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Everything you need to know about rain chains

They’re much prettier than gutters, and just as effective

Three images of metal rain chains on porches. Credit: Getty Images / Baber Photography / Anne Harrison / fusaromike

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There’s nothing quite like emphasizing the “fun” in function when it comes to items around your home. When something serves a purpose and is easy on the eyes, that one-two punch hits differently.

Enter the rain chain. As a more attractive and very effective alternative to traditional gutter downspouts, it’s functional beauty at its best for your home’s outdoor look.

So, what is a rain chain? While rain chains can be made from a variety of materials and are pretty to look at, they have a serious job—the transport of rainwater off the roof from the gutter system through a hole (where the downspout pipe once was) onto the chain or into a storage container like a rain barrel.

The effect is not only attractive, but given the right design, can offer a soothing white noise as water drips (or pours) down its vertical path. Bonus points: By design they’re also much less likely to clog than traditional downspouts because there’s no space for leaves and debris to pass through.

With April showers on the forecast, now’s the perfect time to choose one for your home. Installation is relatively simple and intuitive, but there are a few things to consider when adorning your house with this type of bling.

Hang the rain chain so you can see it from inside your house

Two images of a copper rain chain hanging on a porch.
Credit: Monarch Rain Chains

This copper rain chain will sparkle in the sunshine.

Rain chains are meant to be showcased, not hidden, so where you hang one is paramount to enjoying it. After all, these lovely and whimsical rain chains turn purely utilitarian boring gutters into true water features.

Blythe Yost, CEO and co-founder of Tilly Landscaping, suggests hanging it within sight of your indoors, for instance, outside of a sitting room, door or window.

“Just make sure you don't have to be outside to see it,” she says.

Make sure there is good drainage in your selected hanging spot

While the goal is to look up at a decorative chain, you first must look down before you install one.

“You don't want to install one in an area where you have poor drainage. It's important that the water runs away from the foundation of the house after it runs down the rain chain,” explains Yost. “Otherwise you'll end up with pooling, which will cause more issues.” 

Anthony “TJ” Prizzi, managing partner at Majestic Property Solutions, agrees. “Usually, the area around the ground has stone in it for proper drainage and no erosion,” he says.

Clip up the rain chain and then stake it down

When it comes to choosing a rain chain, begin by measuring the distance from the gutter or downspout you'll be removing to the ground to determine what length to buy.

To install, remove the gutter and insert a gutter clip (typically included with the rain chain), V-hook or other anchor, and attach your chain.

To ensure your rain chain isn’t susceptible to high winds, stake the end to the ground.

Add a rain barrel and some landscaping

A copper rain chain pours water into a bucket.
Credit: Ancient Graffiti

Add a rain barrel to store water.

To add even more intention, pair your rain chain with a rain barrel, basin, or receptable to harvest and reuse the rain water, says Prizzi.

“Rain barrels are used to capture rain and snow water, which is then recycled for use of irrigating the plants and flowers or for ‘gray’ water use in sprinkler system,” he says.

Follow up by decorating the area with stones, plants (make sure they love water), rocks, and whatever else you wish to complete the look.

Rain chains come in many styles—here’s how to get the look

Two images of a copper rain chain hanging on a porch.
Credit: Monarch Rain Chains

Make sure your rain chain is hanging in the optimal spot.

Originating in the 1600s to adorn teahouses in Japan (kusari-doi or “chain gutter”), the first rain chains were made of bamboo and rope. While modern materials have upgraded to include sturdier copper or brass links (which develop a charming rustic patina), rain chains can really be made out of anything that can withstand water and weather.

Think terracotta pots linked together, whimsical tubing, or polished stones wrapped in thin wire.

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