Whether you’re into rainwater harvesting or not, downspouts prove to be an excellent way to prevent rainwater from damaging your roof. However, downspouts aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing things in the world. That’s why many homeowners are replacing them with rain chains. Practical, elegant, and soothing, these alternative downspouts are a worthy investment. They keep the excess rainwater away from your house while doubling up as a decoration piece for your garden.
The best part is that they come in many shapes and styles. Choose one that fits your landscaping needs. So without further ado, let’s shed some light on this beautiful hardscaping trend.
Everything You Need to Know About Rain Chains
What Is a Rain Chain?
A series of intertwined metal links that provide the rainwater with a seamless channel to pour down from the roof. And an aesthetically pleasing replacement for traditional downspouts.
What Are Rain Chains Used For?
Primarily kept in backyards and patios for decorative purposes, these fixtures can double up as drain pipes too.
Therefore, you can use a water chain to keep the excess rainwater off your roofs by letting it flow down through the chains into the ground. Or better yet, you can place a barrel/container below the chain for rainwater harvesting purposes. This will make it an efficient way to conserve water in the garden. It will also prevent soil erosion by breaking the fall of the rainwater that gushes down the rooftops.
Where Did Rain Chains Originate From?
Modern rain chains seek inspiration from Japanese downspouts called ‘kusari doi’. They’ve been a part of Japanese architecture for over a century and can be found on temples and old houses.
There are different variations about the original purpose of these decorative drainpipes. Some people believe that these ‘chain gutters’ are simply a substitute for clunky drainpipes. Others associate their presence at the temples as an indication that they were part of a spiritual ceremony.
Despite the conflicting ideas, everyone agrees that rain chains are, by construction, an effective way to let rainwater fall off the roof.
How to Install Rain Chains?
Installing a rain chain is simple. All you need to do is find a suitable spot to hang this beautiful fixture.
Here’s a DIY method to install your rain chain:
- Choose a place to hang the rain chain (preferably a place that can direct the rainwater away from the foundations).
- Install a downspout outlet in the chosen gutter.
- Hang the rain chain according to the instructions found on its installation kit.
- Place a barrel or pot below the rain chain as a makeshift reservoir.
That’s it! Most rain chains are fairly easy to install but you may consult a landscaper/architect if you want a second opinion.
Want to actually see one getting installed? This video will show you how:
Rain Chain FAQs
Here are questions you might ask yourself when contemplating adding a rain chain to your house.
1. How do rain chains work?
Similar to a downspout, you connect the rain chains to your gutter system. The chains provide the rainwater with a medium to let the rain flow down in a swift, gentle smooth movement.
Many times, the links have funnels/cups attached to them to minimize spillage.
2. How long should rain chains be?
The standard length is about 8 ft. However, the length of the chain may vary according to the style you’ve selected. The main idea is to select a length that allows it to reach the ground without any restrictions.
3. Do rain chains make noise? What do they sound like?
The rain chains create a musical sound when water trickles down them. The sounds vary depending on the flow of the downpour and the type of rain chain you’ve picked. In most cases, it a soothing trickling sound of the rain as it hits the metallic links.
During a downpour, it might sound like rushing waters.
4. Do rain chains rust?
It depends on the type of material used to make your rain chains. Traditional rain chains were handcrafted with copper. That’s because copper is has a higher resistance to rust compared to other metals.
These days, suppliers use a variety of metals to minimize rusting and corrosion. The top choices include aluminum, bronze, and copper.
5. Do rain chains splash?
Typically, rain chains are hung to prevent the rainwater from splashing on the ground. However, these dainty devices can’t withstand high volumes of water. So, the rainwater tends to splash out of their cups during a torrential downpour.
6. How to clean copper rain chains?
Copper rain chains can get tarnished with time due to the oxidizing process. However, I’ve found an easy way to restore them to their prime condition.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Make a cleaning mixture by combining 1 tbsp of salt with 1 cup of white vinegar.
- Pour the mixture on top of the rusted copper and then start rubbing it with a soft non-fibrous cloth.
- Rinse it thoroughly with water after you’ve cleaned it.
Another technique is to immerse the discolored copper into a diluted salt-vinegar solution. Then bring that mixture to a boil so that the rusted layer comes off. Then wash the rain chains with water and soap once it cools off.
Lastly, dry it with a soft cloth before you hang it again.
7. What do rain chains drain into?
There’s no hard and fast rule about how where the rain chain water drains into. Most people choose basins and barrels to store the water. Others might use pots or pebbles to enhance the beauty of their drainage system.
8. Do rain chains work without gutters?
Yes, rain chains can work without gutters. However, hanging them without gutters is not advisable. That’s because rain chains require a ‘vertical water source’ to collect the water that falls off the roof.
Without a rain gutter, the water will fall off in all kinds of directions. Subsequently, this will make it difficult for the rain chains to catch the water.
