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Why are coffins so heavy?

Coffins, also known as caskets, are often remarked upon for their heavy weight. This heft is by design, as caskets serve the somber yet practical purpose of protecting and containing the deceased. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind the substantial mass of these funerary boxes.

Materials Used

The materials used in casket construction are a major contributor to their weight. Most modern coffins are made from wood, metal, or a combination of the two. Let’s look at each material more closely:


Wood is the traditional and most common material used in caskets. Popular woods include oak, maple, pine, cedar, cherry, walnut, and mahogany. These dense hardwoods lend stability and elegance, but also considerable weight. An average adult wooden casket weighs 150-200 pounds.


Metal caskets may be constructed from stainless steel, copper, or bronze. They are often lined with velvet or satin interiors. Though metals like aluminum are lightweight, the hefty steel, copper, and bronze used in caskets add robust weight. Metal caskets usually weigh between 200-500 pounds.


Some caskets employ both wood and metal materials. Typically, metal is used on the exterior with rich hardwoods inside. These combination caskets provide structural integrity from the metal and the beauty of wood for ceremonies and viewing. Weight falls between wooden and metal caskets.


The construction of coffins also contributes to their mass. Caskets are assembled to be sturdy and impenetrable for burial underground. Here are some construction details that add weight:

  • Thick wood – 1 to 2 inches thick
  • Reinforced metal – up to 18 gauge steel
  • Protective linings – zinc, copper, vinyl
  • Mounting hardware – nails, screws, hinges
  • Decorative adornments – rails, handles, engravings

All of these elements stack up to a solid, weighty, and safe enclosure.

Protective Features

Beyond sturdy construction, many caskets incorporate features specifically to protect the body from the elements:

Sealed Protective Liners

Inner linings act as a shield between the body and casket walls. Made of copper, stainless steel, or vinyl, they prevent moisture and soil from entering even when wood or metal exteriors are breached. The linings add thickness and mass.

Reinforced Walls

Extra interior braces and panels prevent collapse under the extreme weight and pressure of soil and gravel in deep burials. These reinforced walls are built with heavy materials like thick wood or steel, upping the overall heft.


Rubber or lead gaskets situated between the casket and its lid create an airtight seal when closed. This prevents odor, pests, and water intrusion. The long-lasting durability of the gaskets contributes measurable weight.

Ceremonial Significance

The weight of caskets holds ceremonial meaning in addition to practical protections. A heavy casket conveys a sense of solemnity, tribute, and significance. Light, flimsy caskets would undermine the profound rituals of burial and grieving. As a substantial final vessel, weighty caskets help commemorate a meaningful life.

Summary Table

Factor Contribution to Weight
Wood density 150-200 lbs
Metal density 200-500 lbs
Reinforced construction Thick materials, hardware
Protective liners Moisture barrier
Reinforced walls Prevent collapse
Gaskets Seal, durability
Ceremonial meaning Solemnity, tribute


In summary, coffins are intentionally constructed to be heavy and sturdy for practical purposes like protecting the deceased and ceremonial meanings like honoring their life. Thick wood, dense metal, fortified walls, and sealing components all contribute to the substantial heft. While difficult to maneuver, the weight gives coffins the enduring feel of a final resting place.