DIY Hose Manifolds and Splitters

DIY Hose Manifolds and Splitters

Water. It’s critical to everything. But it’s especially important to my garden and orchard. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about transporting water from a house spigot to the end of a hose. In the case of hose, you absolutely get what you pay for. To get to the bottom of my orchard I need to transport water over 300’ – I know a thing or two about hoses. Permanent underground irrigation down to the orchard is on my long list of to-dos, but for now, hose is just convenient. I buy the most expensive commercial/nursery grade hose I can afford, otherwise I end up buying a new big-box hose every year. I have some commercial grade 3/4″ hose that is going strong on it’s 3rd season.

Ahh, but fixtures. Fixtures are a different story. Good spitters, valves, and manifolds are all but impossible to find. I’ve tried plastic, brass, zinc, “metal”. I’ve tried cheap and I’ve tried to special order the ridiculously expensive. Every single one of them has failed within a season. I finally decided to roll my own.The first thing is understanding why store-bought fixtures fail: stress. The valves and connection points are subject to significant and recurring stress. Every valve I’ve seen on a commercial fixture is made of cheap plastic. The internal mechanism might still be metal, but the handle is invariably plastic that fails under the constant on/off. Male/Female connection points are another point of stress. Especially the females, their sockets get abused by the constant screwing and eventually spring a leak (yeah, I just wrote that with a straight face). My goal with rolling my own was to reduce the wear on the connection points and use better valves. I used 3/4″ PVC and fittings. I have several 3/4″ hoses, so I’d like to make sure I have full pressure along the the hose for long runs. I am aware that the sillcock on the side of my house is fed with a 1/2″ pipe, but I plan to upgrade that someday to one fed with a full 3/4″ pipe. That being said, it’s possible to make these with 1/2″ PVC and fittings, which will save you about 10% over 3/4″.

Note, if you’re anti-thrifty, it is possible to make these entirely out of super-beefy brass fittings, but it increases the cost 5-fold.

Tools

DIY Hose Manifolds and SplittersThere are only 4 special things needed to get this project done. A ratcheting plastic pipe cutter, some plumber’s pipe “dope”, PVC purple primer, and PVC cement. If you want to be exact and pretty, you might need a ruler and a pencil to measure the pieces of PVC to cut.

The ratcheting pipe cutter is a tool everyone should have in their box. It cuts PVC, CPVC, PEX, plastic conduit, etc, and it does it quick and clean.

A word about Threads

You’ll notice in the pictures below that there is a single brass fitting on these fixtures. PVC male and female fittings come in National Pipe Thread (NPT). 3/4″ Garden hose threads are not NPT. NPT threads are tapered to help form a seal. Garden hose threads are larger, and are not tapered. So, it is possible to thread a male NPT fitting into a female garden hose fitting because the female end has a hose gasket. The tapered NPT threads are smaller and grab the garden hose threads enough to form a functional mechanical seal against the hose gasket. It does not work the other way. If you try to thread the larger, untapered male garden hose end into an NPT female fitting, the garden hose fitting will tear apart the threads on the PVC fitting. There is also no gasket in the female PVC fitting and it will likely leak eventually as the threads wear.

Thus, there is a special brass adapter that has a male NPT end to form a solid connection to the PVC, and a real female garden hose fitting on the other side, with a gasket. This fitting is generally found “one aisle over” from the PVC fittings, where all the brass fittings are. Somewhere near it will be a “swivel” version that has the female end on a swivel that allows you to hold the fixture and turn the female end, just like a hose fitting. Do not be tempted to buy this! This is a wear point that I wanted to eliminate. I would rather turn the hose into the fixture, than have a wonky brass swivel ring that will eventually fail. The valves are the only moving parts on these PVC fixtures.

To make the connection between the brass male end and the female PVC end, I put a little plumber’s pipe dope on the male threads. I’m not a fan of teflon tape. Pipe dope has never failed me and is easier to work with. Do not over-torque the brass fitting into the PVC fitting.

