Do you need to install a headstone? Do you need to mark a grave? We get these questions all the time. What follows is some strong advice on where to start and what you need to think about when ordering a headstone.

Before You Begin

Normandy Cemetery

You need to know if the cemetery you are dealing with has any restrictions on the type, size or color of markers they allow.

Restrictions are usually done so all the markers look alike and the cemetery has a uniform appearance. Think of the Normandy cemeteries, and the rows of crosses, as an example cemetery with a significant restriction. These restrictions are usually absolute and they prevent any non-conforming marker from being placed in the cemetery.

Some restrictions are not as pronounced as the Normandy crosses, but are still imposed for the overall appearance of the cemetery. These include limits on minimum sizes, limits on marker types, and limits on what can be engraved on the marker.

Some restrictions are imposed so that the cemetery can charge more for their service. These sorts of restrictions include limits to a certain supplier, or source quarry, or limits allowing only certain, non-industry-standard dimensions, which can only be easily provided by their chosen supplier.

The variety of possible restrictions is wide and it is not possible to know what those restrictions are without first contacting the cemetery. To find out, you must contact your cemetery administrator and ask what, if any, are their specific restrictions on markers. You may already have been given that information in the paperwork, or in the contract, you received at the time of burial.

As part of our job processing work-flow we ask the customer to make sure the cemetery has OK'd the specific stone design. We do this before we start manufacture, and refund the stone if it is not OK with the cemetery.

Gather Your Information

You will need to gather the personal information that will be placed on the stone. This includes names and dates, and it may also include any other information you wish to place on the stone.

When you finally fill out the order form you'll want to carefully check dates and spelling, especially for unusual names, so there are no unpleasant surprises when the stone is delivered.

Selecting Headstones: Shapes and Sizes

Headstones range in types and sizes from simple, flat markers (sometimes called grass markers) up through large monuments. There are several common shapes and each shape comes in a variety of sizes and colors.

Headstone Shapes

Flat Headstone

Flat Markers are designed so the top surface of the stone is installed flat with the grass. These markers come in various sizes ranging from 8 inches by 16 inches up through 12 inches by 48 inches. The 3rd dimension listed on these markers is the thickness, usually 3 or 4 inches thick. So: 8x16x4 means 8 inches tall, 16 inches wide, 4 inches thick.

Flat markers are manufactured with either sawed sides or what are called "Rock Pitched" sides. Sawed sides are flat, but otherwise unfinished. Rock Pitched sides have rough appearance suitable for installation where the sides will be visible. Either type of side can be easily installed in concrete. Sawed sides are needed for installations in certain types of walls or other brick or brick-like patterns.

The wholesale market determines which is more readily available, and the "in vogue" side style can change quarterly. Since most installations end up with the sides buried in concrete the sides usually don't matter for final appearance. We will ship whatever is more available unless you specify a specific type of side.

If you need what we're currently shipping there is no extra charge. There may be an extra charge depending on market conditions for specific side types.

You can purchase a flat headstone online from us in one of three sizes, 8x16, 10x20 or 12x24. Visit the Catalog for standard designs.

Beveled Headstone

Beveled Markers have a slanted face making them easier to read and usually sit on top of a stone base. The bevel can also just be set on a cement pad.

Slant Headstone

Slanted Markers stand up, with a polished sloping front face. The back is vertical and unpolished, though can be polished at additional cost. The formal inscription is placed on the polished sloping face. It is also common to put a limited inscription, say a last name, on the back of the stone at additional cost. Because the stone is sloped, it sheds water better and needs less long-term maintenance. These markers have an optional matched stone base. When a stone base is not used, concrete is used instead.

Upright Headstone

Monuments stand vertical and also come with matched stone bases. Inscriptions can be placed on both sides of a monument. Typically there is a front with a detailed design and then the back is more limited with at least a last name.


Grave markers are almost always made out of granite.

Marble was once more common and can be found in older cemeteries but it is not as durable and tends to weather more easily than granite. All of the stones we sell are made out of granite.


