What’s the Difference?

Find out more about:  Crypt vs. Niche  |  Sealer vs. Shutter  |  Single vs. Double Crypt  |  Garden vs. Chapel
Family vs. Community  |  Granite vs. Marble  |  Poured-in-Place vs. Precast Construction

Crypt vs. Niche

•  A crypt is an area built to accommodate a casket.  A building containing crypts is known as a mausoleum.

•  A niche is an area built to accommodate an urn or container holding cremains, the remains of someone who has been cremated.  Niches can be built into or onto a mausoleum.  There are also features or buildings that contain only niches, referred to as niche features or niche buildings.  Niches can be constructed of many different types of material including concrete, granite, wood, glass and brass.

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Sealer vs. Shutter

•  A sealer, typically made of a hard plastic, is placed over the opening of a niche or crypt after an urn or casket has been placed inside.  The sealer is caulked in place to create a completely sealed area of entombment.  Niche units made of wood or brass that have glass fronts do not utilize sealers.

•  A shutter, typically made of granite or marble, is placed over the sealer and held in place with special hardware.  The shutter is essentially the ‘headstone’ of the crypt.  Names and important dates are placed on the shutters via lettering, brass plaques or engraving.  Again, niche units made of wood or brass with glass fronts do not utilize shutters.  Any name/date information would be included on an engraved plate or other marker on the urn itself, visible through the glass niche front.

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Single Crypt vs. Double Crypt

•  A single crypt is an opening approximately 2½-feet square and approximately 8-feet long.  It is constructed to accommodate a single casket.  The crypt opening is covered with a granite or marble front, or typically referred to as a shutter or crypt front.

•  A single crypt with an opening approximately 8-feet long and approximately 2½-feet deep and tall is referred to as a Sarcophagus.  There can be more than one Sarcophagus placed vertically or horizontally next to each other, typically used in a featured area of a Chapel Mausoleum.

• A double crypt is an area that can accommodate two caskets.

◊   Two single crypts located back to back with no wall in between (approximately 2½-feet square and approximately 16-feet long) is referred to as a True Companion crypt or a Tandem crypt

◊   Two single crypts located side by side, with or without a wall between them but with one piece of granite or marble covering both openings are referred to as Double Shutter crypts.

  • This layout without a wall in between the two single crypts is often referred to as a Side-by-Side Crypt.
  • Sometimes a building is designed to contain a granite mural feature or doorways accessing other parts of the building.  Crypts placed around these features may not allow for a double shutter to be used.  In this instance, the Side-by-Side Crypt is accessed via a single opening; thus creating an In-and-Over Crypt.
  • If the Side-by-Side layout is widened to accommodate caskets placed horizontally, one in front of the other within the crypt, this is referred to as a Couch Crypt and the opening is typically is covered by three pieces of granite or marble.
  • •  Both single crypts and double crypts can be built wider than typical, these would be called Oversized Crypts.

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    Garden vs. Chapel Mausoleum

    •  A ‘Garden’ mausoleum is a building on which all crypt openings are on the exterior of the building.  The building can have crypts on one side, front and back, or even on all four sides.  Many times the areas not accessing a crypt will contain niches for cremains.  The crypts might be single (approximately 8-foot) crypts, or contain a combination of single and double (approximately 16-foot) crypts, known as True Companion crypts.

    •  A ‘Chapel’ mausoleum is a building in which some or all crypt openings are located inside the building.  The building might consist of two garden-type mausoleums with a roof connecting the two.  The crypt openings of the buildings that are facing each other and under the roof would be considered interior crypts, whether or not the building is enclosed.  If the building is not enclosed, the project is called an ‘Open Chapel’ mausoleum.  Buildings can include many hallways and might also contain work rooms, offices, bathrooms and actual chapels.

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    Family vs. Community Mausoleum

    Granite vs. Marble

    •  Typically granite is used on the veneer and for the crypt and niche shutters on a garden mausoleum or the exterior walls of a chapel mausoleum.  Marble tends to be used on the enclosed interior of a mausoleum for both wall veneers and shutters.

