Repairing Tombstones


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Repairing tombstones Presented by Chuck Gerdau

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Cemetery Permit

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STONE TYPES Sandstone or Slate - cannot be cleaned - repair is not recommended - can be “framed” Marble, Limestone, Granite -can be cleaned -can repair

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Repairing historic grave markers is the most difficult of all cemetery work. The majority of repairs will be extremely complicated and will require a professional. Just as certain cleaning techniques can prove extremely harmful to the life of the stone, insensitive repair techniques can be exceedingly more harmful to the stone. Before you begin any repair project, investigate the proper preservation and/or conservation methods to ensure that the grave markers are protected. REPAIRING HISTORIC TOMBSTONES

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“Preservation in place” Preservation in place is a viable preservation alternative. Remember, it is important to leave the grave markers alone until the appropriate intervention is identified. This allows researchers and visitors to view a cemetery as close as it was years ago.

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Repair stonework utilizing Like Materials only. Always use materials that are softer than the original stone. Introducing harder materials to “glue” pieces of stone together will cause great tension on the original stone causing not only new breaks in the stone but will cause the repair to fail. Suggested Repair Methods

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Portland cement should not be used to repair stonework, to fill joints, or to adhere pieces of stone. Never place broken pieces of stone into wet concrete. Suggested Repair Methods

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Adhesives of any sort (Bondo, Liquid Nails) should be avoided due to their creating a moisture barrier that contributes to breakage and deterioration of stonework. Suggested Repair Methods

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Inappropriate adhesives have been used without taking care to either achieve a good, tight alignment of the stone fragments or clean up the excess material. In addition, the continuous joints will create new failure lines.    

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Lime mortar is recommended for these type of repairs and is available at,, or Most repairs should be reserved for the professional to avoid further damage of the gravestone. Suggested Repair Methods

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Often, historic markers are constructed of fragile materials or were held together by gravity only (obelisks, for example). It is important that these design features be respected prior to making any repairs. Suggested Repair Methods

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Walls or fences often surrounded only marked graves in a cemetery. More times than not, unmarked graves lay outside the walled area. It is imperative that the locations of all burials be identified before any fencing is constructed. Recreated rock walls or fencing should be based on photographic evidence, whenever possible and be in keeping with the history of the cemetery. Recreation of Walls or Building Fences

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Jennings Chapel UMC Cemetery

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Some companies say they will "restore" cemetery markers. What, exactly, does this mean -- and what are they likely to do to your stone? By definition, "restoration" means making the stone like new. Such an approach ignores the history and patina of the stone and attempts -- using techniques that are often inappropriate and damaging to the long-term preservation of the monument -- to make it look like it did the day it was placed in the cemetery. Restoration firms will often be happy to take on any project. The only critical consideration in restoration is what can be charged the client. Preservation (or conservation), on the other hand, attempts to keep a stone from deteriorating further, stabilizing it, and ensuring that it is there for future generations. No conservator will claim to be able to work on every type of material or every monument. Preservation or Restoration?

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There are also some critical considerations in competent preservation or conservation work: Preservation must ensure careful planning Expedient or easy solutions often compound the problem Actions should be the least intrusive Treatments should respect the original fabric Actions should be, where possible, reversible All work must be carefully documented in case future work becomes necessary Preservation or Restoration?

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Case Example: What Would You Do?

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Case Example: Preservation or Restoration?

