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:
- $25-$55 | Cheap rain chains, fine chains, small design elements spaced widely, most often painted or coated steel or aluminum.
- $55-$120 | Good-quality rain chains, larger and more design elements, most often copper, but some are brass, aluminum or stainless steel.
- $120-$250 | High-quality rain chains, large, complex design elements, most often copper or stainless steel, a bottom bowl might be included.
- $250-$700 | Best-quality rain chains, quite ornate, copper, zinc, 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: $15-$25
- Rain chain weights: $25-$75
- Rain chain basins: $50-$200 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.
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.
How are Rain Chains Installed?
There are two most common installation methods:
- A gutter adapter is installed inside the gutter. It has a large flange to hold it in place. The lower end is shaped like a funnel to focus the flow of water onto the rain chain. The funnel extends through the hole where the downspout would otherwise be, and it is often decoratively designed. The end is equipped with a hook or bracket for attaching the rain chain. This is the most secure way to install a rain chain.
- A bracket or funnel-type holder is screwed into the bottom of the gutter where the downspout would go using sheet metal screws. The rain chain is attached to the bracket using hooks or a wire.
Are Rain Chains Attached to Anything at the Bottom?
The rain chain can be allowed to dangle free, but wind might push the chain against the building causing damage to one or both. Chains are held in place using one of three components:
- A basin or bowl, typically with a diameter of 8” to 18” and ranging from shallow to moderate depth.
- A stake that pushes or twists into the ground. Some mid-priced and high-priced rain chain kits include a decorative stake.
- A decorative weight.
If you use a weight or basin, it should rest on the ground to avoid putting too much weight on the rain chain.
Are Basins Included When Buying a Rain Chain?
Basins must usually be bought separately, though they are included with many high-quality rain chain kits.
What are Rain Chain Basins Made Of?
The same material options as rain chains with the addition of composite basins. Most basins are copper.
Can a Rain Chain Be Shortened?
Chain links can be removed from rain chains to make them a custom fit for your landscape. This might involve using pliers to open links, remove adjoining links, and closing the link again.
Where Does the Water Ultimately End Up?
That’s for you to decide. Standing water against basement walls is the primary source of foundation leaks and flooding, especially where soils contain clay. If this is a concern where you live, you have a couple options:
- Catch the rain in a rain barrel or trough for use elsewhere such as watering the garden.
- Install a catch basin with a downspout extender attached that carries water away from the foundation. These are available at Lowes, The Home Depot and other building-supply stores.
Do You Have to Remove a Rain Chain in Freezing Weather?
It’s usually not necessary to take down a rain chain where winter temperatures drop below freezing. In fact, ice might enhance the beauty of your rain chain.
The one concern about ice is its weight. If the ice buildup is heavy and you believe the weight might cause the chain to break, take the rain chain indoors to thaw before rehanging them.
Are you planning to add a touch of function and style to your home?
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