Don’t choose rain chains before reading this + DIY options.

One thing that all houses have in common is some sort of system that guides rainwater from the roof to the bottom of the ground. In the US and Europe, most people use gutter downspouts to do the job. This system is bulky enough to draw the attention of anyone who passes by. That is why the downspout tube is sometimes placed at the back of the house like an unwanted object. What if there is a way to substitute the downspout with an attractive alternative that you could proudly display near the front of your porch?

10 foot rain chain

Kusari-doi, or rain chains, is an aesthetically pleasing Japanese substitute for our traditional downspout. While dealing with rain like most of us, people in Japan have found an elegant solution to a common issue. They probably wondered if water from the roof could pour with grace and beauty. It certainly can, which you will notice after replacing your regular downspouts with an appealing alternative.

What is a rain chain?

copper rain chains

At that point, you may wonder if rain chains are decoration or a practical mechanism. You might be surprised, but rain chains are endowed with usefulness and beauty. They manage to direct water from the roof, not worse than modern downspouts. What is more, they have an aesthetic pleasing for your eyes.

What do rain chains look like? You may think it is the chain hanging from the roof, which won’t be far from the truth. Kusari-doi can be fastened to the eaves of the roof or to the gutter that collects the water. Similar to chains, they can contain links, but the exciting part is that those links can have different shapes. You can choose from two types of kusari-doi link-style or cup-style. The most original ones are in the shape of lilies, hearts, or even watering cans.

They are often made from copper. This material develops a cerulean patina with the time that resembles the color of the azure coast. Unlike downspouts that lose any attractiveness over the years, rain chains only acquire more and more charm. If links change to a cerulean color, you will have a good decorative element in your possession. Kusari-doi will undoubtedly serve for a long time and faithfully.

copper rain chain

As an alternative, you can also choose brass, steel, or even aluminum kusari-doi. The material depends on your taste and the area you are living in. If high winds are regular in your region, you’d better choose one made from brass or steel. Aluminum is the lightest metal of all and is more suitable for areas with small winds.

The other thing you should be aware of is that the more extravaganza features you choose, the more expensive the chain will be. After all, downspouts cost less than exquisite decorative elements.

How do they work?

Regarding functional parts, rain chains can do their work as efficiently as downspouts. Water follows the path through the gutter towards the chain when it rains. Then it goes through the chain till it reaches the bottom part. What happens next depends on what kind of drainage system you plan to have. You can put either a nice-looking basin under the chain, a huge barrel, or make a French drain. Choose only what is more suitable for the amount of rain you usually have.

Naturally, the water has a certain speed when it pours down. If there is nothing between the roof and the ground, the speed of the pouring water will create holes and wash away soil. Erosion is the reason why any system is needed, and gutter chains successfully do the job. They slow down the speed of the water, so it calmly flows down the path. 

What comes with the water afterward? Don’t worry. It won’t create a pool after reaching the ground. Beneath the hanging chain, you can put a barrel that will collect water for future use. If you have a special drainage system, it would be better to hang the gutter chain above it so that the water will go there straight away. The more aesthetic and Japanese-like resolution are stones. You can put them beneath the chain, and they will protect the soil from erosion. 

Storms rarely come without wind. When they do, it will probably be difficult for the gutter chain to stay immovable. This issue has also been anticipated. You can fasten the bottom of kusari-doi to the ground so it will stay stiff during heavy winds. You can also choose heavier material for yours but be aware that excessive weight will also affect the gutter.

Rain chain vs. downspout: pros & cons

rain chain

When you decide whether to buy something or not, do detailed research on what you are about to order. It is necessary to know all the pros and cons of kusari-doi so you won’t regret buying it. It is time-consuming, so here is all the information you need. So don’t choose rain chains before reading this. 

First, a gutter chain’s most obvious advantage is its aesthetic beauty. It can elegantly match your garden decor and give a special touch to your house. Sometimes people buy those things to decorate their homes without looking for practicality. They also have an elegant size in comparison to massive downspouts. To tell you more, they can even turn into ice sculptures when the water freezes inside of them in the winter.

Aesthetic value is not the only beautiful part kusari-doi can offer. It not only looks like a fountain but sounds like one as well. Downspouts, on the other hand, sound more like water in pipes. Relaxing tunes cannot obviously be the main reason to buy rain chains, but it is certainly a good additional advantage. 

One of the disadvantages you can find in rain chains is their price. Decorations are expensive most of the time because of all the ornaments and materials. If downspouts appear to be a much simpler and less expensive option, you will be surprised to learn that the simplest water chain costs less. In search of a cheaper resolution, people found a way to make rain chains on their own. It is possible, and the only thing you need is DIY and tools.

