If you have seen rain chains hanging off of the sides of people’s homes, have you ever wondered what a rain chain is and how it works? Not only are these pieces striking and decorative, they serve a purpose- but what, and why might you want one?
What is a rain chain and how does it work? A rain chain is a decorative rain catch system that directs rainwater from your roof and gutters down into the ground or a basin. It is a more elegant and creative alternative to a gutter downspout.
But how can you learn the best ways to utilize your rain chain, and what might all of the benefits of a rain chain be? In this article, we will endeavor to answer all of these questions for you and more, including how you can make a rain chain yourself. Let’s get started and learn everything you need to know about rain chains!
What Does a Rain Chain Do?
A rain chain helps guide rainwater down from your gutter or roof so that you can catch it and utilize it, or otherwise keep the water from pooling where you don’t want it. Similarly to a downspout found in typical gutter systems, rain chains help keep water away from your home by giving it a channel to flow down.
Otherwise, rain chains are purely decorative, and many homeowners purchase and install them for decorative purposes only. The great majority of rain chains are uniquely designed and some may even incorporate bells and other pleasant chimes so that the chain emits sounds when it rains.
Check out our top 10 rain chains here in our detailed comparison guide.
How Do Rain Chains Work?
Originating in Japan, rain chains utilize a series of links or decorations to help funnel and move the water down to the ground. The unique design allows for rain water to flow efficiently and effectively down the chain and into the ground or a rain catch system, such as a bucket or drain.
So long as your rain chain is installed properly, you should be able to see the water falling all the way down the length of the chain, from the roof line to the ground. It works just like a downspout, except with a more decorative flair!
What’s the Difference Between a Rain Chain and a Downspout?
Rain chains and downspouts do the same job, in a way. However, downspouts are less attractive and more likely to clog compared to rain chains. Additionally, not every home may have downspouts installed, and it may be more effort to install a downspout compared to a rain chain.
Given the attractiveness of rain chains and their ease of installation, many homeowners prefer to utilize rain chains over downspouts. However, you can’t direct the flow of water with a rain chain as well as you can direct the flow of water with a downspout. This is something to keep in mind if you are planning to replace your downspouts with rain chains.
It is very easy to hang a rain chain in your own backyard, if you are interested. Here is our step-by-step installation guide- follow along if you want to install your own rain chain now!
1. If you have a downspout currently installed in your gutter system, remove the downspout. All it should take is the simple unscrewing of it, likely where the downspout attaches to the roof line.
2. Locate your rain chain installation bracket. Your rain chain purchase likely came with a V-shaped bracket that should be pretty obvious- this is what you will need to attach your rain chain to the roof line.
3. Using screws or nails, attach your rain chain bracket to the roof where your downspout used to be located. It should look like an upright V from your point of view, so that the rain can flow off of the pointed part of the V.
4. Hang your rain chain from the V bracket and wait until it rains! You may wish to install a bucket or decorative vase beneath your chain so that you can capture and utilize all of the rain that falls below.
It is unlikely that your rain chain is any more complicated than this to install. However, your specific chain may have more elaborate installation instructions. Always follow those, and anticipate observing your rain chain in action during the first rain storm that occurs. You may need to adjust the chain based on the gutters and flow of water from your roof!
What to Put at the Bottom of a Rain Chain?
One of the main selling points to a rain chain is the fact that you can collect the water at the bottom of the chain. But what works best to put at the bottom of a rain chain? Let’s discuss some of your options now.
Barrel, Pot, or Container
One of the easiest things that you can use at the bottom of your rain chain is a simple barrel, pot, or container. You can choose something made out of a variety of materials including wood, plastic, clay, ceramic, metal, and more. Choosing something that is partially water resistant or durable in an outdoor setting is a good place to start.
You can choose something as simple or as decorative as you would like, as some rain chain owners decide to make their containers elaborate as part of a water feature or elegant rain catch system. However, you may have a simple pot or container that is collecting dust, so that works just as well as a more intricate container!
