How to Install a Headstone

Keep in mind that installing a headstone is not an easy task because headstones are large, awkward, heavy objects with most gravestones weighing over 100 pounds. Before you begin installing a gravestone, make sure you have permission from the cemetery. Some cemeteries do not allow headstones to be installed by individuals and instead require professional monument companies to install them.

Also take note that installing a headstone yourself is not an easy task and those unfamiliar with construction can easily damage a gravestone. The below instructions are for gravestone markers and single, upright gravestones. A professional should install larger monuments and companion headstones because they are extremely heavy and difficult to maneuver without special equipment. If your headstone is large, uniquely designed, or is a companion monument, then consider hiring a professional.

Installing a headstone depends on the type of headstone you have selected. If you are installing a small marker (no larger than 24” x 12” x 4”), then you can install the marker without concrete. Any headstone larger than the measurements listed above will need a concrete base.

Before you begin, gather the following materials:

Tape measure
Bag of sand

Use the tape measure to determine the measurements of the marker. Then determine where you would like the headstone to be set on the plot. Use the measurements from the marker and add ONE inch to each side of the measurements to ensure you have enough room to set the memorial. Outline these measurements on the ground and use the shovel to dig up the dirt to set the marker. Dig deep enough to allow the entire marker to set properly in the ground, if you are not sure then measure the thickness of the marker and use the tape measure to gage an approximate depth. Once you have dug the hole, gently set the marker into the hole. Place a level on the marker to make sure it lies perfectly flat. If the gravestone marker does not lie flat, then lift the marker out of the hole and use sand to fill the hole until the marker lies flat. Once the marker is flat and fits perfectly into the hole you are finished. Make sure you clean up any debris or mess you may have made before leaving the cemetery.

If you are installing a monument with concrete (used for larger markers and upright monuments), then you will need the following:

Garden hoe
Tape measure or yard stick
Level or laser
4-6 re-enforced steel bars 30” in length (rebar)
Wire twist ties (for steel bars)
Empty coffee can or PVC pipe 6”-8” in diameter (if monument with vase)
3-4 bags of ready mix concrete
Wheelbarrow or mixing container

Use the tape measure to measure the size of the headstone and then add 1 inch to those measurements to outline where you would like the headstone to be set on the plot. The extra inch will give you more room to set the headstone. Use the shovel to dig an outline for the headstone and dig down far enough for the thickness of the monument and then add 4”-6” to the depth. Next you will be digging pier holes for the steel bars. Dig two piers 24” deep and 6” wide on opposite ends of the base. Place a steel bar in each hole and use the hammer to set them deep into the soil so that only 3” of the bar is showing above the soil. If the marker you have has a vase, then dig a shallow hole in its place at the top center part of the marker. Set the coffee can or PVC pipe in its place for the vase. Mix the concrete and water in the wheelbarrow or mixing container and pour it into the ground. Leave enough room for you marker to set flush with the grass or 4” from the top of the ground (you may need to use a an spatula to flatten the concrete to make sure the monument sets flat). The concrete must dry in a level position so the headstone lies flat and even. Allow at least 1-2 days for the concrete to dry then place the monument or grave marker gently into the ground.