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Power Rake vs. Dethatcher: What’s the Difference?

power rake vs dethatcher

Seeing spotty, brown patches or an unsightly yellow tone where you once had lush green grass? The answer may be found slightly below the surface where a too thick layer of thatch could be the culprit. Both power rakes and dethatchers remove unwanted thatch quicker and with far less effort than tackling the task with a manual rake. But what’s the difference between these two machines?

Though the names, power rake and dethatcher, are often used interchangeably, knowing when and in what circumstance to use each one is essential to restoring the health of your lawn. First, check the consistency of your lawn. A lawn with a thick layer of thatch will have a spongy feel.  Next, take a closer look by removing a core sample of your lawn using either a trowel or a bulb planter.  The layer of thatch appears as a yellowish, brown section comprised of dead shoots, stems and roots located between the live grass blades and the soil.

Healthy lawns can benefit from up to a half inch of thatch to insolate the roots from extreme temperatures, cushion damage from foot traffic and prevent grass from drying out by retaining an even amount of moisture.  When thatch accumulates to over a half an inch, problems can occur such as shallow root syndrome in which the grassroots grow into the thatch rather than the soil.  A dense layer of thatch essentially chokes a lawn by preventing fresh water and fertilizer absorption. It can also trap stagnant moisture leading to a breeding ground for fungi, mold and bacteria.

Now that you’ve discovered that a harmfully abundant layer of thatch is the hidden problem, it’s time to get to work removing it. Power rake or dethatcher? Read on to find which machine best suits your lawn’s needs.

Power Rake

Power Rake
Power rake/tiller attachment Credit: Mantis, Amazon

As the name implies, power rakes are an aggressive approach to removing large amounts of thatch. A multitude of rapidly spinning tines penetrate deep into the lawn removing up to a half-inch layer of thatch. The size of a push mower, this heavy-duty machine can remove four times more debris than its counterpart, the dethatcher.  In most cases, Power Rakes are for industrial and commercial use.

Power rakes should only be used when lawns exhibit obvious distress. The intensity of this machine does take its toll by causing minimal damage and the lawn will need time to recover. Often power rakes are best suited for a one time use in the spring. This spring cleaning can be exactly what your lawn needs to jump start it for a plush and fruitful growing season.

While power rakes do require regular maintenance, due their size and cost, most of these machines tend to be rented for one time use or used by a hired professional. In these cases, the burden of maintenance falls onto an outside party. However, what you save in the upkeep, you may spend in the cost of the rental or the service fees of the professional.

Pros
  • Powerful, Aggressive, Heavy Duty
  • Over ½ inch Depth of Thatch Removed
  • Can restore a distressed lawn
Cons
  • Lawn will need to recover
  • Costly to purchase
  • May need to hire a professional

 Dethatcher

Greenworks Dethatcher
Detatcher, Credit: Greenworks Dethatcher, Amazon

Smaller in size and less costly, most dethatchers attach to a mower or tiller. Less forceful, its shallow tines remove small amounts of thatch. Primarily for residential use, dethatchers moderately digs up less than a half inch of thatch.

Dethatchers help with the yearly maintenance of a generally healthy lawn by keeping the layer of thatch at an optimal level. These machines tend to be smaller allowing for easy storage and are lower in cost to purchase. Regular maintenance may be required to remove trapped debris, tighten wing knobs and carriage bolts and replace worn or damaged tines and belts.

Pros
  • Smaller in Size
  • Easier to store
  • Helps maintain a healthy lawn
Cons
  • Less forceful
  • Lower in Cost
  • Regular Maintenance

Conclusion

Power rakes and dethatchers may perform the same task of removing unwanted thatch, however these two machines differ greatly in power, size and use. Power rakes solve the problem of a distressed yard suffering from the side effects of dense, thick thatch. It’s best to use a power rake when thatch has never been removed or when a lawn has not been dethatched in years.

Dethachers work better as preventative maintenance once or twice a year. By removing a small amount of thatch, dethatchers avoid a potential, future problem of an overgrown layer.  We hope knowing the difference of how and when to use a power rake or a dethatcher will help you say goodbye to dead patches and yellowed sections and hello to a long season of enjoying your lush, green lawn.

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