The Right Rake for the Job
There are several different types of rakes—a lot. And you surely won't use them all unless you own a landscaping company. So which to choose?
Autumn leaves are falling, which means pumpkins, donuts, and lattes are available at your favorite morning pit stop. And if you own a home, it probably means your weekends now include that annual rite of yardwork passage: raking.
Standing in the garden tool section of a local big box hardware store and trying to choose a rake can be overwhelming—there are so many different types and sizes from which to choose. The average gardener or DIY landscaper will likely need only two or three different types of rakes, at the most. The trick is knowing which rakes will speed garden and lawn tasks, and which won’t be of much help in certain situations. Ahead, find out what all those different types of rakes are really designed for.
12 Rake Types for Your Backyard
Dozens of rake types are out there to choose from, and not all are suitable for gathering leaves. Some are made for spreading out gravel in rock gardens, while others help prepare the soil for planting. A few are even designed for cleaning ponds or removing snow from rooftops. Depending on the project, there’s likely a rake out there that will speed or simplify the task at hand.
1. Leaf Rake
If you’re raking leaves, what you need is a leaf rake, also known as a lawn rake (view example on Amazon). Sold in varying widths (up to 30″), it has a long handle with tines that fan out in a triangle. The tines of a leaf rake are generally made of either metal, plastic, or bamboo. Metal is the most resilient but perhaps not quite as effective as plastic tines when moving large quantities of leaves, especially if they’re wet. Leaf rake tines that are made of bamboo are the most fragile, of course, but are much gentler on plants if you are raking over ground covers or garden beds.
2. Shrub Rake
A shrub rake is built very much like a leaf rake. It has a smaller fan of tines, though, allowing it better access to the ground beneath shrubbery, around fencing, and in other tight areas of your landscape. Depending on your landscape and your needs, a shrub rake may be a worthy addition to your shed, especially considering that even top-quality tools of this type sell for under $20 (view example on Amazon). When purchasing, pay special attention to the length of the handle and note that some handles telescope in and out, a function that may be handy for reaching around shrubs.
3. Bow Rake
A bow rake (view example on Amazon) is generally considered homeowners’ best bet for leveling dirt, sand, and other materials that are heavier than leaves. The tines of a quality bow rake are made of metal and are shorter and thicker than those of a leaf rake (and spaced more widely). Basically, this type of rake is a workhorse—definitely something you want at your side if you have a gravel driveway or if your yard care routine includes seasonal mulching, or if you plan on doing any hardscaping projects yourself.
4. Hand Rake
A hand rake is a smaller version of a shrub rake or bow rake. It has a short handle and is more or less the same size as a garden trowel. A hand rake is what you want to use in and around flowers and smaller plantings. The short handle gives you greater control in those tight spaces; just be prepared to get down on your knees with it. Expect to pay around $10 even for a model that can last for many years (view example on Amazon).
The scoop rake, an alternate type of hand rake, is designed for picking up leaves that have already been raked into piles. Typically, hand scoop rakes come in sets of two—one for each hand—and they resemble giant claws for grabbing large amounts of leaves when filling lawn bags.
5. Thatch Rake
A thatch rake is not for raking leaves at all. It’s for removing thatch—a layer of organic material between your lawn and the soil surface. Unlike most other rake types, a thatch rake features sharp blades on both sides of its head. One side breaks the thatch up; the other side removes it (view example at The Home Depot).
Left in place, a thick layer of thatch can keep air and sunlight from reaching the base of the grass blades, which can lead to lawn diseases. Removing a heavy layer of thatch (1/4-inch thick or thicker) will improve the health of the lawn and perk it up. A good thatch rake is an essential tool for this task.
6. Power Rake
This rake quickly removes debris on the lawn and can dig up thatch, which is a chore with a manual thatch rake. All the user needs to do is push it along—the engine does all the rest. A power rake features a rotating head with metal tines that scrape deeply through the existing lawn to pry up dead leaves, small twigs, and thick layers of thatch, allowing air circulation sun to reach the lowest part of the grass blades (view example on Amazon).
Some power rakes come with collection bags, while others deposit the raked-up debris behind the machine, leaving the user to rake it up with a leaf rake or lawn vacuum. Power rakes operate on either gasoline or electricity.