“B-b-but, UV sunlight degrades PVC!”

I want to address this before someone calls me out. This is PVC. It will sit in the sun. It will “degrade”. I don’t care. Regular Schedule 40 PVC does not get brittle in the sun as some people claim. This is largely a myth. Only the top 1/100” is affected by UV and will discolor. If this concerns you, you can spray paint the fixtures with paint made for plastic. I don’t think it’s worth the effort. What eventually destroys PVC is stress, not sunlight.

3-way Hose Manifold

DIY Hose Manifolds and Splitters
3-way Hose Manifold

This is my main splitter right next to the house. I have a 50’ hose that runs to the garden, a 300’ hose that runs to the orchard, and a 25’ hose for doing work behind the house. I designed it to be expandable if I ever needed another line – I left the capped end a little long, so all I’d have to do is cut it off and add another T. While I could screw the Manifold right onto the sillcock, it’s a big heavy thing and I don’t want to stress the connection points, so I made a 3’ “dongle” out of old hose.

DIY Hose Manifolds and Splitters
3-way Hose Manifold, Finished

Notice the male ends where the hoses connect. There are generally two types of male fittings sold: one has a smooth outer wall, and the other (pictured) allows you to get a wrench on the fitting. Hoses can be difficult to get off the fittings, as changes in temperature cause the fittings to expand and contract. If I have a stubborn hose connection that I need to remove, I hold the fixture with a wrench and use a channellocks to turn the hose fitting. Trying to force the hose off without supporting the fitting with a wrench will stress the PVC fittings.

Before putting the pieces together, close all the ball valves and use a Q-tip to smear a light coat of vaseline on the exposed ball inside the fitting. This lubricates the ball and helps it turn more easily. It also helps to lubricate the male PVC threads before connecting a hose.

Materials:

  • About 2’ of PVC pipe ($0.50)
  • 3x Ball Valves  ($3.05 each, $9.15)
  • 3x T’s ($0.46 each, $1.38)
  • 3x 3/4″ slip x 3/4″ MPT (male pipe thread, or MIP, “male iron pipe”, $0.37 each, $1.11)
  • 1x 3/4″ slip x 3/4″ FPT (female pipe thread, or FIP “female iron pipe”, $0.56)
  • 1x cap ($0.37)
  • 1x 3/4″ FH garden hose to 3/4″ MPT adapter ($4.17)

Total Cost: $17.24

Hose Splitter

Yes, it’s a monster, but boy does it work. Same thing here, be sure to lubricate the balls with some vaseline before you put it together.

Materials:

  • About 1’ of PVC pipe ($0.25)
  • 2x Ball Valves ($3.05 each, $6.10)
  • 1x T ($0.46)
  • 2x 3/4″ slip x 3/4″ MPT (male pipe thread, or MIP, “male iron pipe”, $0.37 each, $0.74)
  • 1x 3/4″ slip x 3/4″ FPT (female pipe thread, or FIP “female iron pipe”, $0.56)
  • 1x 3/4″ FH garden hose to 3/4″ MPT adapter ($4.17)

Total Cost: $12.28

DIY Hose Manifolds and Splitters
DIY Hose Splitter
DIY Hose Manifolds and Splitters
DIY Hose Splitter, Finished

Granted, they are not cheaper than their prefab commercial counterparts, but they are not that much more expensive, and are much more robust. They are also “full-flow” at 3/4″. The best $3-way splitter you can buy is going to cost about $15, and the equivalent splitter will cost about $8.

1 Comment


  1. Thanks for this. To feed the multitude of hoses and soaker hoses I’ve been using “splitters” connected to splitters because I had them but have been wanting to upgrade for the longest time. I was skeptical, though, about the available products out there. They just didn’t really seem worth buying. I’ve done a bit of piping with copper and pvc in my time so I was thinking about doing something like this but having it neatly mapped out helped me get started. I found the the paragraph about threads especially valuable. I would not have known to use that brass piece.

    Anyway, thanks again. Gotta love the internet. 🙂

    Reply

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