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Some markers are broken off at ground level and found laying flat in the cemetery. This exposes them to damage from mowers, pedestrians, as well as increased damage from acid rainfall. Such stones may be good candidates for resetting in a new socket. #1 You need to be certain that other than the one break, the stone is otherwise sound -- there should be no cracks or other damage. #2 The stone must be able to be reset without hiding or burying any of the inscription. If your stone meets these two conditions, creating a new socket for the stone is really pretty easy and involves essentially two steps -- creating the socket and then resetting the stone. RESETTING TOMBSTONES

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Identify the location where the stone is to be reset and excavate a hole 6-10 inches longer than the width of the tablet and 6-10 inches wider than the thickness. The excavation should be about 8 inches in depth. This hole will serve as a "ground form" for commercial Portland cement (this is one of the few instances where commercial gray Portland cement is appropriate in cemetery preservation efforts). STEPS IN RESETTING TOMBSTONES

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2. Prepare a wood form to create a slot in the concrete. This slot will be used to hold the stone upright. The wood can consist of 2x6s or 2x8s depending on how deep the socket needs to be to provide support to the stone. You will likely also need to use shims to make the form about 1/4-inch wider on each of the four sides than the stone (in other words, the slot in the concrete form will be 1/2-inch larger than the stone). Oil the wood so it will more easily slip out of the ground form as the concrete sets up. RESETTING TOMBSTONES

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3. Place several inches of concrete at the base of the ground form, set in the prepared wooded slot, and fill the ground form with concrete to within a couple inches of the ground level (be certain that your slot form extends up beyond the concrete so you can remove it). Allow the concrete to set up for several hours and remove the wood form when the concrete will hold its shape (if you wait too long removing the wood form will become very difficult; if you attempt to remove it too soon, the wet concrete will slump. Allow the form to set up for at least 24 hours and preferably 72 hours. RESETTING TOMBSTONES

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RESETTING TOMBSTONES 4. Prepare a fairly wet 1:4:8 mix of white (NOT gray) Portland cement : hydrated lime : clean sand. You use white Portland cement (ASTM C-150, Type II) since it does not contain sulfates or other soluble salts that can cause staining and efflorescence. The hydrated lime (ASTM C-207, Type S) helps provide high plasticity and water retention with a safe degree of strength. This setting mortar is softer than the stone and any failure is likely to occur in the mortar, preventing the stone from being broken.

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RESETTING TOMBSTONES 5. Place mortar mix in the base and on the sides of the slot, set the marker, and ensure that it is straight. If necessary, additional mortar can be added to the sides of the slot and small pieces of soft waste stone can be used as shims to hold the stone in position while the mortar sets.

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RESETTING TOMBSTONES 6. Never set a stone directly into cement. Not only does gray Portland cement contain impurities that will harm the stone, but the set concrete is far stronger than the stone. Any pressure to the stone (such as being hit by a lawn mower) will result in the stone snapping off at the base. The use of a form and a 1:4:8 mortar mix helps ensure that the stone won't be damaged.

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BROKEN TOMBSTONES When your grave marker is broken into too many pieces to repair with dowels, what should you do? You have several choices, and it all depends on the situation, your means, your needs, and the needs of the grave marker. First of all, ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. If you want a clean and new-looking marker, then you can pursue replication of the original marker in similar materials and work. You should keep the original pieces near the new marker, thus preserving the original artifacts in place alongside the buried person. The original stone pieces may deteriorate over time, but at least they remain at the original site for which they were intended. Never remove a marker to another location (Preservation in Place) unless, of course, the pieces were an extremely important museum piece. Then, it belongs in a museum location in a properly conserved environment, while the site is marked with a new marker.

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Remember that preservation in place is a viable preservation alternative. When left in place, the history of the marker remains at the burial site, the story of the vandalism or damage is told right there, and the burial remains marked (albeit damaged and certainly not an "original" treatment). As soon as the marker is removed, of course, future generations cannot possibly know who was buried at that site or even if it was a burial site. Leave the broken marker in place until you are sure of the appropriate treatment that will be used to conserve or preserve it. Don't lay the pieces in cement, however. The dissimilar materials (stone and cement) will cause the stone to deteriorate rapidly. You can lay pieces of marker stone in pea gravel that has a wooden frame built around it. In this way, the site is marked, protected from a lawnmower, and the marker is preserved in place. BROKEN TOMBSTONES

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Step 1 Lay down your foundation stone. There will be a hole in the center, and this will be where your anchoring rod bar goes. The anchor bar will keep the pieces of the headstone together. Step 2 Drive the anchoring rod through the foundation. Use the sledge hammer. The rod will have a stop washer about 6 inches from the top. Drive it in until the stop washer presses on the foundation. Step 3 Stack the sub base on top. It will fit neatly over the very top of the rod and hid it completely. Your base will now fit cleanly over the sub base with two holes showing. Make sure these holes are facing up. Step 4 Insert the stainless steel dowels into the holes in the base. They should slide in smoothly but will not have much--if any--wiggle room. Step 5 Slide the headstone on top of the dowels. The dowels will be the connection points for your headstone and will hold it firmly in place once it is installed. Step 6 Tap the stone lightly into place with the sledge hammer. Be gentle so that you do not break the stone, but make sure that you have firmly pounded it into place before you stop. BROKEN TOMBSTONES INSTALLING STAINLESS STEEL DOWELS

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If the broken marker cannot be repaired with stainless steel dowels, one may try lime adhesives. Contact for more information about such adhesives. Lime is softer than the material that it is binding; it breathes; it allows moisture to pass through the crack; and it is self-healing. It may bind the broken pieces of stone together for a little while longer. It is NOT original stone, however, and cannot be expected to last another hundred years. Furthermore, it may not have the strength to keep the marker intact structurally. Again, it depends on the situation. Never try to glue pieces together with cement, car repair putty, or corrosive iron rods. These cause further deterioration of the stone -- whether by thermal expansion and contraction or by displacement by crystallized salts, rust and corrosion. BROKEN TOMBSTONES

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Lime Infill Method

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Acid Rain- Rainfall with a lower then normal ph. Acidic Deposition- Acid rain fallen on an absorbent stone. The leading cause of damage and decay to calcium carbonate based rock, including most marble and some limestone. Adhesion- The sticking together of substances that are contact with one another. Aggregate- Inert granular material, such as sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, pumice, and scoria which are mixed with water and cement being bound together in a mass, to make mortar or concrete. Argillaceous- Consisting of, or containing clay. Armature- Internal frame or hidden support. Assemblage- Sculptural form made by assembling various shapes and materials. TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS

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TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS Barrow- Mound of stones or dirt on top of a grave. Bed Joint -The horizontal layer of mortar on which a masonry unit is laid. Blind Pinning- To place hidden support in a structure or monument to join sections together. May be employed during construction or as a repair technique. Pinning should be of a non-ferrous metal or fiberglass material. Brick Masonry- A type of construction that has units of baked clay or shale of uniform size, small enough to be placed with one hand, laid in courses with mortar joints to form walls, pillars, and various structures. Cement- The binding material which holds the aggregates together, in concrete and mortar, binding them into a solid mass. Closure Brick- A partial brick that is cut to fit into a place to complete a course. Consolidation- The process whereby a weakened stone is treated to strengthen it, and prolong its life span.

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TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS Ferrous Pinning- Metal that rusts and expands was use extensively in historic monumental installations. It has contributed to a host of problems, including, cracking, staining, stone degradation, and complete collapse in some instances. Flaking- Minor delimitation of surface, a form of spalling; Followed by blistering, and scaling, in a successive order of severity. Foundation- The part of construction that supports the structure. In monuments, poor quality foundations or no at all account for a large percentage of structural failures. Grade Line- The point at which a stone enters the ground. The most common site of tablet stone breakage. Hydration- The chemical reaction that occurs when water is added to cement, causing it to harden. In-fill- Replacement compound used patch or repair areas of lost or decayed stone, concrete, or masonry.

