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 c.1999 N.Y. Times News Service    

   The ordinary garden hose has more uses than simply watering the
grass. It can be used to wash the exterior of the house, the patio,
the deck and the car. It is a necessary tool for bringing water to
a place that may be away from a faucet, so you can mix cement
without having to carry buckets of water to the construction site.

   All garden hoses may look alike, but they are distinguished by
their length, diameter, and their construction. Most stores stock
hoses in 25-foot increments, so you can buy a hose 25-, 50-, 75- or
100-feet long.

   When buying a hose, consider the size of your property and where
you intend to use the hose. If your lawn is 50 feet long, but you
often wash your car in the driveway only 15 feet away from the
faucet, it may be better to buy two 25- foot hoses. You can couple
them together when you water the lawn, but use only one to wash the

   The most popular hose diameters are 1/2 inch, 5/8 inch and 3/4
inch. The length and the diameter of the hose affect how much
pressure is needed to push the water through the hose. More
pressure is needed to push the water through a long, wide hose than
through a short, narrow one.

   The biggest difference in hoses, however, is in their
construction. The materials and composition of any hose determine
its performance, weight, durability, function and, of course,
price. Most stores carry a basic garden hose made of vinyl
reinforced with nylon tire cord. This kind of hose is relatively
inexpensive and also light in weight. It is easy to coil, carry and
store. It is a good choice for general household uses and light
gardening tasks.

   The vinyl-reinforced hose is not very durable, however, and will
wear quickly if subjected to frequent use. Hoses with some rubber
in their composition are more rugged. Rubber makes a hose heavier,
and thus somewhat harder to handle, but it will last longer than a
vinyl hose. Composite rubber-vinyl hoses are therefore a good
choice for the serious gardener and for light construction work.

   For heavy-duty construction work, there are hoses that combine
all-rubber composition with double-reinforced spiral cords. These
industrial hoses have the capacity to carry water at 500 pounds per
square inch without bursting. In addition they can tolerate water
temperatures as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously these are
not concerns for the average homeowner. A hose of this quality can
be four times the price of the average garden hose but will take
more abuse and last much longer.

   When working outdoors on a hot summer day, some people quench
their thirst by drinking directly from the hose. Surprisingly, not
all hoses are considered safe for carrying drinking water. They may
have internal cores that can add small amounts of contaminants to
the water. There are, however, hoses that are designed to carry
drinking water. Called ''boat and camper,'' or '' recreational,''
hoses, they feature a nontoxic, Food and Drug
Administration-approved core that can carry water without tainting

   It would seem that when a hose develops a leak it should either
be repaired or replaced, but sprinkler hoses are designed for
watering a garden; they leak water along their length. There are
two types of sprinkler hose. The most common variety consists of
three narrow hoses bonded together side by side. The top side of
the triple hose has a series of tiny pinholes that allow water to
spray out in a fine mist.

   The other type of sprinkler hose is called a soaker hose. Unlike
the triple-sprinkler hose that only sprays water from the top
surface, soaker hoses generate a water mist on all sides. Most
gardeners bury this type of hose a few inches below the garden
surface to keep the soil and plant roots watered. Soaker hoses
generally come in 50-foot lengths. Some soaker hoses can be
shortened by tying a knot at the desired length.

   If limited storage space is a consideration, you can buy a flat
hose. Flat hoses remain flat, with compressed sides, but they
expand to a round diameter when water is forced through them. Many
come with their own reel and carrying handle so they can be coiled
up for easy storage.

   If you use your hose often, you will probably want to attach a
nozzle at the working end of the hose. The nozzle makes it easy to
shut off the water, and it controls the water from a solid stream
to a fine spray. There are two types of nozzles, twist nozzles and
trigger nozzles. It's easy to shut off the water with a trigger
nozzle _ simply release the trigger _ but it can cause hand fatigue
if you must keep the water spray going for a length of time. 
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