Rain chains demonstrate a beautiful blend of decorative form and useful function. Instead of water traveling from your roof through a closed downspout, rain chains allow you to enjoy rainwater’s pleasing sound and aesthetics, like a babbling brook cascading downward.
via Hallmark Channel
In Japan, where rain chains had their origin, they are a common element of traditional building design. Gutters are viewed as too utilitarian to use when the function can be handled by something that also enhances the beauty of the structure. — That view is spreading, and the popularity of rain chains is growing in North America and around the world.
This buying guide provides a comprehensive overview of rain chain styles, materials, options, installation methods, costs, and DIY options.
If you’re unfamiliar with rain chains, or kusari doi in Japanese, lets discuss their anatomy.
- An adapter or bracket is attached to the gutter in place of a downspout
- The rain chain hangs from it
- The chain is anchored by a basin, stake or weight
These three essential components might be sold separately, but many top manufacturers produce kits with everything included.
There is a wide range of rain chain prices, but they can be loosely grouped into these four categories that have some overlap:
- $15-$50 | Cheap rain chains, fine chains, small design elements spaced widely, most often painted or coated steel or aluminum.
- $45-$90 | Good-quality rain chains, larger and more design elements, most often copper, but some are brass, aluminum or stainless steel.
- $80-$215 | High-quality rain chains, large, complex design elements, most often copper or stainless steel, a bottom bowl might be included.
- $200-$700 | Best-quality rain chains, quite ornate, copper and stainless steel designs, often with a basin and stake included. The very finest rain chains are imported from Japan and cost in the upper end of this range.
How Much Do Accessories Cost?
The accessory options are weights, basins and stakes:
- Rain chain stakes: $10-$16
- Rain chain weights: $25-$50
- Rain chain basins: $35-$150 depending on the size, material and whether they’ve been handcrafted
Most Popular Styles
- Chain links are interspersed with artistically designed cups or other features such as birds, leaves or flowers at intervals of a few inches to as much as a foot apart.
- Most rain chain cups have holes in the bottom to allow water to pass through. Other chains are produced with shallow cups, and the rainwater fills the cup and spills over into the cup below.
- Single links or another type of connector are used to hold each cup to the one above it, so that the rain chain is really a series of cups with little or no chainwork.
- The rain chain is a series of decoratively fashioned links or loops, often of varying size and artfully interwoven, with no cups at all.
Because of the artistic nature of rain chain design, these three basic styles are produced in nearly limitless variations and combinations.
via Eichler Network
Traditionally, rain chains were crafted from metal, and most still are.
Most Popular Materials:
- Copper: This is the traditional material choice of rain chain artisans. The copper must be polished regularly if you wish it to maintain its gleam. Most copper rain chains are allowed to develop an appealing patina finish that changes as the copper ages.
- Steel: This is another traditional metal. Make sure any steel rain chain you consider is coated or painted to prevent rust, though corrosion is probably inevitable.
- Stainless steel: This corrosion-resistant metal is often used by itself or in a rain chain design with copper.
- Aluminum: More affordable than stainless, aluminum is durable and will develop a light patina too.
- Brass: This material is a staple of plumbing fixtures because it resists corrosion. It’s an attractive choice for rain chains too.