9. Are rain chains better than downspouts?
The verdict for this is still out there. However, I believe that both types of downspouts have their pros and cons.
Let’s look at the qualities that might make rain chains better than downspouts:
- visually pleasing and pretty
- come in different types, which help add diversity to your hardscape plans
- prevent splashing and soil erosion due to downpour
- keep the rainwater away from the foundation of your house
- less noisy and more melodious than downspouts
- the airy and open designs ensure that the rainwater comes out clean at the other end
Overall, these pretty little things are an effective way to redirect the rainwater that falls off your roof.
The only downside is that they are less sturdy than traditional downspouts. As a result, their efficiency drops when the weather gets too hard to handle.
Types Of Rain Chains
Here’s a glance at the best rain chains available in the market:
1. Hummingbird Rain Chains
If you love hummingbirds, you’ll adore these hummingbird rain chains. Every time it rains, you’ll be enjoying hummers playfully splashing in the water. Add one to every corner of the house, or mix and match with other types of rain chains for more variety.
2. Monarch Rain Chains
Sturdy, durable, and theatrical, monarch rain chains come in a variety of sizes and shapes. These minimalist fixtures beautify your gardens with their elegance. They come in various metallic shades and look amazing when hung below your rain gutters.
Monarch Ring Rain ChainMonarch Rain Chains Pure Copper Eastern Hammered Cup Rain ChainMonarch Powder Coated Aluminum Rain ChainMonarch Aluminum Sakura Rain Chain Pure Copper Akira Extra Large Rain ChainMonarch Pure Copper Angel Blossom Rain ChainPure Copper Monarch Pineapple Rain Chain
You can buy them for yourself or gift them to a gardener who has everything.
3. Oriental Rain Chains
Oriental rain chains add a gorgeous element to any garden. These Japanese-style downspouts feature many striking characteristics of the original rain chains. Most of them mimic the shape of a lotus or other flowers that function as cups for the rain. Other types of oriental rain chains have intricate floral or nature-centric embellishments on them.
No matter which one you choose, each oriental chain is sure to create a picturesque scene. You should place them on a spot that’s visible to you. It’ll ensure that you can enjoy the pretty view with a cup of tea/coffee whenever it rains.
4. Patina Rain Chains
Do you want something that’s got a nice weathered look?
Patina rain chains are perfect for this purpose. They are either coated with a smooth green tint or oxidized to give a natural weather-beaten look. These classy rain chains are ideal for gardens and patios that have a vintage theme going on.
You can place it in your gardens to add a pop of color to appeal your aesthetic sense. Or gift them to your grandmother, aunts, and mothers as a birthday/Christmas present.
5. Pineapple Rain Chains
Did you know that pineapples were once the most prized possessions for royalty and the elite. People used to showcase them at parties and borrow them from friends.
That trend might have gone away with time, but these delicious fruits still possess the same grandeur. Plus, they’ve got a happy vibe to them due to their association with tropical islands. Pineapple rain chains are a practical way to incorporate a tropical feel into your garden.
6. Pewter Rain Chains
If you like antique accessories, then you’ll love pewter chains. Not only do they add a sophisticated look to your garden, but they are rust-resistant too. And when they do show signs of weathering, it’s a very gradual process. It adds to its timeless charm and beautiful appearance.
7. Copper Rain Chains
From Buddhists to modern landscapers, everyone thinks that copper chains for rain are the best. The main reason for this is the metal’s durability, malleability, and shiny look. For a homeowner, this opens up doors for versatile options and unique styles to use. Plus, you can bet that a copper rain chain will last longer than any other type.
8. Fish Rain Chains
This fish rain chain is a subtle nod to the downspout’s Japanese origins that merges style with functionality. The intricate details, stylistic touches, and sturdy design make it a wonderful investment.
Enjoy watching the rainwater stream down the mouths of a string of fish: definitely a great conversation starter for your guests.
9. Rain Chains with Basin
If you’re looking for something functional, then opt for a rain chain with basin. The basin is placed there for water harvesting purposes. You can collect the water inside the bowl once its streams down the linking chains. However, even without the rain, it offers a nice touch to hardscape design.
You can also add pebbles to the basin for an artistic effect. Or better yet, if the basin is big enough, then use it as a waterfall feature.
10. Rain Chains with Bells
Rain chains are by default melodious, but you can amplify the musical sounds by adding bells. They’ll work as an alternative downspout, water collector, and wind chime all in one.
Or present them to a special someone.
11. DIY Rain Chains
If you’re crafty, you can create your own rain chain form just about anything:
- old metal cups
- terracotta pots
- glass bottles
- old candle holders
- tiny galvanized buckets
- and more
Here’s how to use terracotta posts to make a fun and easy rain chain.
In a Nutshell
On the whole, rain chains are an effective way to manage rainwater without compromising on appearances. From water conservation, rainwater harvesting, to accessorizing, here are lots of reasons as to why you’d want a one for your home.