What is a Burial Vault?

A burial vault, also referred to as a grave liner or burial liner, is a protective container that encloses a casket to prevent it from being damaged by external elements such as water and to prevent the grave from sinking. In the past, burial vaults were made of wood or brick, but today they are more commonly made of metal or concrete. This is because wooden coffins decompose over time, and the weight of the soil on top of the casket or heavy cemetery equipment passing over it can cause the casket to collapse and the soil to settle. While not legally required, burial vaults are often mandatory in cemeteries as a safety measure.

Burial vaults were first created to prevent grave robbers from accessing coffins and stealing valuables or even bodies. Initially made of wood, vaults evolved to be constructed from materials such as brick, iron, and steel. While the practice of burying the deceased with jewelry fell out of favor in the late 1800s, the importance of burial vaults in preventing the ground from settling over graves was recognized, leading to their increased use. Concrete and reinforced concrete vaults became more common in the early 20th century.