While downspouts play an important role in a gutter system, ensuring rainwater is guided away from the foundation, they really aren’t all that attractive. In recent years, rain chains have become a viable alternative to downpipes. Aesthetically pleasing to look at and to listen to, many homeowners choose rain chains because they are a relatively inexpensive way to add a lot of curb appeal. But there are some situations where they’re not always the best solution. Before swapping out the downspout for a rain chain, here are some things to consider.
What is a Rain Chain?
Originating from Japan several centuries ago, the appeal of a rain chain is its functional beauty. The links or sections of a rain chain slow the speed of the runoff as it works its way down to the ground. It is typically installed where a downspout would be attached to the gutter system. While most homeowners would consider a noisy downspout to be annoying, the sound of water cascading down a cup style rain chain is part of its aesthetic charm.
Rain Chains don’t Divert Water
Unlike downpipes, rain chains don’t divert water. They direct water from the roof and down to the ground by allowing rainwater to flow over the links or into decorative cups. Each rain chain requires a proper method of drainage. To prevent water from pooling and then seeping into the basement, the rainwater should be directed into a catchment basin, rain barrel, or a landscaped area with a French drain.
Open System vs. Enclosed
A rain chain is an open system where water flows over the links as opposed to downspouts where water runs through the pipes. The three main types of rain chain designs are links, rings-and-links, and cups. When thinking about replacing downspouts with rain chains, consider the location of the rain chain in relation to its type or style.
For example, a link style rain chain situated too close to an exterior wall might damage the wall over time because of splashing as the rainwater runs down. In general, cup style rain chains control the amount of splash produced and are better suited for installations near windows, doors, pathways, and exterior walls.
What’s the Weather Like?
Yes, rain chains are pretty to look at but they do have some disadvantages. Before replacing your downspouts, consider the climatic conditions of where you live.
Since rain chains aren’t secured to an exterior wall like downspouts, they are more vulnerable to the effects of active winds. But no matter how calm or windy, always secure the end of the rain chain to the ground – it should never be left unattached.
In areas of heavy rainfall such as the Lower Mainland, they might not be as effective as downpipes since a rain chain handles lower volumes of water than a downspout. If your gutter system currently only has one downpipe, consult with a gutter professional about how many rain chains you will need.
Best of Both Worlds
If you want to install rain chains, but they’re not the best solution for your home and where you live, consider installing a combination of traditional downspouts and rain chains. Placing downpipes at the sides and back of the house and one or two rain chains where they’re most visible allows you to have the best of both worlds.