What are rain chains and how do they work?

December 14, 2021

Home with Rain Chain

What exactly is a rain chain?

Rain chains are simply a decorative and elegant replacement for gutter downspouts. Rain chains originated in Japan hundreds of years ago, and they’ve steadily been gaining popularity across North America. Rain chains guide rainwater down a chain or through a series of connected cups, which is a beautifully innovative way of managing rainwater runoff.

Rain chains can replace existing downspouts, or they can be incorporated into new builds as a functional piece of the home’s design. Rain chains can be found in a wide variety of designs to suit any architectural style.

Is a rain chain functional?

Rain chains are a functional gutter downspout replacement. They’re a great way to add architectural interest to a home and maintain the function of the downspout. Keep in mind, since the rainwater isn’t totally contained, there will be some splashing with rain chains. Cup style rain chains can handle more rainwater and will splash less than link style chains.

Can they be used for rain harvesting?

Yes, rain chains are great for helping to harvest rainwater! Rain chains can be hung from gutters as a downspout replacement and can be connected to the screen at the top of a rain barrel. Water will flow through gutters, down the rain chain, and into the rain barrel, where rainwater can be stored. You’ll need to be sure the barrel is positioned properly beneath the chain because the rain chain will need to hang straight to catch the most water.

Choosing the best material and style:

Most rain chains are made of copper, because it’s a material that will age beautifully. We offer rain chains in copper, aluminum, powder-coated aluminum, stainless steel, and brass. We also offer some styles in a pre-aged copper, which has reddish streaking for a rustic look. The copper patina options will give you that beautiful blue patina color right out of the box! You’ll need to consider the architecture of the home, location of the rain chain, and the amount of rainfall expected when deciding on style. Take a look at our Waterflow Index to learn about which chains will work for you.

Stainless steel is great for people living along the coast because it will hold up against harsh rain and salt water. Aluminum and powder-coated aluminum are great because they’re lightweight and cost effective. Copper is stunning on traditional homes and will patina beautifully. Cup style rain chains can handle more rainwater and will splash less than link style rain chains.

Installing a Rain Chain:

Rain chains are easy to install! If there’s an existing downspout, simply remove the downspout, secure an installation kit in the gutter opening, and hang the rain chain on the bolt or clip located on the tube of the installation kit. We recommend using an installation kit because it’s more secure and the small, tapered tube will help direct water onto the chain, which helps it to function properly. Be sure to secure your rain chain at the bottom and consider drainage. Check out our rain chain accessories to find the right fit for your setup.

Considering Drainage:

Just as you would with a traditional downspout, it’s important to consider drainage. In many cases, water needs to be directed away from homes and other structures. Water can be diverted using the same methods as with traditional downspouts. Keep in mind, rain chains need to be secured at the bottom, so they don’t sway in the wind. This will cause additional splashing and could damage structures. Rain chains can also be connected to specialized dishes, basins, or rain barrels to catch rainwater. You can harvest this water to use in your yard or garden!