Choosing a coffin

The traditional British coffin design is an irregular hexagonal box with sides that taper from the shoulders to the feet.

A coffin differs from a casket which is a rectangular shoe box shaped and often has a split lid for viewing the deceased. The casket is used much more in the US.

There can be confusion as the word casket is used in the US to describe the small container in which a person’s ashes are placed following cremation. In the UK this small container is still referred to as an urn.

Purchasing a coffin

The power of the internet means that you are no longer reliant on the funeral director to supply the coffin. At the least you can check online the price that you are being offered by the funeral director.

You can also source a coffin yourself. An increasing number of suppliers will supply all types of coffin with near to next day delivery available. In the US, a full range of coffins are now being sold in Walmart. What happens there will also happen here.

Types of coffin

It would have been hard to forsee how quickly the market for coffins has changed. Gone are the days when people simply selected a traditional oak coffin with brass handles.

Coffins made of willow, cardboard and bamboo are ever more common and the range of materials and styles continues to grow.

Traditional coffins

Traditional coffins are made of solid wood usually using oak, elm, mahogany or walnut. A cheaper option is a traditional wood veneered coffin. In either case, the handles will not normally be sold brass but will more likely be brass plated or brass coloured.

Coffins suitable for cremation

There are specific restrictions in the type of coffin that is allowed when a person is cremated. The material that the coffin is made from must be an approved standard that will not emit fumes when burned.

Even with these restrictions, the burning of 400,000 or so coffins in the UK each year creates thousands of tonnes of unnecessary pollution in the form of dioxins, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide.

Coffin covers

One solution is the recent invention called the coffin cover. The outer traditional wood coffin contains a simple internal coffin for cremation or indeed burial. The internal coffin is made of an environmentally friendly material such as cardboard.

Only the internal cardboard coffin is cremated or buried. The outer wooden coffin is reused. The coffin cover provides all the benefits of a traditional coffin but at a much cheaper price at the same time as being environmentally friendly.

Eco-friendly coffins

An increasing number of people are opting for a green burial as a way of helping to protect the environment. As part of this, they are choosing an eco friendly coffin made from a biodegradable source. These are usually made from bamboo, willow or cardboard.

Wicker coffins are a good choice for a natural burial and also an attractive alternative to a traditional coffin for a formal burial or cremation. The material used is often willow from sustainable sources usually in the UK or Europe.

Custom coffins

There are also the beginnings of a trend to use coffins as a medium for personal expression. Increasingly, families want to customise the coffin in order to make a final statement about the loved one embarking on their final journey. A number of companies are catering to this growing part of the coffin market.

An Oxford based company, Colourful Coffins produces painted coffins in a wide range of designs including religious, floral, scenic and sports themes. They have a bespoke painted service with previous commissions that include cars, juggernauts, country and Western designs, family pictures and poems. Colourful coffins

Crazy Coffins in Nottingham will also help with their range of hand painted or hand crafted coffins. Past commissions include an artic sledge, a cork, narrow boat, a kite, 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, a hand bell, a skip, a football, an electric guitar and a wooden egg. Crazy Coffins

Please note

The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.