How does cremation work?

Cremation is an option that more and more families are choosing today. For some, there is comfort in knowing that a family member is not in the ground, below dirt, or in a cold mausoleum. For others, cost is a factor.

Cremation is typically much cheaper than a traditional burial, so families on a budget will choose this option to save money and not go into debt for a funeral.

One of the reasons for the reduced cost of cremation over grave burial is that an expensive coffin is unnecessary. Depending upon the regulations in each state, it is typical for an inexpensive container, cardboard box or even nothing at all to be used.

Cremations are performed one body at a time. For one thing, modern furnaces are not set up to take more than a single person. Also, it is illegal to cremate more than one body at a time.

The Furnace Temperature and Length of Time

The furnace, usually called the incinerator, reaches from 1,315 to 1,093 degrees Celsius during the cremation process. How long it takes for a body to burn and be considered completely cremated depends upon many factors, including the type of furnace used, type of container used (if any) and the size and weight of the body being cremated. The typical cremation takes somewhere around two or three hours, but the actual time varies by many factors. Even things such as how long the furnace has been running and how hot it is at start-up can make a difference.

Usually family members can observe the cremation, but many find it traumatic to do so. In addition, many funeral homes do not offer cremation services on their property, but use outside services to perform cremation. Whether or not the family is allowed to observe may depend upon this third party and their policies.

After Completed Cremation

The cremated body usually weights between four and eight pounds. This will vary, depending on the person's size. Once the body is cremated, the only thing left will be large bones. Typically, these are ground up into a fine powder and given to the loved ones as remains. There is a special machine that pulverises these bones into the fine ash remains. These remains are often placed in memorial urns, although there is no legal requirement for this. Some choose to scatter the ashes in the loved one's favourite place or make other arrangements.