Choosing a Material For Your Headstone

Headstones today come in a variety of materials and when choosing what to use for your loved one’s memorial a number of factors need to be taken into account.

Granite is a popular choice of material due to it being such a hard material, it is available in a wide range of colours and can be polished, honed or pitched. It is also far easier to source nowadays, bringing costs down for masons meaning those savings can be passed on to you. Cemeteries are usually flexible in the types of material allowed when it comes to headstoGrey Granite everton shield shaped grave stonenes, some Churchyards may not allow it. Granite is very durable it is easy for a family to maintain and it will look good for years to come. The lettering over time will require some maintenance if it has been gilded or coloured, but this can easily be done in the cemetery by an experienced mason.

Marble headstones are white with grey veins and are unpolished. Cemeteries and most Churchyards allow marble memorials. Marble is a crystalised limestone so it is a porous material, overtime the marble will discolour if not maintained, a family can maintain a marble gravestone with a masons advice. Alternatively the family may ask a mason to periodically clean and refurbish the memorial to keep it looking in excellent condition. Traditionally a marble headstone will have a cut and leaded letter, a technique we still use at Sarsfield Memorials. Some masons will cut and paint the lettering, but this will wear away very quickly so it is an ongoing cost to have the lettering painted.

White Marble Heart

Other materials allowed in Cemeteries and Churchyards are Nabresina, Portland Stone, Yorkstone and Slate. These materials are not as popular in the Merseyside area as they are in other areas of the country. If you would like a traditional style gravestone then these materials are the most suitable.

Although marble and stone are more prone to the elements than granite, that should not mean you eliminate them completely when making your headstone choice. With the correct care and attention, they are made to last. If the wrong materials are used for cleaning memorials then you can contaminate the stone and can damage your headstone beyond repair. It is always advisable to ask your experienced mason how to maintain your gravestone.

At Sarsfield’s we have samples of all of the stones mentioned, allowing you to look and handle the material to see which you prefer. You can also see photographs of our work which we have completed, with these options available and our knowledge we hope we can help you make the right decision when choosing a gravestone. Please contact us for a free no obligation quotation.


When you buy a headstone from Sarsfield Memorials we will always advise on how to keep it clean and what to use. If you are looking to clean an existing gravestone, we are happy to give free advice along with a  no obligation quote for us to do the work if you change your mind about doing it yourself.

To the man on the street, cleaning gravestones appears to be a very simple and easy task, thanks to all the wonderful cleaning products that are available on the internet from Ebay and Amazon and on the high street. However nothing could be further from the truth!

Gravestone before cleaning

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock, granite is igneous, marble and Portland stone are metaphoric and slate is a fine-grained, foliated and homogeneous metamorphic rock. All these natural materials will retain products that are rubbed in or brushed on because they reflect the weather at the time they are applied. Whether damp or dry, the chemicals will react with the material in different ways and will cause deterioration of the stone. Unless you know and understand the geology of the material your headstone is made from, we would never advise a family to clean a memorial using chemicals. Instead just use water and a soft sponge.

The atmospheric agents and retail chemicals (cleaning products) will particularly affect memorials erected close to main roads. Limestone and marble headstones will crystalise and be eaten away. The material over time will become more rough and this will attract more dirt and grime, making the gravestone more delicate. Do not ever use anything abrasive on any headstone as you could cause damage that cannot be repaired. Lettering can also be damaGravestone after cleaningged by cleaning a memorial. Leaded letters can change colour depending on the chemicals used, while painted and gilded letters can be damaged and possibly eradicated, which then means extra cost to you as you will need to instruct a Monumental Mason to rectify the problem.

Please be very cautious, we would not advise anyone to clean their own headstone. Make the correct decision when extending the life of your memorial and remember it is always cheaper to have a gravestone professionally cleaned by a Monumental Mason than to replace it.

At Sarsfield Memorials we have skilled craftsmen who can restore just about any gravestone to a near new appearance no matter what the material is, as the before and after photos on this page show. This service is available throughout the North West and examples of before and after cleaning are shown in the photographs accompanying this article. If you contact us we will be happy to discuss your requirements and give a free no obligation quote.