If you have the option, installing a drain system underneath your rain chain is a fantastic way to utilize your water, or at the very least, it helps direct it into the ground and away from your ground cover. Water can cause a decent amount of damage when left sitting or otherwise unable to drain, so figuring out a drainage system that works best for you may be a good idea.
Enter into a Water Feature
If you don’t have a garden or plants that could benefit from the water that is captured by your rain chain, you may want to utilize this water in a water feature. Having your rain chain end in a water feature or fountain can be a special and elegant alternative to a barrel or bucket, especially if you don’t plan on utilizing the rainwater in any other capacity.
However, finding a water feature that is already made and also works with your rain chain can be difficult. Many homeowners who choose to have a rain chain end in a water feature end up building one themselves, or otherwise adjusting an existing water feature to support the rain chain and enhance it. Get creative, and you will likely end up with a beautiful statement piece in your backyard, all powered by rain from your gutters!
Rain Chain Ground Stake
Something that many homeowners don’t realize right away is the fact that your rain chain needs to be attached to the ground or to a container in some shape or form. Choosing a rain chain ground stake can help you avoid damage that could potentially be caused by your rain chain blowing around in high winds or stormy conditions.
Not only do these stakes help guide the water into the ground, it also helps keep your rain chain securely anchored so that it doesn’t cause any damage to your home or to itself. I recommend checking out this rain stake on Amazon, or your local hardware store may have other stable and sturdy options.
Do Rain Chains Make Noise?
Depending on the style and decorative features found on your rain chain, it is likely that it will indeed make noise during times of wind or rain. Many different rain chains feature bells or other metal components that make a pleasant sound or chime as the water moves down the chain. For the most part, rain chains do not make a large amount of noise like wind chimes do. However, many homeowners enjoy this feature and consider it a benefit to owning a rain chain.
What are Rain Chains Made of?
Rain chains are made out of a variety of metal materials, though they were originally made out of copper. In case you didn’t know already, copper changes color as it ages and oxidizes with exposure, which leads to a beautiful green patina on your rain chain.
However, many modern rain chains are made of aluminum or steel, which means that they won’t oxidize or change color as they come in contact with rain and other harsh elements. If you are considering a copper rain chain, you may want to keep the oxidation process in mind if you don’t want it to change color as it ages.
Why Should You Use a Rain Chain?
There are a number of reasons why you should use a rain chain. But what might some of those reasons be? Let’s go over them in detail now.
1. They Are More Decorative Than Downspouts
One of the main reasons that you should use a rain chain is that they are simply more decorative and eye-catching compared to the traditional downspouts found on the gutter systems. Many homeowners switch to rain chains because they are more interesting to look at and add a decorative feature and air of elegance to any home. The number of designs that rain chains come in is staggering as well, so there’s no shortage of options for you to choose from!
2. Rain Chains Allow You to Capture Rain for Garden Uses
While you may be able to create a rain catch system using a traditional downspout, it is much easier to accomplish this using a rain chain. If you would like to utilize rainwater to water your backyard or garden landscaping, installing a rain chain and a container beneath the chain may help you accomplish this with ease.
3. You Can Make a Water Feature
Depending on how intricate and complicated you want it to be, it can be a fairly easy task to create a water feature from the water that is channeled by your rain chain. I highly recommend checking out some DIY videos or tutorials for how to accomplish this, but many people create beautiful and stunning backyard water features using the water generated by their rain chain alone!
4. The Sound from Rain Chains is Pleasant
Many people enjoy the sound of rain, but have you ever noticed how noisy and annoying some downspouts are during rain storms? You can avoid this unpleasant sound by simply installing a rain chain. The water that flows down the rain chain often causes a pleasant ringing or chime, depending on the type of rain chain that you buy. Using a rain chain rather than a downspout creates a much more calming and pleasant sound when it rains!