7. Dirt Rake
Also called a “garden rake,” the dirt rake is an essential tool for the seasonal vegetable or flower gardener (view example on Amazon). It features a long handle and a steel rake head with solid steel tines set at about a 90-degree angle to the rake head to allow the user to break up dirt clods and loosen the soil. The tines may be straight or slightly curved under to help grab large dirt clods and other debris.
A dirt rake is used after tilling or turning the soil, and it is often the last step in garden bed preparation before planting. Because the tines are solid and non-flexible, a garden rake is not well-suited to raking up leaves as it can get stuck in the grass.
8. Landscaping Rake
Looking a lot like a garden rake on steroids, a landscaping rake is used to smooth out large sections of soil or achieve an accurate grade on a yard. It’s not meant for raking up leaves or breaking up dirt clods—it’s much too wide for that. A landscaping rake (here’s an example on Amazon) features a 30- to 38-inch or broader head with steel tines set at a 90-degree angle to the handle.
This professional-type rake also features a long straight handle, and the head is often made from aluminum due to its strength and minimal weight. Handles may be wood, aluminum, or fiberglass, but maneuvering this rake can be tough on the hands because the head is so large. For the most comfortable use, look for a handle that comes with a padded grip.
9. Gravel Rake
Leveling out gravel, pebbles, and mulch takes a strong rake that’s wide enough to speed the task while being lightweight enough to handle with ease. Very similar in design to a landscape rake—but with a narrower head of about 18 to 28 inches—the rock or stone rake features a steel or aluminum head that sits at a 90-degree angle to the handle (view example on Amazon).
The rake tines are solid metal, and the rake comes with a long aluminum or fiberglass handle. Users can both push and pull the rake when leveling out pebbles or gravel. For the most comfortable use, look for a non-slip rubber or silicone grip.
10. Berry Rake
What could be sweeter than harvesting blackberries or raspberries without reaching into a bramble of needle-sharp thorns? A berry rake, sometimes called a “berry picker,” is a hand rake with small, close-set tines that the user slips behind the berries and then pulls to dislodge them from the stems. Depending on the type of berry rake, it may come with an attached bucket for collecting berries.
A berry rake not only saves fingers from being poked, it also saves time and keeps the berries from being inadvertently squished during picking. Check out an example on Amazon.
11. Roof Rake
While it may look light and fluffy, a few inches or more of snow accumulation on a roof not only puts undue weight on the roof deck and rafters, it can be dangerous if it slides off and lands on a human or pet. The answer for many who live in snowy climes is a roof rake. The head on this lightweight rake features a wide blade rather than tines, and it’s specifically designed to pull drifts of snow off a roof.
Most snow rakes are unusually lightweight—more so than dirt rakes and landscape rakes, and there’s a reason for that—the user has to lift the rake head and position it on the roof. The handle of a roof rake is extendable, usually by attaching handle poles, up to 20 feet or longer, and the entire weight is generally less than 6-8 pounds. Here’s an example on Amazon.
12. Lake Rake
Lakes and ponds are favorite summertime recreational spots, but some tend to collect algae, moss, and even floating debris that keeps potential swimmers on the shore. Clearing a pond of algae or other unwanted debris isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, but a lake rake will simplify and speed the chore.
A lake rake often resembles a landscape rake, with a broad aluminum head and solid tines. However, it needs a way to stay afloat, and that’s usually accomplished by attaching a float to the backside. See an example on Amazon. The head comes in various widths, up to 36 inches wide or wider, and having a non-slip grip is essential for holding onto the rake when it’s wet.
FAQ About Types of Rakes
How many types of rakes are there?
Dozens. Some rake types are specialized tools designed for a single purpose, such as a hay rake or a concrete rake, while others can be used for multiple tasks around the yard.
Which rake is best for dead grass?
Bow rakes and dethatching rakes are good options for removing the dead grass layer that accumulates just above the soil in a lawn. The quickest way, however, is with a power rake.
What type of rake is best for gravel?
Stone, rock, or gravel rakes are among the best options for spreading pebbles, gravel, or large amounts of wood chips.
Rakes come in all sizes and shapes, and their primary purpose is to help the user gather or spread out material. Most DIY landscapers and gardeners can get by with just a couple of different types of rakes. For those tackling special projects, such as clearing moss from a pond or picking berries, there’s often a rake out there to help.