How to Make Halloween Tombstone Setup Fast and Easy

Halloween Tombstones are the mainstay of any outdoor Halloween display. One of my primary goals in building Halloween displays is to minimize the setup and tear-down time.  As a holiday, Halloween has a short window of opportunity to show off your display, so you don’t want spend hours or days setting it up and taking it down.


Preparing early is the key. Start your tombstone preparation when the weather is still nice and you can work outside. This will save a lot of hectic, last-minute rushing when Halloween approaches. When the actual time comes to set up your display, it should only take an hour or two to put everything in place.

In addition to fast set-up and tear-down speed there are other considerations to keep in mind.  For example, making the tombstones wind resistant is important.  You don’t want a storm or even a windy day to blow all your hard work into the neighbor’s yard.  And making them water resistant will keep your display intact in case of an uninvited rain storm.

Buy Your Tombstones Here: Ultimate Halloween Props

My haunt uses a lot of foam tombstones to create a graveyard effect.  These tombstones are available from several vendors and have come down in price as they have gotten more popular.  They come in all different shapes and sizes so it’s easy to create a realistic looking spooky graveyard. 

Completed Tombstone Setup
There are a number of techniques I will show you to make this process as fast and efficient as possible.  The basic concept is to attach a 1x2 (1” by 2”) board to the back of the tombstone.  This will give you something sturdy to anchor the tombstone with.  Then you use zip-ties (or cable ties as they’re sometimes called) attached to a stake to hold the tombstone in place.  This creates a very sturdy base that takes very little time to set up and take down.

Tombstone with double support

Sometimes on larger tombstones it helps to have two supports. This will keep it steady in very strong winds.

This particular tombstone demonstrates why you need to get the glue to the foam and not just the paint. This pictures shows how the glue only stuck to the paint and the paint ripped free.

Start by cutting a piece of 1x2 pine strip about 3/4ths the length of the tombstone.  We are going to glue this to the back of the tombstone after some preparation of the foam. Tombstone with support

Tombstone before gluing

Most foam tombstones are painted.  If we simply glued the wood to the tombstone we’d only be gluing to the paint and it would easily tear away.  So we need to give the glue a way to reach the foam.  You can sand or scrape away the paint in the area where the board will be glued. 

Another technique is to poke many dents in the foam with something like a Philips screwdriver.  I prefer this second method since it is quicker and doesn’t make a mess. The yellow arrow shows where the holes have been poked into the foam.

Once the area is prepared, glue the board in place.  Some glues are not compatible with foam and will eat away the foam without forming any bond.  The glues that typically work well with foam are epoxy, hot melt glue, and my favorite - Gorilla Glue.

Make sure the glue gets into the holes you poked and reaches the foam for a good bond.  


Tombstone with glue
Lay the board on the back of the tombstone and put some weight on it so it forms a tight bond.  Let it dry overnight.  The next day give it a quick coat of flat black latex paint to protect if from the water (if it rains) and to make it more invisible at night.  Like glue, many paints will eat away the foam.  But latex paint is safe for foam, waterproof, and easy to find. Tombstone with weights

Tombstone with ziptie mount Once the paint is dry, attach two zip-tie mounting bases to the wood.  These are available at your local building supply store (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.)  Put one toward the top and one toward the bottom.  These mounting bases will allow the tombstone to be attached to a wooden stake or a rebar with a zip-tie.  They are adhesive backed, but also have holes for screw mounting.  I always add two small screws to make sure it’s impervious to any storm.  Make sure you drill small pilot holes before installing the screws or you may crack the wood.

I prefer to use rebar over wooden stakes when it comes time to install the tombstones.  It’s inexpensive and will last forever. 

I usually prepare the rebar in advance by painting it with flat black Rustoleum to prevent rust.

Tombstone mounted with zipitie

That’s it.  Your Halloween tombstone is now ready for Halloween.  When it comes time to set up the tombstones I usually drive a piece of 3’ or 4’ rebar where the tombstone will go.  Zip-tie the tombstone to the rod at the top and bottom and you’re done.  When Halloween is over, you only need to cut the two zip-ties, pull up the rebar, and store your tombstone for next year. 

Things you will need:

  1. Tombstones - Get Tombstones Here
  2. 1x2 wood
  3. Gorilla Glue
  4. Cable tie mounting bases
  5. Cable ties
  6. Four #8 by 1” deck screws
  7. Flat black latex paint (for the wood)
  8. 3’ or 4’ Rebar (depending on tombstone height)
  9. Flat black Rustoleum paint (for the rebar)

One Final Storage Tip - you can store your rebar in a PVC pipe attached to a wooden platform. This makes them easy to store and handle. Rebar Storage