Is it Time to Restore Your Loved One’s Memorial?

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Old headstones deteriorating in a cemetery

Memorials of all types, be they headstones, cremation memorials, monumental statues, or any other, are crafted and installed to serve as a tribute and lasting memory to those we have loved and lost.

Today, many memorials are made with igneous stone materials such as granite and are built to withstand the test of time.

A well-crafted memorial made with durable stone can easily last many lifetimes.

However, some memorial stone materials, and certainly those that were commonly used in the not too distant past, are more prone to deterioration from the natural elements.

Occasional vandalism is also an unfortunate reason that some memorials require restoration, and in this instance no stone material can negate it.

By choosing to restore a memorial, you can bring the monument back to its former glorious state – and perhaps better than it ever was given the advancements in what modern memorial stonemasons can achieve.

It allows the history, memory and legacy of your loved one to be preserved.

Memorial headstones in a Bristol cemetery

A quality memorial crafted and installed with skill, precision, and a high-grade durable stone material can last over a thousand years with next to no degradation.

Inscriptions, engravings and memorial etchings should all appear the same as they do the day they were first crafted.

With that said, hard irrigation water, bird droppings, tree sap, grass trimmings and the like can leave your memorial appearing dirty or stained.

Therefore, it’s important to carry out regular memorial maintenance from time to time with a suitable cleaning method to retain its cleanliness and beauty.

How Do You Know it’s Time to Restore A Memorial?

Below we provide 5 clear signs that it’s time to restore your memorial or monument for a loved one.

1. Deterioration makes it difficult to read

While granite may be incredibly durable with an ability to prolong natural deterioration for  thousands of years (granite naturally deteriorates less than 1/1000th of an inch over 1,000 years), the same can’t be said of memorials that are crafted from other stone materials.

The popularity of granite being chosen to create memorials is fairly recent, as prior to this, softer sedimentary stones would be predominately used, such as limestone or sandstone.

Indeed, these materials are still used to craft many memorials today – mainly because of their timeless aesthetic appeal and ability to be easily carved – but the downside is that softer stone is prone to quicker deterioration.

Softer stones have a higher porosity (percentage of void space in a rock), which makes them more exposed to “sugaring”, which results in soft stone memorials and monuments becoming cracked and chipped as they slowly erode over time. This eventually leads to headstone inscriptions being illegible – think of really old headstones in churchyards that you struggle to read.

Old weathered headstone with inscription that's difficult to read

2. Chipped Paint

If the paint on an engraving or inscription of a loved one’s memorial has begun to chip away, you may feel as though the memorial appears uncared for and no longer in the beautiful condition it once was.

Something as seemingly minor as chipped engravings can even tarnish the experience of gravesite visits, as each time it acts as a reminder of the memorial’s deterioration.

Though memorial masons should ensure that monumental memorials such as headstones and cremation memorials are painted with paint of exceptional quality that is specifically designed for granite material, any colours that are used will inevitably fade and chip over time – particularly on memorials that are installed outdoors in cemeteries and church graveyards.

The main factors that dictate memorial paint deterioration over time include:

  • The long-term effects of outdoor elements, such as rain and direct sunlight
  • The type of memorial, such as whether the memorial is installed upright or flat
  • Where the memorial is located, such as under trees or in low-ground areas where water is more likely to collect
Memorial headstone in cemetery with faded and chipped inscription paint

3. Grave Subsidence (Memorial Sinking)

A memorial that has been poorly installed and erected into the ground, or that has not been tended to for a long time, may begin to sink into the ground.

While walking around a cemetery, particularly cemeteries and churchyards with older graves, you may have noted that some headstones appear to be leaning.

Even a correctly installed memorial can be affected by grave subsidence, as loosened soil naturally settles into place and the buried coffin slowly collapses with time.

Other causes include when the memorial’s foundation is not poured deep enough or backfilled properly with suitable soil.

Because of this, frost and surrounding vegetation can find its way under the foundation, which can raise the memorial when frozen, and then sink, tip, or lean it once it has thawed.

Cemetery workers may tend to grave subsidence if you alert them and they may even carry out regular inspections themselves, but some churchyards and cemeteries aren’t staffed enough to adequately check for grave subsidence.

If your memorial has sunk and not been tended to for a long time, it may certainly be a good idea to consider memorial restoration to clean and restore it to its former beauty and have it professionally re-installed back to its rightful position.

Old headstones sinking and leaning from memorial subsidence in a graveyard

4. Memorial Damage

Natural disasters, accidents, and even the tragic act of vandalism can cause damage to a memorial.

Examples could include a tree falling in a churchyard during adverse weather conditions, or a lawn mower could accidentally chip the memorial while carrying out routine maintenance on the surrounding land.

In most instances, the damage that is incurred can be easily repaired by a reputable memorial restoration company – either at the site, or by removing the memorial and re-installing it following the restoration, depending on the extensiveness of the damage.

Damaged headstone memorial in a cemetery

5. Substantial Build-Up of Dirt

Because most memorials are located outdoors, they are constantly exposed to outdoor elements such as dirt, grass, moss, rain, and other air pollutants.

It doesn’t take long for this debris to build-up onto the memorial in layers, so once this accumulation becomes noticeable you may want to carefully clean the memorial.

Alternatively, you could purchase a memorial maintenance plan that are often offered by most expert memorial providers.

This will ensure your memorial and surrounding area is well-kept through the year.

Failing to regularly clean the memorial and allowing dirt to build-up can in itself lead to spot damage in the form of scratches and chips, which would require some level of restoration to completely remove.

Old tombstone in cemetery covered in moss and dirty debris

Here at Summers Memorials, we have been designing, crafting, installing, and restoring a wide range of memorials and monuments across Bristol and surrounding areas of Somerset since 1906. Our dedicated team of stonemasonry experts are perfectly positioned to offer you advice and guidance with regards to your memorial restoration requirements and bringing your memorial back to brand new condition, so don’t hesitate to reach out by either calling 0117 955 7676, popping an e-mail to, or by completing our simple online contact form.


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