Wheelbarrows! Why so many options? Why can’t it be simple?
Plastic tub? Metal tub?
Is a two wheeled garden cart better?
Wheelbarrow Logic from Mike McGroarty.
Here’s my take on wheelbarrows, from a guy that has made his living for the better part of 40 years using wheelbarrows.
In my very opinionated, opinion there’s really only one brand of wheelbarrow on the market. Jackson. The Jackson wheelbarrow is by far the choice of contractors everywhere, and no, the Jackson Wheelbarrow company is not paying me for this endorsement. It’s just that I’ve used and or owned them all and they’ve all disappointed me, all except the Jackson.
Many of the others are imitations that are poorly designed.
I’ll never buy a two wheel wheelbarrow and this is why:
1. Can’t push it up a 2 by 12 ramp if I need to get into a bed, into the back of a truck, over a ditch etc. When I am working I often use a 2 by 12 as a ramp to get up into a raised planting bed, or if I have to dump debris into the back of a trailer. Being able to wheelbarrow up a ramp is a valuable attribute that only a single wheel wheelbarrow can do.
2. Two wheels is just more resistance on the ground. Pushing a wheelbarrow is difficult enough, I surely don’t want another ounce of resistance as I do so.
3. Pushing a wheelbarrow is like flying a plane. As soon as you add a second wheel you are no longer flying or gliding around the corners. When you have two wheels you literally have to circle the wheelbarrow to make turn. Think about that. You have to walk in a wide circle to make a turn.
4. Over the years I’ve probably spread over 5,000 yards of mulch. With one wheel you can squeeze between two shrubs and not touch either one of them. You’ll never do that with a wheelbarrow that has two wheels.
Plastic wheelbarrows are great for mulch, but they really, really stink for soil or sand. When you pick up a heavy load in a plastic wheelbarrow the barrel will flex just a little bit and you will tweak your back as you try to catch the wheelbarrow from tipping. I promise you this happens with all plastic wheelbarrows. I’ve owned a few, hated them all.
Those really nice looking, rugged looking wheelbarrows with the big wide front tire? I bought two of them. Seriously a terrible mistake. I should have bought two Jackson and I should have known better!
1. They flex just as I described.
2. That big fat tire cannot be inflated to the point of being hard. No matter what, it’s still spongy, which is like pushing a wheelbarrow uphill all day long. When using a wheelbarrow the tire must be inflated to the point of being really hard, if it’s not the resistance is increased dramatically.
3. First time we used those fancy shmancy plastic wheelbarrows one of them broke! We loaded it with topsoil, tried to move it and the handle snapped right off! Brand new, $140 wheelbarrow. It’s still laying on it’s side with a broken handle. Unbelievable!
Update! Update! Update!
Eventually one handle broke on each of these plastic wheelbarrows. All four handles would have broken but once you break one handle you can no longer use the wheelbarrow. That’s the only reason the other two handles didn’t break. The manufacture used cheap softwood instead of a good quality hardwood. I replaced all four handles with good quality handles.
Then the lip snapped off of the front one of the wheelbarrows while I was using it. The plastic just snapped! Then it happened to the other one!
Replacing the handles on a wheelbarrow is expensive and time consuming! Only to have the tub crack and break??? Yeah! I’m frustrated and not at all happy with the orange wheelbarrows!
In all fairness to other plastic wheelbarrow manufactures I used to have a “red” plastic wheelbarrow that I had for so long the sun faded it and it turned “pink”. Yeah, I took some flack because I had a “pink wheelbarrow”. But that wheelbarrow, I think it was an Ames, held up for a long, long time. The handles did not break nor did the plastic tub.
I’m not a big fan of plastic wheelbarrows for topsoil, sand or concrete because the tubs flex, and that’s really hard on your back when that happens, but at least my “Pink Ames Wheelbarrow” held up as it should and it was awesome for moving mulch.
Wheelbarrow Tricks and Tips
I’m going to give you some tips on how to properly use a wheelbarrow to make your life easier and how not to hurt your back.
First, you have to start out with a good wheelbarrow.
Construction wheelbarrows like the Jackson wheelbarrow (not a plug) is well built and heavy duty.
