What are rain chains for? How are they installed? Do they work in heavy rain? Get the answers to these questions and more with these great rain chain garden ideas.
I actually don’t remember where I first saw a rain chain, but I do remember that I fell in love with it the moment I saw it.
I have one at the front of my house and one at the back. I absolutely love both of them, and I’m plotting to get some more!
Although rain chains are becoming more popular, I still get a lot of people asking me what it is when they see it on my house…or if I happen to mention it in conversation.
So I thought I would write about my experience with rain chains.
Note: Some of the images below are provided by houzz.com and cannot be pinned due to their copyright restrictions.
What Are Rain Chains Used For?
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But first…to answer the basic question…What is a rain chain?
At the functional level, rain chains are a replacement for the downspout from your gutters.
The water flows from the gutter through the hole where the downspout used to be and onto the chain.
Then it runs down the chain and into whatever you are using to collect or redirect the water.
However, I think rain chains are so much more than just a replacement for a downspout. Keep reading to find out why.
What Types Of Rain Chains Are There?
Traditional rain chains are literally just a chain that the water runs down like the one in this Japanese Garden.
Slightly fancier (but still traditional) versions have pails or cups with holes in the bottom that direct the water down the chain.
These curved objects are suspended from the chain every 6″ to 12″ and catch the water as it flows down the chain.
This slows down the water flow and causes pretty tinkling sounds.
Shop Traditional Rain Chains
These are a few of my favorite traditional rain chains. If you want to find out more about them, just click the image.
Unique Rain Chains
But with their increase in popularity, rain chains are now available in all kinds of shapes and colors. So you should be able to find a design that suits your design style.
Shop Unique Styles
These are some of my favorite rain chains that have a little more style. (Yes, there’s even one that looks like a wine glass!) Click the image to find out more about them.
What Are Rain Chains Made Of?
Traditional rain chains are made of copper, which turns into a beautiful tarnished green color if it hasn’t been protected.
Or if you love color as much as I do, you can go for a powder-coated one like this fabulous purple rain chain.
Why Should You Get One?
1. They Look Nice
The first reason to get a rain chain is that they look SOOO much better than a standard downspout.
What ever type you choose will look beautiful in your garden!
2. Rain Chains Sound Pretty When It Rains
Second, rain chains sound really pretty when the water is flowing down them.
And you never get that annoying dripping noise that sometimes happens with downspouts when the water hits the bottom of the spout.
3. Rain Chains Are A Low-Maintenance Water Feature
Third, you get a water feature in your garden that doesn’t require any maintenance.
There’s no pump to clean, no checking to make sure the water hasn’t run down, and nothing to empty in the winter.
Now that’s my kind of water feature!
4. They Turn Into An Ice Sculpture
Fourth, they even look nice in the winter.
Check out my frozen rain chain on one of the few icy, snowy winter days we get in South Carolina.
Where Does The Water Go?
Now you may be wondering what happens to the water when it gets to the bottom of the chain.
That’s what these rain chain drainage ideas are for…
1 | Rain Chain Basin
A rain chain basin (like this one*) is a large bowl usually made out of cement or metal that catches the water at the bottom of the chain.
A ceramic or cement jar at the bottom of the chain can also be used to accomplish the same thing.
While these options look very pretty, they aren’t always big enough to hold all of the water if you happen to have a heavy rain storm.
So you’ll need to make sure there is a way for the overflow to drain properly.
And most ceramic jars will only work in areas that don’t freeze in the winter.
2 | Rain Barrel
I put plastic rain barrels underneath my rain chains to catch the water runoff.
Rain barrels usually come with a faucet and hose attachment at the bottom of the barrel. That way the water can be used on the garden or just drained away from the house.
The ones I have look like large urns so they blend in with my outdoor decor (I did spray paint this one* off-white to make it match better).
3 | French Drain
You can also build a large basin (or french drain) into the ground. This catches the water and lets it drain away from the house.
You will often see these covered in river rocks so that they blend in with their surroundings.
If you are replacing a downspout that drains underground, you could leave the drainage system in place.
Then make sure that the rain chain is positioned above the drain pipe so that the water flows to the right spot. You may need to make a downward sloping funnel around the hole to catch any water that splashes outside of the hole.
Or attach the bottom of the chain to the ground so that it doesn’t have as much movement.
4 | Water Feature
Finally, some people get really creative and make a whole water feature out of the run off from their rain chain.
But Do They Work Well?
Rain chains have been used in Japan for hundreds of years to direct (and collect) the water from the roofs of buildings. So they certainly have a lot of history.
When I first installed mine I wasn’t sure if it would work as well as the downspout, especially since we get some pretty heavy rainfalls in this part of the country.
Now that I have had it for a few years, I can say that it works just as well as the downspout did.
Actually I would go one step further and say that it’s better…I have a big tree in my front yard and the downspout always used to get clogged with tree leaves. That never happens with the rain chain…the leaves just fall to the ground.
How Do You Install A Rain Chain?
The installation was actually much easier than I thought it was going to be.
First, you disconnect the down spout…undoing the screws that were holding the down spout in place was probably the hardest part of the job.
Most rain chains came with a bracket that looks like a V with tails.
Place this bracket into the eave trough with the V coming down through the hole where the downspout used to be. (Sorry for the dirty eaves…I haven’t done the spring clean up yet!)
Hook the first rung of the rain chain to the V portion of the bracket. You’re done!
Where To Get A Rain Chain?
Rain chains are available for purchase in most garden centers and online. Amazon has hundreds of styles you can choose from (check them out HERE*).
If you don’t want to spend much money on buying one, I have heard of people using standard chain (although I’m not sure it would have the same visual appeal).
Or if you don’t mind a DIY project, you can make your own DIY rain chain with this tutorial.
Hopefully you have found some rain chain inspiration of your own!