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Fixing up your Family Plot

How to do it safely and who to contact

Volunteers working with a
base stone
Photo by T Nigh

Photo by Skakel

We as volunteers often have people ask us how to fix up a family plot. How to stand stones up again. How to keep marker stones visible. How to straighten large stones. If they cannot do these things for health reasons, is there some way to get it done?

In fact, you can ask volunteers to help you with your plot, but you must contact the cemeteries office to make arrangements for this. If volunteers do work for you we would appreciate you letting cemetery folks know you appreciate it, and possibly making a SMALL donation to allow us to buy gravel and epoxy etc for future restoration projects.

Things Not to do in your own plot, and plots of others.

  1. Never do any work in plots that you do not own! Volunteers are trained to know what plots to work on and what to do there. But unless you become a volunteer, you must NEVER work on plots owned by others.
  2. Never use soil (dirt, sod, etc) to level or raise stones. ALWAYS use gravel. What we use is called Stone Dust. You can bring your own or use some from the cemetery if there is a pile there when you need it. Raised stones for instance might fall again within a year if you use even a thin layer of soil under them instead of gravel!
  3. Never move stones in plots of others "because they look better lined up"! Many plot owners would NOT take kindly to that.

The bush totally covers
the beautiful stone inside
making text totally
  1. Never move stones in your family plot. Yes, you are allowed to do it as an immediate relative. However, that stone is marking a burial location. It is the last monument to a person who once lived, and breathed just like you. When you move that stone you are destroying their marker, and the only memorial to their life.
  2. Never attempt to straighten a spire stone or other large stone. Volunteers can help you with smaller ones of these. Or for larger ones you MUST get help from professionals. Indeed, you are responsible to keep stones in your family plot in a safe condition.
  3. If you find loose parts on a family stone that might present a safety hazard you are required to have those fixed. The cemetery staff can tell you who to contact to do that.
  4. NEVER plant trees or shrubs in your family plot. They can cover and in fact gradually destroy one or more stones in a plot over time.
  5. Never use a power washer on stones or a wire brush. These can cause severe damage. Experts suggest a whisk broom or soft brush.

Tools you may need

The tools you may need very greatly with the job to be done. But keep in mind that the main aim is to NEVER touch the stone with a metal tool. We suggest a straight mouth spade (like you might edge a side walk with) for course digging. For finer work you can purchase small plastic garden tools at places like Home Hardware or Canadian Tire. You might like a pails to get water to wash off stones, and a small whisk broom to brush off heavier dirt. A pencil and paper are often handy to write down text, etc. A small tarp is also handy to put the soil and sod on as you dig so as not to kill the grass. A long old screw driver works great to prod for lost stones, and an old sharp knife can be handy to cut through sods.

You will probably also need some pails to carry gravel or even a wheelbarrow. And for some jobs a level can help.

Raising Corner Stones

It is very simple to raise corner stones.

  1. If the stone is no longer visible simply use a screw driver or something similar to find it.
  2. Dig about 10 cm away from them on each side down about 1 small shovel depth. Remove the sod. Lift the stone out. Some are quite long. Hopefully you will NOT have dug to the bottom of the stone.
  3. Place enough gravel in the bottom of the hole to raise the stone up to about 6 cm above the ground level.
  4. With the stone now the right height simply put gravel around it up to the soil surface.
  5. You can usually work from that stone to find the other corner stones and thus raise them as well.

Head and Foot Stones

note the ground level granite stones
and small square plot corner
marker. Photo by John Skakel

Pretty much exactly as above. Just a couple of words of warning though. Many plots have square ground level granite stones with the person's name and possibly death date. Sometimes these are actually made to go into the ground very deep and are thus extremely heavy. We recommend that you do a bit of probing to see how deep those stones go before attempting to move them. Moving the deep ones can be difficult for two men with pry bars. But, if they are only shallow the same principals apply as above.

Head and foot stones. You might find a small rectangular foot stone with initials at the end of the grave(s). Most of these were removed in days gone by when mowers and good record keeping became more common. These can be place