Gray Granite Headstone material Rose Granite Headstone material Red Granite Headstone material Black Granite Headstone material

The precise color and grain of the stone is determined by the quarry where the stone originates. Most common colors are available from different quarries, and so they are given common names like gray. Specific inventory includes an additional name, like Georgia Gray, Morning Rose, Imperial Red, and Nero Black as shown here, though these colors are generally substituted.

More exotic colors like Cat's Eye, Tropical Green and Blue Perl come from limited quarries and identify a narrowly available stone.

There is always slight variation in specific stones because of variation in the natural grain of the stone.

Black is a particularly interesting color because when polished it becomes highly reflective, giving a stunning final presentation. This effect is particularly noticeable on larger stones. On dark stones like black, blue, green and red, designs are often frosted to provide a light background for black lettering or, at times, all the lettering is done in white.

The Manufacturing Process

The process for making a headstone involves using a computer to prepare a CAD drawing that is used to cut a stencil. The stencil is attached to the stone which is then run through various passes. In each pass parts of the stencil are removed or replaced until the entire design takes shape on the stone.

What fundamentally drives the process is the number of passes that must be made in order to render the design on the raw stone. We give these passes names, and those names show up on the order form as the Style of the stone.

  • Line Art style of headstones involve a single pass through manufacturing. The stencil for this style of headstone includes all lettering and any artwork. The lettering and artwork will all end up with the same color, typically black on light colored stone, and white on dark stone. This is the least expensive style because it only has one manufacturing pass.

  • Frosted style of headstones involve a pair of passes through manufacturing. The stenciling includes parts that are used in each pass. The coloring in this style of headstone includes shades of gray as well as white and black. This is by far the most common style of headstone we sell.

  • Color style headstones include a final manual pass were color accent is added to a headstone that has been through the frosted manufacturing process. This is how flowers end up red, and foliage ends up green. For book keeping reasons the key colors in the design are listed in the forms for this style of headstone. No matter specific colors, the process differs from a frosted stone in the use of colored rock dye being added at the end.

Understanding Basic Designs

Headstones used to be carved by hand using a chisel and mallet. In those days it took time to carve each letter, so headstone carvers billed per letter, so customers wanted the fewest possible letters. This caused many headstones to be carved with a name and dates and nothing else. Of course these days all the lettering is done at once, so it does not matter how many letters make up the design. This history, though, leads to a popular headstone with 4 lines of inscription. In our catalog this basic 4 line design is called Plain Jane. Variations on this theme form our "Classic" series of designs.

As carving became easier the basic names and dates designs were augmented with catchy phrases. Those phrases themselves have a name and are called "Epithets." "In Loving Memory" and "Rest In Peace" are examples of common epithets. Most standard headstone designs now include room for epithets at the top and bottom of the stone, bringing the total number of inscription lines to six. The most basic of these takes the 4 line Plain Jane and adds top and bottom epithets. This is called Simple Simon in our catalog. Of course various trims are also possible, and form our "Simple" series of designs.

Text Fonts

With the development of computer aided design the variety of fonts are basically limited to what can be dreamed up on the computer and what can realistically be manufactured. As a general rule we can manufacture a stone with whatever font and capitalization the customer may want.

On our website order forms offer 4 standard fonts. There are sans-serif and serif fonts, a condensed font and a script font. The condensed font is used to squeeze in lettering that would not otherwise fit the space on the headstone. Selecting from within this range is a matter of personal taste.

Date Formats

Date formats vary wildly across headstones. If the design allows room for a fully spelled out month name, then this works fine. Various forms of condensed dates are possible on designs where there is not room. A 3 letter month abbreviation is a common form of condensing. Use of all numeric dates are are another way to condense dates. All numeric dates also cause dates to be the same size and is sometimes used for artistic reasons. Sometimes only the year is used, either because the exact day is unknown or for reasons of space.


It seems that since time immemorial people have been placing flowers at grave sites. It also seems that since shortly thereafter, headstone carvers have been carving flowered designs into headstones. The basic design idea is to take the underlying headstone design and carve a flower that has been otherwise placed on the stone.

Of course the problem then becomes which flower, how many and where to place them. And, since the days of colored headstones, the issue also includes what color.

Roses are by far the most common flower used on headstones. When done in color these are usually done in red with green foliage. Pink, yellow and white are also common rose colors, and nearly every rose design is offered in these other colors.

