Garden Hoses: What To Know Before You Buy
Garden hoses don't last forever. When you're in the market for a new one, these tips will help you make an informed purchase.
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Your garden hose is probably working overtime this summer as you water plants, irrigate a vegetable garden or wash the car. According to hose manufacturer Teknor Apex, a good garden hose will last five to 10 years if properly maintained. A bad garden hose, as most of us have already found out, will waste water, function poorly and cause bouts of frustration.
So to keep the kinks out of your relationship with your garden hose, let’s take a look at what to consider before you buy a new one.
Types of Garden Hoses
Lightweight or heavy-duty? Standard or coiled? Flat or expandable? Who knew there were so many types of garden hoses? Here are some of the most common types of hoses you’re likely to find at your local garden center:
- All-purpose hose. An all-around basic hose for watering and cleaning is available in different sizes and materials, and may be lightweight or heavy-duty.
- Flat hose. These compact, easy to coil hoses expand when filled with water but lay flat when not. Because they have to be flexible to collapse when empty, they’re usually made of lightweight material that typically won’t last as long.
- Coiled hose. If you’re tight on space or just hate fighting with your hose when it’s time to put it away, this type of hose retracts into a neat coil. They usually come in shorter lengths (see below for more info) so are suitable for watering small areas.
- Expandable hose. Another option for small yards or patios, an expandable hose looks petite, but its length doubles or triples when it’s filled with water. These lightweight hoses are for light-duty jobs, and generally don’t last long.
Special-feature garden hoses:
- Sprinkler hose. The entire length of a sprinkler hose is flat, with small holes on the top. When the water is turned on, it sprays out of the holes like a sprinkler.
- Soaker hose. Covered with pinholes, a soaker hose slowly drips water into a garden bed.
- Drinking-water-safe hose. Many of us drank from the garden hose as kids and survived it, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. Most hoses contain toxic plasticizers, but those marked “drinking water safe” are free of BPAs, phthalates and lead.
Garden Hose Features
Here are the garden hose features you should consider:
- Length. Hoses typically come in lengths of 25, 50, 75, and 100 feet. Consider the size of the area you need to water, or how far away your birdbath or dirty car are from the spigot/outdoor faucet, and choose a length based on that.
- Diameter. According to Lowe’s, hoses range from 3/8- to 3/4-in. in diameter, with most being 5/8-inch. The bigger the diameter, the more water a hose can carry, but the hose will also be heavier.
- PSI. The flow rate or water speed and pressure in a hose is measured in pounds per square inch, or psi. The hose packaging will be marked with the maximum psi the hose can handle. The tougher the hose, the higher the psi.
- Flexibility. The more flexible a hose, the easier it is to coil and uncoil. But if a hose is too flexible, it will kink easily, which can cause it to split and deteriorate faster.
- Material. With a few exceptions, garden hoses are made of rubber, vinyl or a combination of the two. Vinyl hoses cost less and weigh less, but they’re generally not as durable as rubber hoses. Rubber hoses are heavier and costlier, but are more durable and less prone to kinking than vinyl hoses. Hoses made of a combination of vinyl and rubber are a good mid-range solution — they cost less than rubber hoses but last longer than vinyl ones.
Garden Hose Accessories and Attachments
There is a stunning array of garden hose accessories, attachments and couplings, and an equally wide variety of prices, features and quality. As with the hoses themselves, if an item is too cheap, it’s probably not going to last long.
- Couplings. Also called fittings, couplings are what attaches your hose to the spigot/outdoor faucet and other attachments. They’re made of brass, aluminum and plastic. Brass is the most expensive option but considered the best for performance and longevity. Plastic is the cheapest and least durable choice.
- Nozzles. Garden hose nozzles can give you a pistol-like jet of water for cleaning, or be adjusted to a wide gentle spray that’s good for watering a large area of delicate plants. Like couplings, nozzles are made of plastic, metal or a combination of both. Metal nozzles weigh more, last longer and are less prone to breaking if they’re dropped on a hard surface.
- Reels and caddies. A hose reel can be attached to the wall of a structure to provide a space for winding up and storing a hose, or it can be freestanding. A hose caddy serves the same purpose, except that it’s portable and comes with a crank for easy hose wind-up.
- Sprinkler heads. We could write an entire story about these! Sprinkler heads attach to a garden hose and water a large area of grass or garden, often with an oscillating spray.
- Timers. For soaker hoses, sprinkler hoses and hoses with sprinkler head attachments, hose timers can be attached so you can water for a set period of time, including when you’re on vacation.
How To Choose the Right Garden Hose
Your garden hose purchase is likely to boil down to a few considerations, including:
- Usage and durability. If you need a hose for occasional watering, you’re probably okay spending less on a light-duty hose. For regular sprinkling or watering of a large lawn, go with a heavy-duty hose.
- Type. The amount of storage space you have will determine whether you want a coiled or expandable hose, or if you want to stick to a standard type.
- Length. Consider the dimensions of the area you’re watering, and buy a hose that’s slightly longer than the farthest point your hose has to reach.
- Budget. A 25-foot garden hose can cost anywhere from $18 to $60 at The Home Depot. Price usually correlates to quality.
Garden Hose Maintenance
Improve the lifespan of your hose by taking care of it using these tips.
- Put it away after each use. A hose left stretched out on the ground can get kinked, run over by the car and damaged by the sun’s UV rays.
- Wind it up. Don’t leave your hose in a heap — roll it onto a real or caddie to reduce kinks, or at least coil it up neatly.These
- Stow it in the winter. Disconnect your hose when gardening season is over, drain it and store it in the garage until next year.