- Obtain permission from the cemetery association or property owner before undertaking any cemetery-restoration project.
- Clear overgrown vegetation around the tombstones. Use a mower and edger for larger areas between stones. Use pruning shears to carefully trim overgrowth around the stones.
- Find all tombstones using the cemetery map. Match each stone to the corresponding burial plot on the map. If no map is available, sketch a map of the visible stones. Note any extra or missing stones.
- Record each tombstone in a notebook, noting the shape and material of the stone. Record any engravings or decorations.
- Record damage and weathering for each stone. Stones with significant cracking, breakage, or erosion should be repaired by a professional restorer.
- Photograph each tombstone. Take photographs with the sun at an angle to the stone, if possible, to allow natural shadows to make inscriptions more visible. This provides a record of each tombstone before conservation.
Clean and Repair Tombstones
- Gather fragments of broken tombstones. Look downhill for any missing pieces of severely damaged stones.
- Wet the stone thoroughly with clean water. Clean only those tombstones that are stable and in good condition.
- Loosen any dirt using a soft brush and water, working from the bottom to the top to prevent staining. Rinse frequently with clean water.
- If stains remain, mix one ounce of ionic cleaning solution in five gallons of water, and use this to remove further dirt using a nylon scrub brush. Clean gently and do not scrub at stubborn stains.
- Rinse tombstone thoroughly with water.
Things You Will Need
- Lawn mower and edger
- Pruning shears
- Cemetery map, if available
- Soft-bristled brushes (such as paint brushes)
- Non-ionic detergent (available from photography equipment suppliers)
- After recording and photographing the tombstones in a cemetery, consider donating a copy of the record to the local historical society or cemetery-preservation group.