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Injection Grout- A very thin grout which is injected or gravity fed into cracks or voids In-Situ- On site, constructed or conserved in position. Joint- Any place where two or more edges or surfaces come to a union. Lime- Produced by burning limestone in a kiln. The base for mortar. Limestone- A sedimentary rock formed from shells and organic sea matter. If metamorphisized becomes marble. Limestone was often used in nineteenth century monuments as a base. Lintel- A horizontal support for masonry or a stone spanning an opening; A horizontal beam, over a door or window which carries the weight of the wall above. Metamorphism- The action of heat and pressure. Mend- To join broken fragments together again. Missing Gravestone- Buried or disintegrated stone, unable to be found in a previously documented location. TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS

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TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS Mortar- A plastic mixture of lime and sand, with possible other possible ingredients, such as horse hair; it is used chiefly for bonding masonry units together. Modern mortars include Portland cement. Mould- The negative form, from which a cast is made. Patching Compound- Composite mixture to infill lost stone. Pitting- Distinct depressions on a stones surface. Portland Cement- Cement most often used in modern construction to formulate concrete, mortar, and pre-cast products. Creates a very hard solid, not recommended for most aspects of historic preservation. Rake Joint- To remove some of the mortar from a joint to a uniform depth, before it hardens. Reguage- Retemper, remix mortar as it begins to harden to extend pot life. Reinforcing Rod- Rebar; A steel rod that is used for reinforcing concrete or masonry.

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TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS Riprap- Irregular stone used for fill or to hold against erosion. Sandstone- A sedimentary rock made up of compressed sand. Formed from fresh water sediment. Scratch Coat- The first coat in infill, stucco, or plaster. Screed- A long, very straight board used for striking off concrete. Screeding- The process of leveling the surface of a concrete slab by striking off the excess concrete. Sedimentary Rock - Rock that forms at the Earths surface. It consists of layers or rock fragments or other substances that have been deposited on top of each other. Examples include; lake and river beds become sandstone, sea beds become limestone.

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TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS Setting- The installation of a new monument Setting Bar- Steel bar formed round, square, or the strongest, octagonal in shape. Constructed from two to six or more feet long. Used to lift, maneuver and handle heavy weights with a mechanical advantage through leverage; A monument is “set”, by being dropped down off a setting bar. Setting Clamps- Firmly attached onto a die stone, the stone is then lowered without risk of chipping. Setting Compound- Also known as monument setting compound. Available in gray, dark gray, brown, and white. The preferred material used to install new monumental works. Setting Cushions- A spacer placed between stone sections. It may be composed of lead, plastic, or other hard materials. Shale- Thinly layered soft stone of clay origin. Becomes slate if metamorphisized Shim- Cushion. Spacer placed between stone segments. May be lead, copper, plastic and Can vary in thickness.

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TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS Soldier Course- A course of brick laid with the brick standing on edge with the thin side on the face. Spall- To flake or split away, indicates the lose of stone. Tamping- The act of pounding, packing or consolidating as in concrete; The compaction of dirt during backfill. Tempering- Adding water to mortar to bring back to a workable texture. Tie-Stone- A long stone which extends across a wall. Tomb- A grave, burial vault or a monument. Tombstone- Gravestone; denotes historical type, often within the western United States Unstable- A hazardous or dangerous gravestone, monument, or structure. May be in danger of toppling or falling apart. Veneer- A layer or bricks or stones that serve as a facing.

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TOMBSTONE REPAIR TERMS Weathering- The breaking down of rocks or masonry, by the action of various processes such as freezing and thawing and dissolving in water. Wedges- Stone chips used for leveling. Metal tools used in conjunction with feathers to split stone by hammering on, when used in groups along a row. Weep Holes- The openings made in mortar joints that facilitate drainage of built-up moisture. Wrought Iron- Decorative iron that is hammered or forged into shape by hand. Very popular during the 19th and early 20th century for fences and ornament. Almost a lost art, as very few artisans continue to practice this trade. Wythe- A vertical stack of bricks one thickness wide; a veneer course.

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Repairing tombstones Presented by Chuck Gerdau

Summary: August 5, 2010 TGS Program