I hate wheelbarrows. It's not personal because I hate them all.
While there are plenty of crappy wheelbarrows for sale out there, the principal reason I hate them has nothing to do with them actually. It has to do with the fact that they are built for the average person and I am far from average. At 6' 4" when I grab the handles and straighten up, even with my arms straight at my sides I am lifting the wheelbarrow higher into the air than the design was intended to be.
The net effect is that the load is unbalanced and more prone to tip. Worse, the blunt nose of the wheelbarrow is closer to the ground and tends to hit rocks or other imperfections in the pathway that would normally pass under the nose if the 'average' person was operating this high tech equipment. The result is that the already unbalanced load gets dumped way too many times for my taste.
That said (whew, glad I finally got that off my chest) when Mrs. Cog declared that we needed a PRETTY wheelbarrow at the new place (even before we moved there but after we closed) I was ready with advice and buying tips.
Rule number one....don't go cheap or a few years after the purchase you will be pushing around a rust bucket with holes and broken handles. When I was a contractor many many years ago I learned real quick that you spend good money for good tools that last a good long time.
As it happened, when the itch to purchase struck Mrs. Cog the local Lowe's had wheelbarrows up the wazoo. And nearly all of them were 'homeowner' grade, meaning designed to last 3 years before the poor fool is once again in Lowe's looking for wheelbarrows.
After wading through the first ten rows of 'sale' items I got to the good stuff in the back, the so called 'professional grade' that is often double the price and four times the quality. It didn't take me long to find what I wanted in a wheelbarrow that I hated. The result can be seen below in all its glory, about to be loaded into the back of the vehicle and given a new home.
1) Heavy steel in the thingy where you put stuff. If you can dent the metal by rapping it hard, or even flex it by pushing on sections, imagine what rocks will do to it when you throw them in. I find that the heavier gauge steel used on quality wheelbarrows are also higher grade steel and the 'paint' is often a more durable powder coat rather that paint, which tends to chip, scratch and rust away. Also the better wheelbarrows are sometimes deeper with slightly higher sides.
2) Sold wheel. Nothing pisses me off more than to grab the sucker only to find that it has a flat tire. Or worse, grab it and load it up only to find that the tire is very soft and acting like a boat anchor. While we don't live on a construction site where nails can be picked up by the wheel, we do live in heavy thorn country which are just as effective as nails in puncturing tires. I've already repaired the tractor tire once as proof that the thorns around here are killer.
3) The two rear legs need to be sturdy, secured properly and have a larger than normal base to help support the load when resting. How many times have I seen cheap wheelbarrows with stubby legs that wobble side to side with a small foot print that sinks into soft ground? If you look at the image above you can see the proper way the legs should be constructed. The back piece is actually an extension that clips on at the top and is bolted to the bottom for easy replacement if it is damaged or lost.
4) Sturdy cross brace for the legs. Once again the cheap units often have a thin cross brace that is nearly useless because they are rarely bolted in place. And if bolted, there is usually only one bolt per side which still allows for movement. The professional units usually have two bolts per side as this one does.
5) Heavy duty handles made of hardwood. I prefer wooden handles though the trend for the cheaper units is to go with metal and weld them in place. Sorry...but no. Welding means you can never replace it if you need to. Metal means just another place to rust. The professional models use high quality hard wood with little to no knots. I usually like to take the wheelbarrow apart and treat the wooden handles with a high quality preservative, but this unit came varnished and sealed from the factory.
The only complaint I have with this wheelbarrow, other than that I hate wheelbarrows, is that the handle ends are bare wood. They should have come wrapped with some type of grip tape. It is on my list of things to do this winter.
Did I miss something? Leave your comment below and let me know your thinking.