Caskets are made from a number of materials, and thus have important differences that should be taken into consideration prior to selecting a coffin. Getting familiar with these materials can serve as a guide in choosing the appropriate casket for your loved one.
Metal coffins are the most popular variant in the U.S. These are sold according to gauge (16, 18, and 20 gauge). To give you an idea, the outer shell of your car is 18 gauge while your license plate is 20 gauge. There are four types of metal caskets:
Carbon steel. The most affordable casket option, carbon steel coffins are also the most popular of the metal variety. Steel caskets are available in 16, 18, and 20 gauge metal.
Stainless steel. An alloy of steel, carbon, and chromium, these are one of the most popular metal caskets.
Solid Copper. A precious metal, copper is a third stronger than stainless steel and, like bronze caskets, these are sold at 32 or 48 ounces per square feet.
Solid Bronze. A semi-precious metal that is an alloy of copper, zinc, and tin. Bronze caskets tend to be the most expensive of all metal caskets. Bronze caskets are sold at 32 or 48 ounces per square feet.
Wooden caskets are often appropriate for those who favor a more conventional approach. Wood caskets come in three variants:
Solid hardwood caskets. These coffins are made entirely from solid wood. Types of wood often used for hardwood coffins are mahogany, walnut, cherry, maple, oak, and many others.
Wood laminates. A wood veneer is applied to the surface of a coffin by attaching a thin layer of wood with a more attractive or even superior grain than that of the existing coffin.
Artificial laminates. Made by affixing a photo-reproduction of a wood grain finish to the coffin. These are often vinyl laminates with adhesive backing.
Wood by-products. These include composition boards, particle boards, and the like.
Plastic and Fiberglass caskets
Given an undeserved bad reputation by funeral directors because of their low cost, these caskets are very lightweight, sturdy, and can be customized with any number of finishes. These finishes include high gloss paint, wood grain, or faux marble. These types of caskets, however, are not suitable for cremation.
These are coffins specifically constructed for cremation. They are lightweight and are constructed with soft wood frames and supports, corrugated boards, and a variety of fabric for the linings. Often when a cremation is to be performed, funeral homes have a rental casket with a false end, allowing a cardboard inner liner to be slid in the casket during the funeral service, and then easily slid out for the cremation.