Resetting Old Tablet Style Gravestones

Resetting Old Tablet Style Gravestones

Using a tripod to reset a larger gravestone

If you intend to get involved in resetting gravestones, use caution and have materials ready before you start the job. Don’t try to move stones too heavy to manage unless you have sufficient help and for large stones use a tripod or lifting tool. Be sure that when using a lifting tool that:

  1. No metal is to be strapped to the stone; use canvas strapping…
  2. The ground you are working on is solid enough to hold the weight and equipment without burying itself in the ground. The more hands on the better.

Besides shovels and buckets you’ll need the following supplies: Water, a few old bricks, a tamping device or couple of 2×4 pieces sand, (not play sand) and crushed stone.

  1. Survey your stone and area. Before you start digging out stone remove the surrounding grass or moss at top layer of ground and set it aside on a sheet of plastic.
  2. Try to dig away from stone and avoid hitting stone with shovel.
  3. Resetting an ancient gravestone
    Resetting an ancient gravestone

    Keep your tarp or a sheet of plastic at work area to pile removed dirt on. Left over dirt can be carted off easily leaving the cemetery looking neater, minus the mud piles all over.

  4. While removing dirt keep checking as the stone loosens it may tip more or fall on you.
  5. When hole is leveled out, place bricks in to help with leveling. Gradually fill back in by using layers of sand and stones. In between layers take the time to tamp it down well, dowsing with lots of water to disperse air pockets, more sand and stone, then tamping again and so on. Stone should be stable and secure before you fill to the top. If not you may need to bury it deeper and if this means hiding some of the inscription then so be it.
  6. Making a new form to make a base in resetting a stone
    Making a new form to make a base in resetting a stone

    Finish up by filling in with dirt, leaving some space to replace top layer of grass or moss that was removed. If this is done correctly the stone will stand tight and stable.

For resetting in a recessed (key) base we use a Portland cement with extra lime mix to keep it softer then regular cement. Remember that if the stone should be stressed – allowing to break at a natural seam is preferable and fixable. Using a fast set cement or concrete in some cases might hinder the movement and cause new breaks on an older stone.

Resources on Preservation links and books:

Conservation links on this site:

For more on resetting and building new bases for 19th century gravemarkers go to
Assoc. for Gravestone Studies (AGS):

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.. (cemeteries)

Connecticut Historic Preservation:

Connecticut League of Historic Organizations:

The Association for Gravestone Studies: