A One-Person Business to Protect Families’ Memories

Ron Taylor runs a tombstone cleaning business. He cleans and repairs both tombstones and metal grave markers.

An article in the Rocky Mount Telegram quotes Taylor as saying, “I was doing genealogy research, and I was going out to the cemeteries to check for dates on some of my relatives. I started to see how bad the stones looked, so I started cleaning them, and I did the same thing for some friends.”

He decided to go to a workshop in Raleigh that was led by a person who does restoration work for the N.C. Office of Archives. “He showed us some of the better techniques so you don’t damage the old stones,” Taylor said. “I have just been doing this commercially since March a year ago.”

You can read more about Ron Taylor’s business at http://goo.gl/NIKZdJ.

Taylor is based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, so obviously his territory is limited to that area. His business plan sounds like it could work elsewhere, however. If you are looking for a new sideline business venture, a tombstone cleaning service might be a good thing to consider. Who is better qualified and more motivated than a genealogist? It worked for Ron Taylor.

Another resource for learning the business may be found at http://www.gravesitebusiness.com/.

 

5 Comments

Hello Dick,
Marianne Greenfield, a volunteer for Find-a-Grave, also has her own business cleaning gravestones. She is in Delhi, Delaware Co. NY, her website is http://www.gravestonecleaningservice.com
Nan Whitcomb

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Linda Herrick Swisher May 6, 2014 at 4:12 pm

The photo in the article above seems to show a scrub brush.
Should a power washer be used — even on a low setting — on stones? The goo.gl link in the article leads to a site in which he is using a power washer on a veterans’ memorial.

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Linda – Yes. You are correct. Many experts do not recommend power washing for tombstones. Indiscrimanate use of a pressure washer can harm some stones and leave them vulnerable to future damage. I’m the one in that article (but not the one in the photo at the top of this post). That marker was erected in 1956 by a local VFW post. It had not be cleaned since it was erected. And it was pretty bad. I used D/2 and different plastic and natural fiber brushes. I worked with a stiff toothbrush on all the nooks and crannies. I did make some progress. But it still just looked dirty. The marble had absorbed some of the soot into the sub-surface of the stone. I examined it carefully. The stone was in excellent structural condition. There was no sign of sugaring or cracks in the marble. I used a wider nozzle (reduces the per square inch pressure) and went over it with a power washer at lower pressure (mine is adjustable). I was also careful not to get the nozzle too close to the stone. The results is a much nicer looking tribute to our veterans. Did I do bad? Some would absolutely say YES!!!. And some would say I’m just a well-meaning moron. But the monument looks much better now. I believe the decision has to be made on a case-by-case basis. I’m not going to use this technique on older tombstones or stones with flaws. But I made the call to carefully try it on this one. And FYI: I was doing this project to demonstrate my support for our veterans. I stand behind my decision on this one. And I’ll accept the condemnation of the purists. But I think I made the right call in this case. (I have some before and after photos if anyone wants to see the difference.)
Ron Taylor
P.S. Dick is correct: the publication, “A Graveyard Preservation Primer” from the Association of Gravestone Studies is an excellent guide.

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I found this in a manual put out by the National Parks Service concerning Veteran’s Grave Markers. This section pertains to the use of mechanical pressure washers.
“• Mechanical cleaning: High‐pressure washing
Pressure washing systems are mechanical sprayers that use water under high pressures to clean surfaces. Commercially available pressure washers operate at pressures between 750 psi and 30,000 psi that will damage marble headstones. This technique can cut into and mar the surface of the stone. The appropriate distance and pressure needed to properly clean an individual headstone is generally about 12 inches with a
pressure of 500 psi or less. Some stones may not be able to tolerate these conditions depending on their condition. A test patch in a small unobtrusive area on the headstone is recommended prior to cleaning.”
[End of quote.]
One more thing I’ll add about pressure washing on Veteran’s tombstones. Some of those provided by the Veteran’s Administration use lithochrome paint in the inscriptions. It makes the inscriptions easier to read. Pressure washing can easily damage and remove that paint.
Hope this is helpful.
Ron Taylor

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