Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Rain Chains! What is a rain chain, and will they work for me? Scott at Dovetail Raingutter, located in Bozeman, Montana, often meets with homeowners who are interested in rain chains.
Rain chains are often seen as an alternative to traditional gutter downspouts. But the question remains, can they really replace gutter downspouts? Are they just as functional at conveying rainwater runoff? Don’t plan on getting rid of all your downspouts, though. You usually need a few downspouts for effective stormwater management.
Rain Chains create “curb appeal” Many homeowners enjoy the look of a rain chain despite the drawbacks of replacing your downspouts with a chain.
The conventional downspout is typically 2 X 3 inches and matches the rain gutter in color and material. The downspout contains and discharges rainwater to the ground, preventing splashes on the house or sidewalks. A typical installation terminates at or slightly above the ground with an elbow. With the addition of an extension or splash block at the bottom elbow, rainwater can be directed farther away from the foundation of the home.
Unlike a downspout, the chain is an open system, so as the water leaves the gutter and runs onto the chain, you should expect that some water will not flow down the chain & will cause splashes. Once the water hits the ground, over time it will create a low spot in the ground and may pool and make its way into the basement or crawl space! Installation of an interesting feature below the chain such as a rock or whiskey barrel can prevent the pooling effect.
Location of the chain must be taken into consideration. Will the inevitable splashing be windblown onto your siding damaging the paint? Will the splashing land on a sidewalk and create an icy hazard? Best locations for your rain chains are on wide overhangs away from steps or sidewalks, consider the prevailing direction of the wind. Rain chains with cup-type chains are less likely to splash and will contain the rainwater much better than chain or hoop designs.
Rain Chain Styles
Copper, Steel and aluminum are the typical materials used to manufacture a rain chain. Many different styles can be found by searching online. Round, oval or square links of chain are joined in a single or double chain patterns for a contemporary look. Flared cups, fluted funnels & simple flower designs complement traditional, classical, oriental and cottage styles. Here in Bozeman, Montana the rustic look of a simple 3/8" chain is the popular choice.
HOW TO INSTALL A RAIN CHAIN
Rain chains can be installed in place of existing downspouts using the existing drain outlet in the rain gutter. lightweight copper and aluminum chains are usually provided with a V-shaped hanger. First you will pass the chain up through the outlet in the gutter, thread the V hangar through the chain and then lower the chain and hangar back down into the gutter. For those that choose a 3/8″ steel chain, do not hang the chain from the gutter! The heavier chains must be supported using an eye hook that's first screwed into a rafter tail or 1.5″ solid section of the facia.
Reducing the size of the outlet will cause more water to flow onto the chain but with the reduced opening of the outlet, heavy rain fall will overflow the gutter and leaves will easily obstruct the outlet. Fabrication and installation of a funnel that is suspended from the chain a couple of inches below the gutter will help the water flow down the chain but are difficult to build and install. If you are not comfortable on a ladder you should contact a professional rain gutter contractor to install your new chain.
Depending on the height of your foundation a home with 8-foot interior ceilings will require rain chains 8 1/2 – 10 feet long
To prevent movement in the wind, rain chains should be anchored. Decorative copper bowls, large rocks, or just the ground are often used to hold the chain in place.
A rain chain will not support the weight of a child who decides to climb or swing on your new chain! If you live in snow country an accumulation of ice may damage your decorative chains.