With downspouts, it is often the case that they clog. When leaves fall into the gutter, they often get stuck in the entrance to downspouts. It does rarely happen to kusari-doi because there is no closed space in-between for leaves to get stuck.

When kusari-doi can manage leaves, it is not resistant to poor weather conditions. Heavy rain and high winds are things that will damage or even break it. If your region is teeming with harsh weather, downspouts are more suitable for your house. They are stiffer and have a larger water capacity. 

rain chains

If you disregard weather conditions and substitute your downspout with a prettier alternative, there is a great chance that the foundation of your house will be damaged. The reason for that is the excessive amount of water. If the rain chain fails in managing the water, it will go no other way than the house’s foundation. No one wants to pay that price just for a beautiful view.

Finally, rain chains are easy to install and maintain. You can do it just by following the guide. They also do not require any additional maintenance work. However, they may need to be taken off during the winter. Removing your rain chain is better for gutter safety if you suspect that ice will give too much excess weight. Still, downspouts are difficult to install and require regular cleaning.

DIY rain chain: how to make one

People are often discouraged from purchasing rain chains due to the high cost. If you don’t want to buy one, make it on your own. Homemade ones vary from the easiest to the most creative ones. Have you ever thought they could be made of shower curtain hooks, bent forks, or zip ties? Their efficiency is doubtful, but their creative part is praiseworthy.

What you can do on your own and be sure it will not only look presentable but function effectively as well as make a rain chain from buckets. To make them, you’ll need:

  • about eleven small steel buckets
  • 15 s-hooks
  • 1 eye-hook
  • a drill
  • pliers
  • and a downspout outlet.

Also, find a chain that matches the size of buckets and has a suitable length for a future rain chain.

Start by drilling the holes at the bottom of all the buckets. Then attach s-hooks to the handles of the buckets. The next step is to insert the chain through the holes and fasten the bucket handles to the nearest link. When you’ve done that, install a downspout outlet into the gutter. The final step is to hang your homemade rain chain and enjoy the view.

How to install it

Once you buy rain chains, the installation will not trouble you. First, think of the proper place for it. A lot of times, people substitute their downspouts with rain chains. The place where the old one was is one of the most suitable locations. If your house does not have a gutter system, you can try to find a spot where the water concentrates most during a storm. The good spots are also the eves of a house. 

Don’t forget about the erosion that falling water usually causes. For this reason, choose a place where the stream will not wash out the soil. If you use a barrel to preserve water for gardening or other purposes, then you have nothing to worry about. 

The next step of the installation is to insert the V bar into the gutter hole or the place where the downspout used to be. Next, hook the chain to the V-shaped copper bar. Make sure that it won’t fall after the first heavy storm. Then adjust the length of the chain. If necessary, fasten the bottom of it to the ground. To ensure everything works fine, do the water test and check if it runs correctly.

rain chain basins

If you don’t like huge barrels at the bottom of your kusari doi, rain chain basins are a good option for you. Barrels are functional for water storage, but they are a poor choice aesthetically. If yours is situated near the front of the house, an elegant basin will suit it better. 

A rain chain basin is a large bowl or jar that collects pouring water. They can be ceramic, metal, or made from cement. Aesthetically, basins are charming. Practically, they may not always fulfill their purpose during heavy rains. If you haven’t come up with a way to direct this water where it will go after overflowing the basin, think about building a French drain as a solution.

The French drain is a smart way to hide a huge barrel. All that is needed is to dig the hole in the ground and make a basin from it. You can decorate it with colored stones or other elements. When it rains, the water will go there and afterward evaporate with time.

Do rain chains work in heavy rain?

Rainstorms are one of the issues that are difficult for rain chains to handle. The excessive amount of water is problematic if there is no efficient way to store it or guide it through a drainage system. Some do the job better than others. Simple link-style chains are less effective than cup-style ones. The latest can deal with a larger amount of water. 

Heavy rains are always accompanied by wind, which is also difficult for rain chains to deal with. When anchored to the ground, it is sturdy and resistant to wind. You should also choose the heaviest material for your decorative element to hold out against the wind. 

However, better resistance does not guarantee that it will not break down during a storm. For those who admire the aesthetic value they have but live in a place with heavy habitual rain, it is better to use rain chains only as a decorative element.

Do rain chains make a noise?

The sound of water passing over it is very relaxing and in no way disturbing. Yes, there will be a sound. However, it will in no way be annoying.

Do rain chains work in winter?

The weight of potential ice could be an issue. Unless you’ve got a sturdy one, you don’t want heaps of ice hanging from it. It does work in the winter, but you’ll want to use caution.

What do you put at the bottom of a rain chain?

You’ll want to include something that directs the water away from the foundation at the bottom. Otherwise, they may not end up serving the intended purpose very well. A ceramic jar is a very popular option to go with.