The Do It Yourself (DIY) trend continues and has spread to, yes, a DIY coffin. Why would you choose to build your own casket? And is this a feasible option for your end-of-life plans? Let’s get into the details before you decide whether to become a member of a “coffin club.” Yes, that’s a real thing.
Can a DIY coffin be part of a traditional funeral service in a funeral home or parlor?
Yes! Not only would Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium allow a DIY coffin to be part of your service, we (and all U.S. funeral homes) must allow people to use a casket bought online, bought from another provider or casket store or, in this case, made themselves, per the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Is there a surcharge for using a DIY casket like a restaurant corkage fee for bringing your own wine?
No. In fact, the FTC Funeral Rule states: “The funeral provider cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought online, at a local casket store, or somewhere else—or charge you a fee to do it. The funeral home cannot require you to be there when the casket or urn arrives to them.”
What concerns do funeral homes have about DIY caskets?
The primary concern is suitability and making sure it can hold the weight of the deceased. If you build your own coffin and bring it in, we would have your family sign a waiver in the event the casket does not stay intact or is not suitable to hold your body for transport. Also, the DIY casket transportation is the responsibility of the family. We don’t provide transport for third-party caskets.
Can a DIY coffin be buried in any cemetery? What about used in a cremation retort?
Yes and yes, though the main concern would be stability of the casket, as mentioned above.
Why build your own casket?
- Personalizing your farewell: We’ve helped hundreds of people like you plan their own funeral services, down to the minute details. While we offer a wide selection of caskets as well as cremation containers for those who choose cremation, you may decide that you want something extra personal, that just says, “you.” We’ve seen handmade caskets that resemble fishing boats. There are some that feature the logos of favorite sports teams or rock bands, things loved ones want to remember the deceased by. If you are particularly “handy,” building your own casket can help provide a little closure for those who attend your funeral. “Of course Carl built his own coffin! He was always in that workshop tinkering away.”
- Getting more comfortable with death: Aside from public speaking, dying remains a top fear for many people. Building your own casket may help you come to the realization that death is simply an inevitable part of life, and you’ve made your peace with that. You’re likely to have some pride attached to the casket, and that may be enough to get you talking about and making plans for the remainder of your funeral.
- Cost savings: Those looking to save some money during end-of-life planning may consider a DIY casket, as the raw materials are going to be less expensive than purchasing a completed casket. Of course, your time is a factor in cost, too. Those who are semi- of fully retired may consider this a worthwhile time expenditure. Perhaps it can become a family project, and can make for some good bonding time between generations.
Coffin clubs started popping up in the United Kingdom and New Zealand in recent years, with small groups of people getting together to build their own caskets. The trend made its way stateside, as a green cemetery in Verona, PA organized a casket building class in late 2019 with more planned for 2020. Penn Forest Natural Burial Park is the only green cemetery in Pennsylvania that is certified by the Green Burial Council as a natural burial ground, so it makes sense they would support the DIY coffin trend. Traditional caskets are typically not allowed in natural burial grounds, as they will not fully decompose.
The coffin building workshop had a limit of eight participants, which cost $480. At the end of the workshop, participants with minimal woodworking skills would leave with their own finished, wooden casket. The idea is to use the coffin as artwork or furniture in your home until its primary function is required. Pennsylvania funeral homes are hosting the workshops.
There are also several books available on Amazon on the subject, with catchy titles like, “Build Your Own Coffin for Under Ten Bucks.” Is a casket building workshop something you would be interested in seeing Phaneuf host? If so, please send an email here.