When shopping for a wheelbarrow it is very important to see where the tire is located in relation to the tub. You want the wheel and axle to be under the tub to carry the weight of the load. On some wheelbarrows you will notice that the tire sets out in front and all the weight ends up on your hands.
Now when loading your wheelbarrow, you can put as much in as it can hold, but before you take off through the yard, use a shovel to redistribute the contents of the tub towards the front, giving most of the weight to the wheel and leaving you and your back with the lighter end of the wheelbarrow.
Oh, and this video. You should watch this video.
Questions or comments? Post them below.
Hi, what do you recommend for moving stuff across very soft mud? I’ve been thinking about a two-wheeler with fat tires, because the single wheel sinks into the marshy clay, and jut stops. I’ve been loading up a canvas tarp, and pulling it, but you just can’t take very much soil or chicken manure or gravel at a time, that way.
Two wide wheels would help a lot. Or put down plywood which is what landscapers often do.
Good advice on the wheelbarrow, I tried the plastic and 2 years later it’s going to be another couple hundred dollars replacing them. I also find the two wheel ones with the 10 gallon tubs are not that much harder to maneuver but like you said when you gotta get between two shrubs your sure to flatten one of them or both sometimes and try tilting your two wheeler up on one tire to make it through with a full load. YIKES!
One more trick you might want to add to your video though when loading your wheelbarrow always point it in the direction you need to go with the load. It’s so much easier to turn the thing when it’s empty but a lot harder when it’s full. Saves a little bit of energy when you got 25 yards to spread.
You’re absolutely right about pointing the wheelbarrow in the right direction before you load it. And . . . !!! Don’t stand on the material that you are shoveling! Work the edges of the pile, not the middle of the pile. Keep the mess confined, not scattered.
howard mozel says
Thanks Mike. As always your info is helpful and correct. You are so right on this wheelbarrow video. You get what you pay for
Thank you for the tips. I have had a few wheelbarrows in my ” younger” years, metal and wheel set like your Jackson, however no idea if brand. Plastic always irritated when I use. Now I know the brand to scope out.
I live in southern CA just 20 miles NW of downtown Los Angeles and have a Desert Peach tree. I don’t think I’m pruning it correctly and it has long branches which snap once there is the weight of the peaches and one of our wind storms occurs.
Can you give me some tips on what to do?
Gary, Treat it like an apple tree, see this http://freeplants.com/apple-trees.htm
Mary Skinner says
Our wheel barrow tire goes flat when it sits around for a few days. My husband says this is normal, that it has done this since day 1. Is this normal to have to constantly put air in it? If not, should we see about replacing the tire? Other than that, we have had no problems with it.
No, the wheelbarrow tire should hold air all summer. Might need a little air in the spring. Get a never go flat tire or a tire with a tube.
Thanks, will check out the no flat tire!
Austin Williams says
I have had very good luck using ‘ slime’ for my tires in the yard and garden, wheelbarrows, hand trucks, mowers etc…I also use a mix of kerosene and used motor oil twice a year on my wooden handles to preserve them and also on the odd rusted up tools. much cheaper than wd40.
Thanks for the tips! I use slime once in a while.
Love your site and your advice on just about everything.
This piece on wheelbarrows caught my eye because I’ve used just about every kind there is and nothing seems to come up to snuff, as the saying goes.
WHERE CAN WE BUY A JACKSON WHEELBARROW….? Here’s the rub . . . we live in Oakville ONTARIO CANADA!!!!
P.S. MOVED 7 YARDS OF MULCH AND 3 YARDS OF SOIL TODAY USINGI A WHEELBARROW THAT HAS A BAKING PAN AND DUCT TAPE REPAIRING A HOLE IN ITS DECK!!!
Mary & Jeff
Jackson Wheelbarrows are now being sold in some of the big box stores. I’m sure the quality is different on some models to appeal to homeowners. Me? I’d still opt for the construction grade and pay the price. You know the drill, get what you pay for.
