Repairing Broken Stones

Numerous factors can contribute to cause the breakage of a gravestone, monument, or sculpture. The press loves to focus on the deplorable acts of vandalism, which from time to time, may damage a local cemetery or graveyard. Yet these occasional rampages are not the leading cause of broken gravestones.

It is next to impossible to protect an open air museum, such as a burying ground, from all the potential causes of degradation. Yet, proper maintenance will go a long way
Towards helping preserve are heritage carved in stone.

I have seen too many tree limbs fall and shatter fragile marble gravestones into unrepairable fragments, tree which were dead and should have long ago been pruned. I have seen cars crash through fences and destroy gravestones and monuments, toppling them like so many dominos. I have seen heavy lawn mowers mercilessly chip away and gash historic tombstones repeatedly, until they finally snap where they meet the earth.

I have seen monuments crash into open graves, and get run over by trucks.

But, once they have broken, the cause of the breakage may be long forgotten, the important thing is can they be fixed, and if so how?

Provided to stone itself still has its structural integrity intact, the fragments can usually be joined back together and be conserved, (repaired). Although joining two or more broken elements is a seemingly basic task, it can quickly become complex. The type of stone to be conserved, and where it is broken both need to be assessed before a preservation effort may begin.

Many techniques have historically been employed to join fractured tombstone together. Although the drilling and placement of bolts and metal repair plates is no longer advised, for many years this was considered a well done repair. We should be very careful to avoid disparaging repairs done at a different time. Any repair that has lasted is in some respects well done. They may not always look that great, but consider if a repair was not completed, the fragments may have been lost or destroyed.

Modern epoxies have evolved in the recent past, which now allow gravestone conservation procedures previously impossible, to be accomplished. Mortars were traditionally employed to join broken stone fragments, but mortars tend to be too thick and cause mating surfaces to be enlarged. This in turn makes multiple fragments joining difficult and often unattractive in appearance.