5. Easy to Install for Added Curb Appeal
We’ve talked about rain chains being more decorative than downspouts, but you may be hesitant to replace your downspouts with rain chains because of how complicated they might be to install. However, rain chains are extremely easy to hang up and utilize, which means that curb appeal is easier than ever before to accomplish. If you are looking to update the exterior of your home, rain chains are a good option.
Where to Buy a Rain Chain?
Curious where you can buy a rain chain to install in your own home? While many hardware stores carry rain chains, you can also purchase them on Amazon. Here are some of our top picks for you to check out now!
If you are looking for a no-fuss aluminum option that can be customized to fit any roof height, check out this option from Monarch. This rain chain is matte black and made in a contemporary design- while it may not suit the look of a more traditional home, the design of this rain chain is perfect for those of you hoping to utilize the rainwater that you capture.
You can purchase additional sections of the rain chain to achieve any length that you need, and the entire chain is rust resistant. Plus, the price is reasonable and fair for those of you looking to update your exterior design without breaking the bank!
This rain chain from LEPTALINA is beautiful, elegant, and durable. Not only does it have a unique bell shaped design, but this brand has been used around the world for decades. Made out of heavy duty iron to help keep it anchored and last generations, this chain looks best in just about any backyard or home landscaping project.
This particular rain chain is painted in a rust-resistant paint so that it can maintain its coloring for years to come. It also comes with a gutter adapter just in case you need a more specialty fitting for your roof line. Plus, it’s budget friendly, making it ideal for just about every homeowner!
If you are looking for a copper rain chain for its elegance and oxidation, this option from Good Directions may be what you have been waiting for. Made of 22 gauge pure copper, this rain chain is striking, elegant, and absolutely beautiful for many different homes and gardens.
The design of this chain is not only unique and beautiful, but it does a good job of directing the flow of water from your roof. However, given that it is made of pure copper, the price point of this rain chain may be a little high for some.
Related Rain Chain Questions
Still have questions regarding rain chains and how to best use them? Take a look at some of our related questions now!
Can You Use a Rain Chain in the Winter?
Yes, you can use a rain chain in the winter. Not only will rain chains continue to work in a variety of weather scenarios, they also look beautiful should you live in a location that has freezing temperatures. The water that travels down rain chains can freeze and leave your chain looking like an elegant ice sculpture. However, you can also remove your rain chain with ease should you be worried about its longevity during freezing temperatures.
Can You Use a Rain Chain if You Have No Gutters?
Yes, you can use a rain chain if you have no gutters. However, you may need to adjust where you hang the rain chain multiple times to maximize the flow of water down the chain. You may also consider purchasing a rain chain with buckets or cups, as these can handle heavier rainfall than traditional rain chains.
Can You Build Your Own Rain Chain?
With the right materials and tools, you can build your own rain chain without worrying about purchasing one at full price. Choosing materials that are water resistant is a good idea if you are unable to find pure copper to work with. There are many DIY tutorials and instructions online, so I encourage you to check it out if you are interested in building your own rain chain.
Do Rain Chains Work Well During Heavy Rainfalls?
Yes, rain chains can work well during heavy rainfall. However, it depends on the style and type of rain chain that you buy, as the style definitely affects how well it works. For example, choosing a rain chain with cups or a funnel style of decoration works better in heavy rainfall compared to a simple chain link rain chain. Keep this in mind if you live in an area with heavy rain.
Can the Wind Damage My Rain Chain?
Yes, the wind may indeed damage your rain chain, and having an untethered rain chain during a wind storm may also damage your home. That is why it is important to always anchor your rain chain to the ground or to your rain catch basin, should you plan on installing one. No matter how heavy the rain chain is, it can easily be blown about in high winds and potentially damage itself as well as your home!
Incorporating a rain chain into your gutter system and outdoor landscaping not only creates a striking focal point in your backyard. It also helps you capture and utilize the rain for watering your garden or creating a tranquil water feature. Consider hanging a rain chain from your roof or gutter today!
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.