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Go with the Flow: How to Choose an Air Hose

Buying an air hose may seem simple, but buying the CORRECT air hose for your project isn't always the case. There are enough options in hose materials, sizes, and fittings to leave you feeling deflated. Thanks to some expertise from our friends at RolAir, we clear the air on choosing an air hose.

Find the right air hose for your application at nail Gun Depot

Air Hose Material

Compressor hoses come in a range of materials, including rubber, polyurethane, PVC, and a hybrid blend. Traditionally, hoses were made of rubber, and they remain a favorite choice for good reason. Rubber hoses are durable, kink-free, and they maintain their flexibility in frigid temps. They're also among the heaviest air hoses, something to consider in your selection.

Polyurethane or "poly" air hoses are a lighter weight alternative, says RolAir. Considered a good all-rounder, poly air hoses tend to be 40% to 50% lighter than their rubber counter parts. They're also tough in changing temps and resistant to kinks.

If you're on a budget, PVC hoses are a fine alternative to rubber or poly air hoses. Best for warm weather, PVC hoses are lightweight and abrasion-resistant. They do, however, lack the flexibility of some of the other options.

Offering the best of both worlds, hybrid air hoses are composed of polyurethane, rubber and PVC. One such example is the NOODLE Hose from RolAir, which remains flexible in temps ranging from -40° to 150°F. Hybrid air hoses are also sturdier. Essentially, you get the flexibility of rubber coupled with the durability of PVC. However, hybrid hoses typically come at a higher entry price point when compared to other hose materials.

Pro Tip: If you’re working on interiors, choose a non-marking air hose to prevent scuff marks on walls and trim.

RolAir's hybrid Noodle air hose

Air Hose Length

Besides material, hose length is another factor to consider when shopping. If you’re not taking an air tool far from your work space, then a 50’ hose is plenty. For larger scale projects like decking or framing, a 100’ hose is usually the more practical choice. In that case, you’re less likely to need an extension cord which, RolAir notes, is tough on electric motors.

For one thing, an unnecessarily long air hose can be a tripping hazard. Longer hoses also increase frictional or air pressure loss. Increased frictional loss means a greater likelihood of producing stair-stepped nails. While frictional loss occurs with any hose size, the rate increases with length.

Air Hose Fittings Vs. Inside Diameter

Besides length, hoses are measured by their inside diameter (ID). Most hoses for air tools come in 1/4” or 3/8” ID sizes. As noted, friction loss increases with hose length, but also with decreasing inside diameter. Since that's the case, why would you want a smaller ID hose? To save on weight, mainly. 

“Three-eighth-inch hoses are noticeably heavier than their 1/4” counterparts,” says Corey Nampel, Marketing Manager at RolAir. While RolAir recommends using a 3/8” ID hose when possible, most people choose 1/4” ID hoses due to their lightness.

As with inside diameter, fitting size comes in 1/4" and 3/8" sizes. Unlike hose ID, however  fittings are sized by the threading of the fitting, or NPT.  Fitting compatibility is determined by the air inlet size on the tool. To be compatible, the tool's fitting must match the threading on the hose fitting. So, you can have a 3/8" ID air hose with 1/4" fittings, as long as your air tool as a 1/4" air inlet.

"The majority of our customers (residential contractors) look for hoses with 1/4” fittings because that’s the size that fits their nail guns, says Nampel. For more info on air fitting sizes, see PSI, CFM & Air Fittings Explained.

Example of male and female air hose fittings conencted.

Air Hose Repair

Whatever air hose type you choose, keep in mind it may become damaged while on the job. A split in an air hose or a puncture caused by an errant nail can quickly put a kink in an otherwise smooth project. "Field-repairable" hybrid hoses make the process easier, as do easily spliced rubber hoses.

Pro Tip: To fix a rubber hose, have an air hose splicer (shown below) and lubricant on hand. After trimming the damaged area, apply lubricant to either end of the splicer. Firmly push the hose ends onto either side of the splicer. It may take some elbow grease to put the hose ends on, but it's worth the effort to preserve an air hose.

Fixing a rubber air hose with splicer

Have questions about buying an air hose for your tool? Contact Customer Service for assistance finding the hose or fitting that best meets your needs.


Shop Nail Gun Depot:

1/4" Inside Diameter Air Hoses

3/8" Inside Diameter Air Hoses

Air Hose Fittings

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