By Ann Barnes, EMGV
A garden hose may not be the most exciting tool you have in your shed, garage, or yard, but it is certainly one of the most essential. Between watering your lawn and garden, washing a vehicle, and keeping your steps or favorite outdoor chair clean, you may find yourself using the garden hose many times per week.
A good hose can last for many years with just a little maintenance. To keep it in its best condition, either coil your hose or hang it after each use. Leaving a hose kinked rather than coiled can cause a weak spot that could later crack and leak. Hoses should also be protected from temperature extremes to prolong the life of the hose materials. If you have an easily accessible spot to hang your hose in a garage, crawl space, or shed, this would be an ideal place to store it when not in use. If keeping it outdoors is the best option for you, try to find a shady spot to coil your hose, especially during the heat of the summer. UV light can degrade the hose, leading to cracks. Once the weather turns cold, lift your hose to drain any water out and move it to a protected location. Don’t allow water to freeze in your hose, as ice will expand and may cause the hose to burst.
Even with proper storage and care, your hose may develop a leak over time. If water is leaking from the connection between the hose and spigot, the repair may be a simple one. There should be a rubber or plastic washer in the coupling that attaches to the spigot (the “female end” of the hose). Simply remove the existing washer and replace it with a new one. Some hose manufacturers recommend replacing the washer every year or so. If you have leaks where a sprayer nozzle connects to your hose, replacing the washer on your sprayer could be the solution there as well. The part is inexpensive and easy to install, so why not buy a bag of washers and replace them when you get your hose out of winter storage each year?
If your hose has developed a crack or hole, you may be able to repair rather than replace it. Small holes or cracks can be repaired with electrical tape or a specialty hose repair tape. Duct tape is not recommended for more than a temporary fix, since it is not designed to be water tight.
A large crack, multiple leaks, or a run-in with a string trimmer may require splicing. This is not a difficult task and is much less expensive than replacing a good hose. You will need a hose mending kit, available from any hardware store. The kit consists of a brass (or plastic) fitting and two clamps. Many kits are designed to fit both 5/8” and 3/4” diameter hoses, but always make sure you are purchasing one that fits the hose you own. To repair the hose, disconnect and drain the hose and cut out the damaged section. Loosen the clamps from the fitting and slide a clamp on each side of the area to be spliced. Next, insert the fitting into the hose. The fitting is designed to fit tightly, so you may need to soak the cut ends of the hose in hot water to soften them first — or repair your hose in the sun on a warm day. Once the fitting is tightly inserted into both sides of the splice, push the clamps as close to the middle of the splice as possible and tighten the clamps with a screwdriver. Now you can reconnect your hose and make sure there are no more leaks.
If the couplings at either end of the hose are bent or otherwise damaged, they can be replaced using a similar technique. In addition to making sure you purchase a correct-diameter kit, check that the kit is for the end you need to replace. The coupling that goes to the spigot is often called the female end, while the side that attaches to a sprayer is the male end. Remove the damaged coupling, slide the clamp onto the hose at the cut end, insert the fitting, then tighten the clamp.
Proper storage and care will help to prevent hose leaks, but even the best garden hose may eventually become damaged. Hopefully, these tips will give you the confidence to repair rather than replace a leaky hose.
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