Wheelbarrows How to buy

wheelbarrow chores

A well-designed wheelbarrow takes slopes in its stride

Moving bags of compost from the car to the greenhouse, garden compost from the heap to the flower beds, grass clippings from the lawn to the compost, shifting hardcore for the new patio... 

There are 101 uses for a wheelbarrow in a reasonably sized garden. And if your barrow is getting old and creaky, a new one could make your life so much easier.

What to look for

Most modern wheelbarrows have a lightweight tubular steel frame and a tray of plastic or galvanised steel.

Although you can still buy wheelbarrows with solid, rubber tyres, pneumatic tyres make them much easier on your arms.

A well-designed wheelbarrow can take a typical garden with slopes, soft ground and gravel paths in its stride, and can even bump up and down steps.

What to check in the shop

  • lady-with-wheelbarrow

    A tipping bar helps to steady the barrow when it's being emptied

    Make sure the wheelbarrow is clear of the ground when holding the handles with your arms straight.
  • Make sure the handles are long enough to prevent you bashing your shins on the back of the tray, and placed far enough apart to balance the load easily.
  • The hand grips should be comfortable enough for prolonged gripping with a heavy load.
  • The tray, whether metal or plastic, should be large enough to take bulky loads.
  • A pneumatic wheel will reduce vibration, especially when travelling over uneven ground, and prevent ruts in soft ground.
  • Check that the widest point of the barrow will fit through the narrowest gate, shed door or gap in your garden.
  • A tipping bar, which rests on the ground, will help to steady the barrow when it's being emptied.

Spare wheels

Pneumatic tyres, though they make a wheelbarrow much easier to handle, are prone to punctures.

Most manufacturers sell spare wheels, tyres or inner tubes. But if your barrow suffers from regular punctures, consider swapping the tyre for a heavy-duty trailer type.Take the wheel to a car-tyre dealer and ask them to fit a tubeless trailer tyre – the sort designed to go on the road. Expect to pay around £16.

User guide

A wheelbarrow might take all the back-breaking work out of moving things around the garden, but there are a few pointers to consider to make sure you're using it safely.

  • Don’t overload a barrow with heavy materials. Bear in mind that a third of the weight, including the barrow itself, will be taken by your arms. Piling too much in will make
    it unstable when cornering.
  • Bend your knees when lifting the barrow to avoid straining your back.
  • Keep your arms straight but relaxed when pushing.
  • When going down steps, let the wheel roll slowly down each step at a time. When going up steps, walk backward and pull gently up each one to try to avoid straining your back. If necessary take smaller amounts of heavy material each time.

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