How to Lay Out Cemetery Spaces

by Charong Chow

A cemetery needs to be laid out with both the deceased and space constraints in mind. Many cemeteries, especially historical ones, are running out of space for new burials. According to Marc Santora of "The New York Times," Trinity Church Cemetery in New York only has space left for people with long-held reservations or for "extraordinary circumstances." Even in places where there is more available land, many considerations must be taken to lay out cemetery plots because of regulations or if the land is an awkward shape.

Survey the cemetery's land. This is usually done by a professional surveyor to accurately map the space. Using tools, such as a leveling instrument, ensure exact measurements of the land are made.

Draw out a map using the surveyed measurements. The entire lot is sketched out, including older burial plots, distinguishing natural landmarks and roads.

Add a preliminary grid over the map of with the specific size of each plot. Most cemeteries use uniform sizes for single and double plots. Some areas have regulations on the size of each plot, and some cities have space issues. For example, at Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn, each remaining plot is 30 inches wide, 7 feet long and 6 feet deep. However, in the state of New York, there are no mandatory plot sizes. In Florida, plots after 2005 must be 42-by-96-inches with 12 inches of soil over the burial container, unless the cemetery is a religious institution built prior to 1976 and five acres or smaller.

Draw in areas for above-ground burials, such as mausoleums, that may vary in size. Double-check with the surveyed land measurements to make sure each plot is accurately laid out.

Create a final map with all accurate burial sites. Mark with ones are reserved and which are available.

Tips

  • The average casket is 28-by-84-by-23-inches, and cemeteries create plots to accommodate these dimensions and an area for family to visit the grave stone. Due to space restrictions, cemeteries like Washington Cemetery do not allow caskets wider than 26 inches.
  • Also, ample space is needed between each casket, approximately 10 inches.
  • Many cemeteries are exempt from regulation because of their old age and size limitations.
  • Each cemetery has varying plot sizes depending on its space. For example, at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Cemetery's in Frederick, Maryland, each plot is 5-by-11-feet.
  • In London, some cemeteries are burying the caskets upright in the ground to save space.
  • Once a plot is mapped out, rebars are staked to mark each space. They are hit into the earth and capped with an aluminum cap. They can be buried slightly and found later with metal detectors.

Items you will need

  • Surveying tools
  • Mapping paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil and pens

About the Author

Charong Chow has been writing professionally since 1995. Her work has appeared in magazines such as "Zing" and "Ocean Drive." Chow graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. She also received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts.

Photo Credits

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