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.
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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 that I absolutely love, and I am 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 my rain chain.
In case you want to skip right to your area of interest, here are some direct links (these all open in a new window so you can get back here easily by closing it).
What Are Rain Chains Used For?
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 eaves trough through the hole where the downspout used to be and onto the chain.
Then it runs down the chain to whatever you are using to collect or redirect the water.
Many of the chains have pails or cups with holes in the bottom that direct the water down the chain.
However, I think rain chains are so much more than just a replacement for a downspout. Keep reading to find out more about rain chains.
Why Get a Rain Chain?
1. They Look Nice
First rain chains look SOOO much better than a standard downspout.
Traditional rain chains are made of copper…which turns into that beautiful tarnished green color if it hasn’t been protected.
Of course, if you’re impatient you could buy a rain chain* that already comes with the aged copper patina.
Either way, it looks absolutely beautiful in the garden!
If copper or green aren’t your thing, you can powder coat them in a different color (like this fabulous purple one).
Or go for an aluminum version* that will stay silver.
2. Rain Chains Sound Pretty When It Rains
Second, rain chains sound really pretty when the water is flowing…something like a wind chime but caused by water instead of wind.
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 No-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?
I personally use a rain barrel underneath my rain chain.
It comes with a faucet and hose attachment at the bottom of the barrel, so I can easily use the water for my garden. Since there are no outdoor faucets at the front of my house, it really saves a lot of time lugging hoses and watering cans around.
Using a ceramic or copper basin at the bottom of the rain chain is a traditional way to catch the water, and looks really pretty. Just make sure there is a way for the overflow to drain properly.
You can also build a basin into the ground which then lets the water drain away from the house. You will often see these covered in 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 since some of the water may splash outside of the hole.
Or attach the bottom of the chain to the ground so that it doesn’t have as much movement.
via phylliswarman.com (site no longer available)
Finally, some people get really creative and make whole water fountains out of the run off.
Do Rain Chains 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!
What Types Of Rain Chains Are There?
Traditional rain chains have a cup or pail design.
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 the pretty tinkling sounds.
The rain chains with objects suspended from them can get a little expensive. To have the effect without spending as much money, you can buy a copper chain without any embellishments.
I have also heard of people using standard chain, which would be an even more economical way to get a rain chain (although I’m not sure that would have the same visual appeal).
Finally there are some really decorative chains that are almost pieces of art, like this cascading leaves rain chain.
If you don’t mind splurging a little, they can be a show stopper in your garden.
Hopefully you have found some rain chain inspiration of your own!
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