Other flower types offered in our catalog include lilies, lilacs, daffodils and others. There is a type of flower to suit just about any taste.

Religious Art

The other traditional type of art found on headstones is religious. Within this theme, designs using some form of cross are the most common. Of course the cross is readily combined with flowers, so cross designs are usually seen with flowers.

There is also considerable variety in crosses themselves. Specific groups of Christians have their tradition cross designs, and we offer a selection of those.

Religious art goes beyond crosses, and includes bibles, doves and angels of various types. Explore the catalog for examples.

Other Art

Once you get the pattern, where just about any art can be added to a base design, then the possibilities become essentially endless. If you have something you want on the stone, we can probably do it.

That said, there are some specific areas that have enough interest that we've developed some standard designs. Outdoors, western, and job/hobby related themes are the most common.

Double Names

We also carry headstones that have space for 2 names, typically a husband and wife. Headstones with 2 names saves the cost of a separate stone.

These stones work to get both names onto a stone. Typically the last name is presented only once. The first names and dates are separate. Various designs allow for epithets and limited art.

Final Dates

There are many situations where the headstone is installed before the death of the person named on the stone. This happens, for example, when two names are on one stone.

In this case the stone is left without a final date and perhaps even without a final inscription.

Final inscriptions are placed on the stone later. If the stone is to be installed within 60 miles of our shop in Goldendale, we can do the final inscriptions for an extra fee. If the stone is located in other parts of the country, the cemetery care-taker should be able to recommend someone who can come to the cemetery and place final inscriptions and/or final dates.

Rush Orders

Our work queue generally runs 2 to 4 weeks, longer in late spring, and shorter in the middle of winter. Shipping takes around a week, so you can generally plan that a stone ordered through us will be delivered within 5 weeks after the stone has been paid for.

If you have a specific date that you need the stone by, that is within the 4 to 5 week range, contact us before ordering the stone and we'll make sure it gets sent in time.

If you need the stone quicker than that, we can put the stone through as a rush order. Rush orders are placed at the front of our work queue. There is an extra charge for rush orders.


Headstone Packaged for Shipping

We can ship stones in a variety of ways. Generally our stones ship through United Parcel Service(UPS), though 8x16 stones may also be shipped through the Post Office. UPS needs physical addresses for delivery, not Post Office Boxes.

Shipping addresses can either be directly to the customer's home address, or to the cemetery, or perhaps to the headstone installer.

Customers sometimes have stones shipped to their own work location. This is fine with us, but be sure your boss isn't going to mind if a grave marker addressed to you arrives at their loading dock!


For our headstones, insurance is included with the shipping for the headstone. We also handle the insurance paperwork. There is nothing extra for customers to do for their stone to be shipped insured.

Very rarely there is damage incurred in shipping. If this should happen please contact us. We will need a photo from you of the damage. We then handle the rest of the insurance paperwork and will make and ship the replacement stone.


Installed Headstone

When you order a headstone from us you will receive a granite marker engraved with your chosen design and inscription details. The stone itself needs to be installed in the cemetery. Usually this means the stone is placed in a concrete base.

Most cemeteries have installers that they can recommend for installing headstones. Some allow do-it-yourselfers to install the stone. There may have been some advice on possible installers given when arrangements were made for the burial.

In any case you should plan who, exactly, is going to be installing the stone. They may want the stone shipped to a specific address or have other special needs.

Choose your installer ahead of time, and know what their fees will be, so there are no surprises once the stone arrives.

Included with each of our headstones is a page of installation instructions. These instructions provide the specific dimensions for the concrete form used to build the base as well as other installation details. That page should be passed on to the installer.

If the stone is to be installed within 60 miles of our shop in Goldendale, we can do the installation for you. Installation is a separately charged item, not included in the prices listed on this website.

Where to Now?

We recommend looking at other headstones in order to get an idea for what is possible. The easiest way to do that is to look through the photographs in our Gallery.

If you are looking for a Flat Headstone then you can order one from us online.

If you are looking for a larger stone, or need help with a custom design, please Contact us and let us help you with a design.

The Pioneer Rock and Monument Team