of protecting the urn. Most wood urns are kept either in a niche or the home of a relative. Glass, ceramic, stone, and many other materials are also used and have their advantages or disadvantages depending on where you plan on keeping them.
3. Traveling with an Urn
CLICK HERE for our Fabric Urns collection, designed for elegance in air travel
Third, the latest that the FAA had put out on bringing an urn on a plane is that it has to be able to be x-rayed or it must be open already. They will not open it or allow you to open one there. Now the rules may change so always check before buying an urn if you plan on taking it on a flight. Wood urns can be ran through the x-ray machine. Check the FAA website for more.
When it comes to the cremated remains leaking out or sealing an urn, it will depend, again, on the urn you choose. First off, cremated remains are normally in a thick plastic bag. This bag can be placed into most wood urn which have screws that hold a bottom piece on.
Other cremation urns have a port that is held by screws which the cremains will have to be poured into. With wood urns you can add glue or a sealant before putting the screws in, but in most cases that isn’t necessary. Some other material urns will be similar to wood urns and others, such as a vase, will have to have the top sealed with a sealant.
Hopefully that helped clear some confusion for you about buying cremation urns. If not, feel free to write or call us with any additional questions, and continue browsing our blog articles and resources such as this one:
The one question we had been asked about many times over the years is “how do you open the urn?” Most of our pages will display (albeit at the bottom) information to the effect that the urn opens with 4 screws from the bottom. This is how most wood cremation urns are opened. However, since many don’t read all the way down to the bottom of the page, they don’t always see the information and so would call us up and ask.
To simplify the answer we made a short video demonstration on how to open an urn:
There are a few exceptions to this, of course, and most of the urns that are different the product page mentions the way to put the cremated remains inside the urn. Some are designed with smaller holes and with others the the top is hinged. Vase style ceramic cremation urns tend to have the standard opening on top with a lid that can be sealed in place or that is threaded. Many stone (cultured marble and granite urns) open from the bottom with a threaded stopper or a plug.
Since making and posting this video years ago, it’s received thousands of views on our cremation urn website and on our YouTube channel, and we’ve made several more videos showing how to open and fill a variety of styles and designs of cremation urns:
If you have any question about how to open a cremation urn, please leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help.
In coversations about life and work or when getting to know people, the question I seem to get asked a lot is – Why cremation urns?
When I am asked what I do for a living and I mention that I sell cremation urns, people seem to react with a somber, “Why?” Well, it wasn’t because my family ran or owned a funeral home, which seems to be more of a common answer among funeral professionals. For me it was because of my dad’s old golf ball display company.
You see, I worked for my dad’s company Golf Treasures for a few years and back in 1998 before I worked for them we had started a business called Northwest Gifts (which is still going strong). That company started by selling locally manufactured golf gifts, such as hole in one award trophies, collectible golf ball cases, and other sports-related display cabinets. Many of the golf items we sold were made by Golf Treasures, so when Golf Treasures started manufacturing a small line of 5 different hardwood urns, I figured we could create a website to sell those urns as well.
So, the history of my involvment in selling urns isn’t glamorous or very interesting, but now it has become part of my daily life. I speak to many of our customers and feel their pain as they’re dealing with heartache, memorial arrangements, and costly funeral expenses. The loss of a young child is always the hardest to hear, I can’t imagine the pain of those who have lost a child, but that is for another post.
Now you know the unglamorous history, the present and the future of Urns Northwest is still to serve at a time of great loss. It is always appreciated, yet humbling, to receive the many “thank you’s” from our customers. We will continue to do our best to provide premium, personal customer service to help you get the right memorial, beautifully made, delivered at the right time.