How Does Cremation Work and Other Quick Cremation Facts

Considering cremation but have questions? Read on to get the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about cremation, including “How does cremation work?” and other cremation facts.

What Is Cremation?Large Gray Marble Grecian Cremation Urn

Cremation is the process in which a body is heated at very high temperatures to reduce it to its basic elements. This is typically done in preparation for final placement and memorialization.

How Does Cremation Work?

The process for how a body is cremated starts with the removal of any medical implants or devices, which should not be exposed to high temperatures. The deceased is then placed inside of a cremation container. The container is put into a cremator retort and heated to 800° to 1000° Celsius. After heating, the remains are allowed to cool and then transferred to machine called a cremulator, which breaks down the remains into a consistent powder.

What Happens During Cremation?

During cremation, the high temperatures inside of the cremator cause the body and coffin or other container to be reduced to their basic elements. The high heat dries the body, and soft tissues are vaporized. The bones then calcify and crumble into smaller pieces. Because the final remains may not all be of an even size or consistency, they are processed by a cremulator to a finer texture.

How Long Does it Take to Cremate a Body?

The actual time required for the cremation to be completed will depend on several factors, including the size of deceased. On average, it takes between 2 and 2-1/2 hours for the cremation process to be completed. Additional time is required for the remains to be cooled and processed.

What Are Cremains?

Cremains are the ash and other burned materials that remain after the cremation process. Typically, cremains are placed into a cremation urn, scattered in an ocean or lake, or used in another unique memorial service. The average human will produce around 200 cubic inches of ashes, or approximately 1 cubic inch of ash for every pound.

The door to a Buddhist crematorium in Thailand.What Is a Crematory?

The crematory or crematorium is the location or building where the cremation process takes place. It holds the cremator (also sometimes referred to as the “crematory” or “retort”). Many crematories are found in funeral homes, although there are a growing number of independent crematoriums that offer direct cremations.

What Is a Cremator?

The cremator is a specially designed machine with a cremation compartment called a retort. Cremators operate between 800° and 1000° Celsius and typically will take on average of 2 to 2-1/2 hours to complete the cremation process. This machine itself is sometimes also referred to as a “crematory.”

Is A Casket Required for Cremation?

No, a casket is not required, but some type of cremation container is. If you plan to have a funeral service or viewing before the cremation, you may be able to rent a casket for temporary use.

What Is a Cremation Container?

The cremation container is a combustible coffin, shroud, or other vessel that holds the body during the cremation process. This container is placed inside of the cremator retort and makes it easier to handle the body. Typically, containers are made from wood, cardboard, or other combustible materials.

What Is Direct Cremation?

A direct cremation is a cremation that arranged between the family of the deceased and the crematorium where the cremation will take place. A funeral home is not involved in the process. If the cremation is arranged through a funeral home, it is referred to as an indirect cremation.

How Much Does Cremation Cost?

The actual cost of the cremation varies according to where you live, whether you choose direct cremation or work with a funeral home, and any additional services that you require, such as a memorial service. The average price range for a cremation is $1,500 to $3,000 for direct cremation and $2,000 to $4,000 for indirect cremation.

Can Two People Be Cremated Together?

No. In the United States, it is illegal to cremate more than one person in the same cremator at the same time.

Must the Body Be Embalmed Before Cremation?

No. In most cremations, the body is not embalmed. You can choose to have the deceased embalmed, however, if you want to have a funeral with an open casket before the cremation.

It's common to have a funeral or memorial service even if you are crematedCan I Have a Funeral if I am Cremated?

Yes. It’s actually quite common to have a funeral either before or after the cremation. Family and friends of the deceased may also choose to have a graveside ceremony if the cremains are to be buried or placed in a columbarium, or a memorial service if the cremains are to be scattered.

How Do I Know I’ll Receive the Correct Cremains?

Because crematories are legally required to cremate only one individual at a time, there should be no concern that you will not receive the correct cremains. All reputable crematories have strict procedures in place to ensure that individuals are carefully tracked from the moment that they arrive to the time that they leave the facilities. Typically, a family member will be required to identify the body before the cremation takes place to eliminate any question of misidentification.

Do I Have to Buy an Urn from the Funeral Home?

No, you are not required to purchase an urn from the funeral home or crematory, although you may need to provide your own if you choose not to. If you are making plans to purchase a cremation urn elsewhere, talk to the funeral director or cremation provider so that they are aware of your plans and to make sure that you select the right size to hold all of the cremains.

What Can I Do With the Cremains?

Cremated remains are typically kept in an urn at home or in a columbarium, buried, shared among family members, and/or scattered. Read our guide for What to Do with the Ashes After Cremation for additional information and suggestions.

A columbarium is a dedicated area where urns and cremains can be kept.What Is a Columbarium?

A columbarium is a location that contains separate niches for the placement and storage of cremation urns. The niches may be included along a single wall, in the room of a building, or the entire building may be dedicated to this purpose.

What Is a Scattering Garden?

A scattering garden is typically an outdoor location that has been set aside as a place for people to spread the cremains of their loved ones. Scattering gardens are often located in cemeteries or outside of crematoriums. These gardens often feature benches, flowers, or other memorial features.

How Common Is Cremation?

While burial is still the most common choice for the disposition of the deceased in the United States, the cremation rate is rising. According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), the cremation rate in the US in 2015 was 48.6%. Alaska is the state with the highest cremation rate, at 65.7%. The cremation rate in Canada is 68.8%.

Which Religions Allow Cremation?

Cremation is required for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains. It is usually allowed in the Methodist, Anglican, and Episcopalian denominations, as well as a number of other Protestant denominations. Although burial is preferred, cremation is usually accepted in the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Reform Judaism.

Discuss: How Does Cremation Work and Other Quick Cremation Facts

2 People Discussing
  • I know that my wonderful sweetheart, recently deceased due to cancer, wanted to be cremated. Of course I honored his wishes, now leaving me with his cremains. In searching for just the right urn (He LOVED wolves), with a wolf or wolves, preferably wooden, I found the page that has the FAQ’s regarding the process of cremation. In an effort to learn exactly what was going to happen to my beloved, I even watched a YouTube video on the process of cremation. Even seeing that video didn’t seem to bother me, as much as reading just one word in the way your website answered the question re: The cremation process – That one word, is/was, “pulverizes”… Perhaps it’s just an idiosyncrasy on my part, but… I certainly didn’t like the picture that was conjured up in my mind of any part of my sweetheart’s cremains during the cremation process, being “pulverized” in any way, shape or form.

    If it bothered me, I have to wonder just how many other people did the word, “pulverize” also bother?

    Just a thought, worthy of perhaps rethinking in just that one word… “Pulverize” is not a word that anyone wants to think of when already dealing with the grieving process. Again, just my opinion.

    … Thank you for your attention!

    Comment by Dawn — October 27, 2015 @ 7:02 pm

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