Gravestone Repair and Restoration

Gravestone Repair and Restoration (2)

Wednesday, 17 September 2008 10:07

The Use of Sealants on a Gravestone

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Even though a gravestone may be made up of materials like those found in the exteriors or interiors of building (i.e. marble, granite, or other stone), the same techniques that would be used to clean and protect the building cannot be used in the cemetery. Unlike buildings, gravestones are also exposed on all sides to the environment and must be able to allow air and water pass through it. The introduction of a sealant to the stone will prevent this process and will cause later damaging effects to the stone. Keep in mind that in many cases the stone is in direct contact with the soil and anything in the ground can be wicked up into the stone. Sealing, waterproofing or coating the stone with any sealing process will inhibit it's natural ability to evaporate this moisture from inside the stone. This will result in new damage and expansion problems. The War Graves Commission once did some experiments on water proofing compounds and found that silicone treatments actually caused more damage than if the stone was left exposed. The silicone trapped water in the stone, and the frost blew off the surface.

While Saving Graves does not recommend the use any type of sealant, there  has recently been developed a number premium quality breathing type sealers which is claimed to not trap moisture within the stone and will not interfere with the natural self cleansing calcification process of stones such as limestone. However these sealants are quite new, expensive and in the opinion of Saving Graves additional testing is required before such a product could be recommended.

The Use of WD-40 as a Gravestone Sealant

There seems to be little information on the effects of the use of WD-40 on a gravestone outside of a comment on the final plans website recommending that on bronze markers after cleaning to spray the memorial with WD-40 to protect the finish. However given the fact that a bronze marker is an entire different ballgame from a stone marker it can safely be assumed that introducing this product to a stone surface would produce quite different results.

The "WD" in WD-40 stands for Water Displacer. It was designed to remove water from mechanical equipment but it was found to have some lubrication ability short term so they went down that road in marketing it. The first concern is that if a person wants to use WD-40 to seal the stone, then one must assume that they will not only clean the stone but also rinse the stone off before applying the WD-40. If that stone is wet when they apply the WD-40 then it will only serve to drive the rinse water and any leftover chemical deeper into the stone and trapping it there.

The second concern is that it has peen proven that WD-40 changes as it evaporates over time into a more "gummy" substance. Given the fact that the WD-40 is applied to the surface of the stone after cleaning as a sealant  one has to assume that there is no intent to wash it off.  This "gummy" substance on the surface of the stone could create something along the lines of a waterproof seal that could not only trap moisture within the stone, but could hamper the natural breathing process of the stone.

You also must take into account that what goes into making WD-40 is unknown to the general public it's next to impossible to say with 100% assurance what effects to the stone it may or may not have. With that in mind, Saving graves recommends to fall back to "when in doubt, err on the side of caution". Exercise common sense whenever using WD-40.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008 10:02

Building Replacement Markers

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The following suggestion for building an inexpensive grave marker comes from "Bonedigger" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
1 Build a frame to hold the concrete in place until it cures. The form is made from 1"x 6" boards with plywood. Here is a description of the forms.
2 - 1x6x24" vertical sides 
2 - 1x6x18" horizontal sides
Place one of each lengths into a tee shape, square them and screw them together. The top of the tee is your base so turn it upside down and the top becomes the side of your floor of the form. Cut a piece of plywood 18x18" to tie the two tees together and your floor is finished. Use screws to tie the tees to the plywood floor. Don't use nails anywhere; you don't want to hammer anything to get the forms off when the concrete dries. Cut 2 pieces of plywood approximately 14"x18" for the front and back. this front is where you will stick your letters on. When ready screw them in place [after letters are glued on]. 4 more pieces of plywood finish the form. They will be about 14"x6" to be horizontal and vertical end caps for the ends of the tees. All these are screwed into place. Leave the top open to pour in the concrete mix.

2 Cut out letters and numbers.

3 Glue the numbers inside the form you built in 1.above. There is a gotcha here! Glue the letters as if you were looking thru the wood to the letters. In other words the glue goes on the front of the letters not on the back as you would normally glue on stuff. Use the kind of glue that you set floor tiles with for two reasons a] it holds firmly until the concrete is poured b] it releases as soon as the concrete is cured but the impressions are lasting and as deep as the thickness that you made the letters. Imagine for a minute that the front of the form is glass and you are looking thru the glass to the interior of the form what you see is the writing you want to put on the marker just as you want to read it. Keep this thought in mind as you are gluing the letters in place.

4 When you have the form made and letters glued into place [glue has set] take a paint brush and spread oil, about a 30 weight heavy oil all over the letters and front side inside of the form so the concrete will not stick to the letters or to the front side of the form. If desired oil the whole inside for ease of operations.

5 Mix the concrete a little wetter than you would normally pour a sidewalk then pour it and let the concrete cure for several days probably 3 or more days is best. then remove the form and voila you have a tombstone with proper looking message that will last until some idiot decides to break it with a sledge hammer or worse.

6 I put a little reinforcement in my concrete to make it more durable. i.e. two little pieces of pipe running top to bottom inside the form. Or you can use a little grill work e.g. wire mesh or any old steel or iron rods lying around will strengthen the concrete.

7 There are many variations you can choose. I cut out the letters on my scroll saw but a band saw will work. Probably you can talk a local friendly woodworker into making the letters free for you. They should be made from 3/8" thick plywood. Letters any thicker would probably be too hard to remove from your forms without damaging the image you want to leave impressed in the concrete.

This design is based upon 2 bags of concrete mix at approximately $2.00 each at 40 pounds each so the final marker weighs about 90 pounds.