Cheat Sheet | Some help on the hunt for the right garden hose

Posted: July 13, 2007

Sprinkler systems are handy when there's a lot of yard to care for. Few things remain as useful, however, as the traditional garden hose.

Need to know: What a hose is made of determines how long it will last (along with how well you treat it, of course). Rubber hoses are more durable, but typically cost more than vinyl. The most durable rubber hoses have been reinforced with polyester or nylon tire cord, to resist weathering and cracking. Vinyl hoses are the least durable. And in between on the toughness scale are vinyl hoses reinforced with tire cord and rubber-vinyl combinations reinforced with tire cord. The best have a kink-resistant foam cover.

Straight talk: Cheaper hoses, made of thinner material, kink more. And where kinks appear most often, so do holes.

Be sure to ask: How many gallons will the hose deliver? That's determined, in part, by diameter and length. A hose with a diameter of 1/2 inch can carry nine gallons a minute, and one with a diameter of 5/8 inch carries about 17 gallons per minute. A 3/4-inch hose can deliver about three times the water of one with a 1/2-inch diameter.

Size matters: Large diameter can compensate for variables affecting water pressure - for example, if the water has to travel uphill.

Hose length is a matter of preference. They come in 25-foot increments, each end with a brass fitting for connecting to a faucet, a sprayer or another length of hose. For consistent flow, couplings used to connect hoses should be the same diameter as the hose.

Under pressure: Each hose has what is known as a burst pressure, the point at which its casing will fail. Reinforcement helps: A hose with two layers of polyester tire cord is less likely to burst than a hose with one layer, or none. Most manufacturers provide burst-rating information with each hose. Burst pressure should be at least four times the average faucet pressure, to allow for surges and the kind of sprayer nozzle you use.

Pull back: Retractable hoses that rewind automatically are available. If the mechanism works properly, it helps keep the hose safe and at the ready. But rewinding, especially at high speeds, can cause kinking and cuts in less-durable hoses.

What will it cost? Hose prices range from $5 to $40, depending on length, diameter and material. Retractable hoses cost $15 to more than $100, depending on the rewinding method.

Good advice: Change rubber washers at hose connections regularly; they degrade quickly. Leaking water at those points is wasteful and runs up your bill.

An ounce of prevention: Water should be shut off when you're finished using a hose; keep the nozzle open until the flow stops. Otherwise, pressure can build up, and if the brass fittings or the washers are degraded, the hose can burst. A hose in direct sunlight and full of cold water can crack.

Or, go flat: As any firefighter will attest, flat hoses are easy to store. There are two kinds: One has a polyurethane liner and a polyester cover bonded to it to prevent kinking and breaking; the other is a flat version of a reinforced-vinyl hose. Unlike conventional hoses, a flat hose has to be extended completely before it fills to a diameter of 5/8 inch. It also has to be completely empty of water before storing.

Want Alan J. Heavens' advice on a home-improvement project or purchase? E-mail him at, or write to him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101.

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