Michael Domnitei says
I have a wheelbarrow since 1985 and it is all metal except the tire which needs to have the inner tube replaced because it deflates after a few days. I would say that they “don’t make them like they used to” in the old days. I had my hands on other people new wheelbarrow but the new-ones don’t feel so comfortable/ergonomic like my old one. The only problem I had with was the rust which I treated with rustoleum and some black paint since the poor thing was out in the rain all these years.
Last winter I replaced the handles and repainted my Jackson, looks like new!
Cliff Bloom says
I’ve got a Jackson with a tubed and tubeless tire. It’s great for mulch, dirt, mixing concrete (that’s when I use the hard tire.)
I have the largest size garden way cart (with 2 wheels) I use for moving wood and branches. It works better than a wheel barrow for pitching fire wood into and moving plants around. I can bring my seedlings out doors and back in when the weather gets nasty without having to take them out of the cart.
You made very good points. I highly recommend only getting no-flat tires. I’m a home gardeners and have gone through 2 Wheelsbarrows in my first 20 years & was constantly needing to fill tites before using it. Finally got a heavy steel one similar design to yours from Ace Hardware that also had steel handles. I have had to replace hanles before too. I love the no-flat tires.
Bill Crawford says
Mike,you are absolutely correct. Dual wheeled wheelbarrows are a joke. I volunteer at a wildlife rehab center and we have several wheelbarrows with one being a dual wheel. We too off one wheel and made it A single wheel.
Thanks for your support Bill, only those that truly use a wheelbarrow on a regular basis can understand the difference.
I have a Jackson 2 wheel wheelbarrow. I like 2 wheels because I have a bad back and I have a hard time balancing a load with 1 wheel . With the tires hard I don’t feel its much harder to push than 1 wheel. I do wish I had a metal tub
A wheelbarrow is a challenge with a weak back, I certainly deal with that as well. But most of what I do, two wheels would not work. I need to maneuver between tight spaces, up ramps etc.
Sandy Sanders says
I saw this happen with a one wheeled wheel barrow.
Early march in Canada and the larhe manure pile had been spread.
calf barn needed mucking out with the wheel barrow and a 12 inch plank from back door of barn to small manure pile. During the day it had melted but late afternoon the plank had frozen. Marcel the handy man had a barrow full of ?????? from calf barn and his feet slipped on trying to go up the plank. The two legs straddled the plank and Marcel holding the handles fell face first into the bucket of calf ^&%%.
I’m sure it did. I once had to wheelbarrow chicken manure up a ramp into a dump truck. The ramp was covered with chicken ?????, the ramp was slippery. It wasn’t pretty.
Been there, done that.
There is also the option of having one of each for the occasional different task
The first thing I do after the first flat tire is buy a solid rubber tire at Harbor Freight. Nothing more I hate is get ready to work and the tire is flat.
I’ve been using no flat tires on our plant wagons and the tires never go flat but the bearings just blow apart! Discount farm store junk.
Yes the original equipment is pretty poor. I just replaced them with good bearings and have been rolling ever since.
Les Whitehead says
Thanks Mike, I’m going to get 1 of those Jackson wheelbarrows.
cathy anderson says
We have a wheelbarrow that says TruTemper on it. Everytime we go over a bump the axle comes out. Something’s desperately wrong with it. I don’t know if it’s made by Jackson, or a Jackson knockoff but it’s a pain in the ass. It also doesn’t have those two supporting metal rods coming down from the wheelbarrow to the axle either. And no idea when it was made, we just inherited it from somewhere.
Definitely not a Jackson, but sounds like it’s not put together correctly. Buy a Jackson.
I have read all your information and seen your videos regarding your wheelbarrow recommendations. I just moved to my home in the woods. I’m in my late 40’s, 5’1 and looking to do regular maintenance in my yard. Moving wood/branches, yard waste, leaves and tools and taking it back and forth from the front yard into my backyard facing conservation land. Can you please recommend which particular Jackson wheelbarrow to purchase – flat tire, knobbly flat free tire, folded tray and or ball bearings – as they have 12 different models to choose from and it is overwhelming? Thank you for any advise you can provide.
This is the one that I have. The folded tray is very heavy duty and I’ve never had a problem with the tubed tire.