If you are: a cemetery manager interested in creating a family columbarium garden, a family member searching for a private family columbarium or a landscape architect searching for a custom columbarium manufacturer who can assist you with an innovative design then this blog is for you. 

As cremation rates are increasing every year across the continent, family cremation niches are fast becoming a popular choice for inurnment. For families wishing to have a more personalized columbarium dedicated to their family members, the family columbarium may be the perfect interment option. 

Some cemeteries are developing spaces along pathways or creating columbarium gardens that are only dedicated to family columbaria. As this interment option is growing in demand, some cemeteries have developed complete cemetery sections that have custom columbaria products that are unique and personalized. 

When it comes to final arrangements for a family member, there are several private family columbarium styles available.  This type of memorial offers families the opportunity to honor their loved ones in a unique way. Here is what you need to know about this personalized form of inurnment.  

What is a Private Family Columbarium?  

A columbarium is an above-ground structure designed to hold cremated remains in individual niches or compartments. They can be made with granite interiors, or they can be engineered with structurally welded aluminum frames with Nylene or powder-coated aluminum niche cores. This type of columbarium may be installed in a cemetery, on church property or on privately owned property (where laws allow).  

Private Family Columbaria are becoming an increasingly popular way to create a lasting memory that can be shared with generations of family members for years to come.  

Benefits of a Private Family Columbarium  

A private family columbarium provides many benefits. They offer a personalized family memorial for future family generations. They are appreciated for their beauty as a prominent monument in a cemetery setting. They serve as both an above-ground interment option and a memorial. 

A family columbarium can be affordable if one considers the cost of an inground casket burial and the costs of purchasing a memorial. Although columbarium prices can vary (depending on the level of customization, the niche configuration, and granite details) often the cost per interment can be less than the cost of a headstone and plot for each family member. 

For cemetery managers, the family columbarium can be considered an efficient use of cemetery land. Some family columbaria are small enough to be set along pathways or within a garden setting. Some landscape architects are now incorporating the family columbaria within larger commercial-size cemetery columbarium gardens. Some cemeteries are developing family columbarium sections specifically to meet the demand for family columbarium niche interments. 

The design of the interior niches depends on the manufacturer.  Some columbarium companies can build niches to hold 2 or 4 upright urns together. Or other manufacturers have the engineering design capability to customize the niche sizes to hold any number of niches desired.  

Another benefit to purchasing a family columbarium is that planning a funeral interment ceremony is no longer as time-pressing or urgent as it is for an inground casket burial. The urns can be kept at a home or funeral home (if arrangements are made in advance) for as long as necessary. The ability to transport a cremation urn to the interment ceremony is also a much more convenient protocol. Families are free to schedule their internment ceremony whenever they feel ready. Funeral services can be arranged any time of year as the niche shutter doors are easy to open and close even on the coldest snowy days of the year.  

Finally, these structures can provide a lasting tribute that will last for generations, as well as serve as an enduring reminder of a family legacy.  

Personalization Options for Your Private Family Columbarium  

When creating a private family columbarium, you have several options when it comes to personalizing the memorial with meaningful details that make it truly special. These personalization options include custom engravings on the niches themselves, decorative fixtures like lighting and sculptures placed around the structure, and even live plants or trees planted around the Columbarium. You may also choose to add photos, letters or mementos that celebrate the life of your loved one inside the niche structure itself.  

Creating a private family columbarium is an incredibly personal decision that allows families to honor their loved ones in an intimate way while providing comfort during times of grief and loss.  

With multiple personalization options available such as customized engravings, family crests, decorative bronze appliques porcelain photography; you can create something truly special that reflects your beloved’s life in every single detail – guaranteed!  

For the private family member thinking about purchasing a family columbarium, here are a few questions to ask: 

Does the cemetery you are interested in offer family columbaria products?  

In some locations, cemeteries are private corporations that sometimes sell their own products. If this is the case, they may have some examples of family columbaria that you may be interested in purchasing. If you do not like the products they are offering and would like more personalized design options, consider asking if they are open to other Columbaria manufacturers’ products being installed on their property.  

  • Ask them about additional cemetery service fees for installation and ground preparation.  
  • Find out the costs for preparing the site for the columbarium foundation. In some columbarium designs a granite foundation can be purchased with the columbarium instead of pouring a concrete slab.  
  • Find out if their cemetery equipment can lift a certain weight to assist in an installation. In most cases, cranes are used to offload the columbarium from the shipping truck and the installation is completed within a brief period of time. 
  • Ask if the cemetery provides inscription services if you wish to inscribe the shutter doors. Or ask about the costs of bronze plaques if you wish to use bronze on the shutter doors. Note that bronze plaques will require predrilled holes in the granite shutter doors.  
  • Ask about their pricing for opening and closing a niche for internment. 


Is the cemetery publicly managed?  

If this is the case, find out if the cemetery regulations allow for family columbaria on the cemetery property. Ask if they are open to selling sections of land or plots for a family columbarium. Inquire if they have or will be establishing a family columbarium garden section. Or see if they have an existing pathway that they can set Columbaria beside. 

In some cases, undisturbed cemetery plots can be used for family columbaria. What is most important to remember when purchasing a plot of land is that the columbarium weighs thousands of lbs. and driving overtop of a grave is never an option. The location of the family columbarium plot must be carefully considered.  

Is there a designated family columbarium section in the cemetery? 

