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Grave Etiquette 4

Basic Preservation

Cleaning stones

Since there is a plethora of experts, articles and books out there, I will leave this to them. Just let me say I use soap (without perfumes, preservatives or harsh chemicals) diluted with water and lots of elbow grease. Never use stiff brushes or wire 
brushes, medium plastic bristles will do the job just fine.

Three good sources of information are:
1. http://www.gravestonestudies.org , Association for Gravestone Studies in Greenfield Massachusetts.
2. A Graveyard Preservation Primer, by Lynette Strangstead, can be obtained from the Association for Gravestone Studies.

Broken grave covers

The cause of breakage is usually due to the coffin collapsing, ground settling, or lawn equipment driving over it. To prevent further damage, place it on a sound foundation two inches above ground level. This will also keep weed eaters from hitting the stone. Start by framing the stone with 2”X4’’s. Remove the stone, then remove any existing foundation or supports. 

Place the frame on top of the ground and excavate a two foot deep hole. Fill half of the hole with cement, place rebar on top of the cement and wire it together, then finish filling with cement. Smooth and level the surface. Let this cure for 48 hours keeping the top damp. When dry, sprinkle sand onto the cement in order to fill any irregular surfaces between the stone and the foundation. The stone should look the same after repair as before but in better alignment. DO NOT glue, epoxy or cement the pieces together.

Resetting leaning stones 

If it’s leaning from side to side, leave it alone. If it’s leaning front to back, excavate the front side making sure to keep as smooth and straight a wall as possible. Repack the void with sand and pack it in with a wood dowel. To excavate these stones, use a small hand trowel. It will prevent you from scratching the stone. This is a great method for VA gravestones and small personal stones only. This should not be attempted on any slate, schist, old or large stones, these have at least 2/3 of their mass below ground and take special treatments.

New foundations

Let the foundation set from 24 to 48 hours depending on the size of the Gravestone. Do not epoxy these to the cement or set them in wet cement. If the top two pieces are epoxied, when vandals or lawn equipment hit it, it will topple in one piece.

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