Metal vs. Wood Caskets - What's to know before you choose one

David Humphrey's picture
Authored by David Humphrey
Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2019 - 9:09am

Nobody can escape death (not yet, anyway), and it’s only a matter of time until we have to deal with death in our life. A funeral service, including the use of a casket, is one of the long-time traditions related to death.

Many choose to show their love and appreciation for the deceased by customizing the casket in a way that he/she would have liked it. Selecting the casket is instead a personal decision since the casket plays a vital role throughout the funeral service. The casket serves as the vessel for the deceased, and it can be an image reflecting the deceased's personality.

What’s the best way to choose a casket?

Ideally, you take your time when selecting the casket. Do due diligence about it and learn the details about the colors, features, styles, and price points about the caskets on the market.

When you select a casket, it has to relate to the unicity of the person you will honor, the life, and the respect you have for the values. 

It's better that you have someone with you when you go shopping for a casket. Death is never natural, and you need to deal with strong emotions, rending you not to think straight. For instance, there are many materials used for a casket, and the myriad of options can easily confuse one.

With metal and wood being the first options for caskets, it makes sense that you get all the info you need about each of them. It's going to ease out the selection process.

Are metal caskets the right option for you?

The first thing to mention is that metal caskets can be made from basic steel which comes with different gauge thickness, stainless steel. Precious metals such as copper, bronze, and even gold can also be used on the casket.

Metal caskets are also known as “gasketed," "sealer," or "protective" caskets, and they feature a thick rubber gasket across the lid, creating a sealed enclosure. The seal is going to protect the inside of the casket against the outside elements.

Regardless of what you may think, you can customize the casket by selecting from a generous selection of finishes, colors, and personalization features.

The type and thickness of the metal, production method and the style impact the final price of the metal casket. Carbon steel (standard steel) is the most affordable metal for the casket. It's less durable and resistant to corrosion as stainless steel, but it's quite durable, considering its price.

Why do people choose wood caskets?

Truth be told, there’s no other material as warm, beautiful, and elegant as wood. There are numerous models of wood caskets to choose from, as there are so many species used. Mahogany, maple, walnut, cherry, pecan, oak, and pine are only some to name.

It's also quite common for wood caskets to feature handcrafted interiors, with finishes just as various and unusual. Some may like the highly polished gloss, whereas others are going to find the natural satin-finish a lot more interesting.

Walnut, mahogany, and cherry stand out with the elegance, whereas maple caskets impress with the strength and hardness. We all recognize oak thanks to the graining pattern, which is why oak is a popular option still.

Wood caskets have a particular appearance, whereas the prices depend on the type of wood, the finish, and the materials used for the interior.

Wood vs. metal caskets- which one is better?

We're going to have to consider several aspects when comparing the most common materials used for caskets.

Lifespan

Due to their design and material, metal caskets last longer than the wood opponents. Not only that the metal caskets come with a thick (rust-proof) shell, but they're also sealed with a rubber gasket that protects the inside against the elements, reducing the risk for deterioration.

The wood casket can also be coated with products for expanding the lifespan, but they will decay into the earth after some time.

External appearance

Wood caskets look "warmer" than metal caskets. They're more elegant and don't have a flashy feeling. Besides, wood caskets can be customized with various decorations.

On the other hand, metal caskets are “colder” and have a modern and even flashy feel. However, metal can be molded and stamped with various ornaments that the deceased would have liked.

Price

The prices are similar for metal and wood caskets, and the material you choose, no matter metal or wood, can make the difference. Bronze and copper are the priciest metals, whereas mahogany is the most expensive within the wood category.

Environmental worries

Honestly, wood can be designed and treated for expanding its lifespan, but it will decompose and turn back to the natural elements in the soil. There are also environmentally friendly choices (pegs, glues, joints, and nature-friendly connectors and fasteners) that can replace the metal elements (hinges, rails, nails, and corner barriers). Some don’t worry much about the environment, in which case wood caskets can be treated for more durability.

Even if a wooden casket is going to an eventual return to earth, it's only a matter of time until that happens. In the case of metal caskets, it's going to take a lot longer for decomposing entirely.

If your primary concern is the protection of the inside of the casket, the metal casket is the most appropriate option for you. Metal can also be treated with various chemicals that prevent rust and corrosion, whereas the casket can be sealed for ensuring maximum protection for the deceased. Since metal caskets are made with the metal of various thickness (from 14 to 24 gauge), the level of protection that the casket provides can also be different. Some metal caskets can also be crushproof and almost entirely protected against outside forces.

What’s the final thought?

Both metal and wood caskets can protect the deceased and come with beautiful decorations that the dead would have liked. Wood caskets will always feel warmer than the metal models, whereas the latter will still feel modern and almost austere. The prices are similar, with high-end options (copper, bronze, and mahogany, for instance) for both categories. Don’t take the environmental aspect out of the picture when deciding either, since it matters in the long run.

All in all, it's evident that selecting a casket is never easy from all points of view.