Find out if you are required to meet certain granite colors, family columbarium sizes, or manufacturing standards. See if the cemetery management will appreciate the additional security features of a key locking the inner security door. ColumbariumUSA.com (powered by Sunset Memorial & Stone) manufactures all their columbaria niches to have a powder-coated aluminum key locking inner-security door. Unless the niche is being opened for an interment service, this additional security feature ensures that no one will have access to the urns once they are interred behind the key-locked door. If the granite doors need to be swapped out for inscription, then the urns are still protected behind the key-locked door.  


Location, Location, Location 

Because a family columbarium can weigh between 1000 to 2000 or more lbs, you will always need to consider that heavy equipment like cranes and shipping trucks may need to enter the gates of the cemetery. Some older cemeteries have arched gated entrances that can add additional offloading issues for cranes and flatbed trucks. Knowing about these potential installation issues in advance will prevent any headaches and unforeseen additional expenses during the installation. In most cases, there are alternative solutions for these types of installations by using different offloading and installation equipment. You can always ask your columbarium manufacturer to send a crane operator to the site for a site inspection so you will know the true costs upfront. 

The most cost-effective crane has a 25 ft reach from the center of the cemetery road to the center of the foundation. If you have the flexibility of selecting a piece of land for a family columbarium always keep in mind the shipping truck and crane require access. Can large cranes be brought in to lift columbaria over the treetops? In some cemeteries, this is possible, the only issue is the costs of the larger cranes will add to the overall cost of the columbarium.  


Do I need to purchase a Columbarium Foundation?  

When we provide quotes for our smaller Heritage and Heritage Pedestal family columbaria, we always like to provide the costs of a granite foundation with the columbarium quote. This process eliminates the additional time and expense of getting concrete foundations poured. All that is required is that the cemetery ground crew prepare the site by removing the grass for the foundation and tamping some gravel in the hole to level the site. The granite foundation then is easily set in place. The foundation is slightly larger than the base of the columbarium and it adds a finished and professional clean look.  

For larger custom family columbaria, a concrete foundation will be required. The degree of engineering required for the foundation will be based on the soil type, the weight of the columbarium, the cemetery, and local engineering regulations. Understanding these requirements in advance will be helpful when planning the site. Cemetery management and staff are often experienced with these types of jobs and may assist you with this process.  


For the Cemetery Manager who is interested in creating a columbarium garden: 

Here are a few ideas you may wish to consider: 

Do you have a section of land to develop for a separate columbarium garden? 

Some cemetery sections are unusable for inground burial. Developing a family columbarium section in these sites may work if the soil conditions are appropriate. 

Some cemeteries have incorporated family columbaria units within larger commercial columbarium gardens. This is an appealing design concept to explore if you are thinking about adding a larger columbarium project to a cemetery property. Some families appreciate the exclusivity and personalization of a family columbarium.  

Do you have any existing pathways or sidewalks with room to flank family columbaria? 

Family columbaria can be quite appealing if they are connected to the setting. These connections could be along pathways or set within an existing garden. Taking advantage of the existing hardscape is an efficient use of space and landscaping costs. By strategically placing family columbaria and cremation benches along an existing path, you can make the former sidewalk both appealing and a more efficient use of hardscape.  

Are you interested in providing immediate ready-to-purchase family columbaria? 

If you envision connectivity and connection with the other family columbaria in a setting, this may be the perfect time to plan for a columbarium garden that offers diverse products for sale that are both unique and complimentary. By ordering multiple units at a time, you can save costs for shipping, crane, and installation as there are cost efficiencies when ordering multiple units at the same time. You can also be a part of creating a design concept that will be both appealing and connected.  

Find a trusted columbarium manufacturer who can supply you with family columbaria on an add-need basis  

If the budget is not there for ordering multiple family columbaria at once, Sunset Memorial & Stone can assist you and your families by ordering the desired columbaria styles and colors for your families on an add-needs basis. The columbarium contracts and deposits will be the family members’ responsibility, but the installation support can be in cooperation with the cemetery staff and management. Coordination of family columbaria styles and granite colors and even inscriptions can be controlled this way. Keep in mind that our key-locking inner security doors can all be keyed the same so that the cemetery staff do not require a unique key for every family columbarium.  


Check out our Family Columbarium YouTube video for exciting ideas. 

If you are a Landscape Architect developing a family columbarium section for a client:  

Here are some columbarium design tips:  

1. Find a columbarium manufacturer that has the engineering skill set to collaborate with you on a custom design. 

We are often asked to assist landscape architects who envision a custom columbarium garden design for a client. Working collaboratively with architect firms is our forte. We thoroughly enjoy working with architects who push us toward creating new and innovative Columbaria designs. Creating a new and innovative custom family columbarium is always a highlight for our engineering and manufacturing team 

2. Let your imagination soar.  

ColumbairumUSA.com is powered by Sunset Memorial & Stone, and we have tremendous respect for the contributions that landscape architects make to any of our projects. Do not feel restricted by previously designed Columbaria models. We are always excited to create new columbarium designs with landscape architects. We respect the unique aesthetic styles of every landscape architect firm. The form, material details, and scale of a columbarium design can be customized to meet your design vision. We are here to support your firm to create a style that puts your firm’s design stamp on a project. 

How we can help you meet your client’s needs. 

We appreciate that landscape architects understand their clients best. And we are here to help you achieve the look you envision. We are always keen to collaborate with landscape architects to create custom columbarium drawings. We can provide budgetary pricing so that your clients have realistic pricing to help them prepare for overall project costs. Our engineers are talented and flexible, and they are keen to assist you with an exciting design. Call us today if you have a new project in mind.