Be Cautious Over Grave Care Services

The Covid 19 pandemic has seen a rise in the number of small businesses offering grave care services. As a licensed monumental mason that has been operating for over seventy years, we would urge caution however if you are planning to use one of these grave care services.

A headstone before and after it was cleaned by Sarsfield Memorials craftsmen

In most local authorities, no license is needed to tend to or clean a grave. One exception is Knowsley, where a cemetery a permit is required. Cemetery fees also apply to the Archdiocese run Ford and Yew Tree cemeteries. Cemeteries were no permit or fee is required, including those maintained by Liverpool city council, mean that there is nothing to stop businesses offering to clean and tidy up graves, as well as change ornamentation or chippings for example.

The pandemic has limited most people’s ability to travel and forced many to shield and/or isolate. This has provided a perfect opportunity for grave care services to step in and fill a void, offering to clean and tidy the area around memorials. Some of these companies have been joining local history and cemetery groups on social media to try and gain customers. They have seized on any posts showing photos of headstones in need of TLC to plug themselves.

Genealogy has become increasingly popular during Covid. People furloughed from work, or unable to enjoy their usual hobbies, have been using the opportunity to research their family history. Graves of long-lost relatives have been uncovered, many times in a state of disrepair. This has become another opportunity for grave care services businesses to step in and target potential customers, offering to locate their plots in the cemetery, as well as giving the opportunity of a clean-up.

Some grave care services have gone beyond simple cleaning and tidying of graves, taking advantage of customers not knowing the rules. An example is regilding of lettering using poor quality paint or using filler on leaded letters which is not allowed and would not be done by experienced masons. However, the reality is most customers would not generally know this, until it is too late.

Our staff have also observed another grave care company remove a headstone to clean it, then not replace it properly with an anchoring system. Aside from the operative having no authority to do this, at some point in the future the grave owner will face a bill to have the memorial made safe. Even worse they could have a legal case again them regarding the safety and stability of the memorial if an accident should occur, or the council are within their rights to lay it flat.

One cemetery friends’ group has made us aware that one company went as far as digging into the ground and disturbing a grave to find the brick that marks the plot number, then placed a pole there so it could be located by the relative, disturbing any burial grave like they did is not allowed.

We recommend that you research masons local to the area, read reviews on the companies, check they are registered with local councils, speak to them and ask questions. If you are handing over money for a job that you cannot do yourself, pay for a quality job by experienced masons.

If you do decide against a mason and use grave care services providers, which we acknowledge offer competitive rates, to clean your memorial, please check their reviews and ask to see proof of liability insurance. Also ask to see examples of their work a few years down the line, to see what if any damage has occurred. There is a risk that memorials can be ruined if they are not cleaned with the right materials, ask how they are cleaned and what products are used.

If you are going to use a grave services company, please shop around and do not accept the first offer that comes along, especially if they contact you via social media or are touting for business in the Cemetery. Be wary of any approaches in cemeteries at weekends. Monumental Masons are only allowed to work in cemeteries over the weekends by consent, work is generally not carried out over the weekends unless the weather has been exceptionally bad or the mason is very busy. This is because the Cemeteries have a lot more visitors over the weekends and families like to pay their respects to their loved ones without machinery going in the background. Also the cemetery staff (who only work Monday to Friday) like to monitor the Masons and what work is carried out in the cemeteries.

Sarsfield Memorials is Liverpool’s oldest family run monumental mason business and we offer grave tendering and cleaning services. In some cases, our prices may be higher than grave care services, but we are confident that this is reflected in the quality of our work. If you would like to discuss the cleaning of a memorial, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free no obligation quote.