    •  Some nice features or smaller, family-sized mausoleums are made entirely of granite.

    •  Exteriors of buildings can also be faced with stone, brick, stucco or any other material typically used on building exteriors.

    •  Interiors of buildings might also include drywall, millwork, window features or any other material typically used in buildings.

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    Poured-in-Place vs. Precast Construction

    •  Mausoleums and niche features are generally constructed of granite or concrete for strength and durability.  Community mausoleums are too large to be made entirely of granite, so the structure itself is built with concrete and then it is covered with granite, marble or other veneers.

    •  Both types of buildings must begin with a concrete foundation and base slab, poured at the site where the building will sit.

    •  A Poured-in-Place building means the contractor continues to pour concrete at the site, reinforcing it with steel rods (i.e., rebar) to create the mausoleum.

    ◊   When the base slab is poured, rebar is speared in all locations where the walls between the crypts will be placed.  Wood or steel forms are placed around the rebar to form the walls for the crypts.  Special forms are also placed at the back of each crypt and over the top of wall forms to create the crypts.  Rebar and thick wire mesh is placed within the concrete for structural reinforcement.

    ◊   When the next level of concrete is poured, the concrete is placed between the wall and back forms to create the walls and then over the top of all the forms to create the next slab or base of the next level of crypts.  Concrete is vibrated into place in the narrow walls.  There is a slight incline on the ‘floor’ of each crypt pitching to the back of the crypt.

    ◊   After the concrete has cured, typically the next day, the forms are stripped from the concrete and raised to the next level.  Rebar is placed for reinforcement and the entire process is repeated until after the last level of crypts is created and a reinforced concrete roof is poured over the building.

    ◊   Ventilation:

  • A PVC pipe is placed in the walls between every other crypt.  The bottom of the pipe rests in the clear stone underlayment beneath the building’s base slab.  In chapel mausoleums, the top of the pipe comes through the ceiling of the building as a vent.  On the sides of each pipe within each crypt are two small vent openings that initially contain a plastic tab to keep the vents sealed.  The vent openings are at the base and near the top of each crypt, near the back.
  • When a casket is placed in a finished crypt, the plastic tabs on the two vent openings in the PVC pipe are cut out and small screens are placed in the openings.  The screens prevent the movement of any flies and the openings allow for ventilation and pressure relief.

  • •  A Precast building means that concrete crypts are created off site, trucked to the location and placed on top of the concrete foundation and slab.

    ◊   The concrete crypts are shaped to fit together like a honeycomb.  They are manufactured in a controlled environment plant so each piece is created with the same specifications.

    ◊   As the crypts are stacked on the concrete foundation and base slab, they are leveled and grouted together.  The base slab becomes the floor of the first layer of crypts.  The top of each layer of crypts becomes the floor for the next layer.  The bottom of each wall is slightly narrower than the top of the wall and there is a groove in the top above each wall.  This allows the narrow ‘leg’ of the crypt wall to rest in the groove of the crypt beneath it.  Grout is placed within each groove to prevent movement.

    ◊   There needs to be room behind the back of the crypts for the ventilation system.  When placing units for a building with crypt openings on the front and back of the structure, the backs of the crypts placed in this ‘back-to-back’ fashion would not be touching. 

    ◊   After all crypts are stacked and grouted, block walls are built as necessary to create the ventilation chase.  Then a concrete or granite roof is placed over the building.

    ◊   Ventilation:

  • There are thin, concrete ‘knock-outs’ on the back of each crypt.
  • There are at least two vents placed in the block walls on the sides or at the back of the building.  The double vents (top and bottom) create a circulation of airflow through the chase for ventilation.
  • When a casket is placed in a finished crypt, the knock-outs are pounded out to allow for air to move through the chase and out the vents.  Screens are placed in the openings to prevent the movement of any flies.
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