What is a Rain Chain? Exploring a Creative Water Feature

What is a rain chain | Pic by chaim zvi on Flickr
What is a rain chain | Pic by chaim zvi on Flickr

What is a Rain Chain? Exploring a Creative Water Feature

Have you ever heard of a rain chain? If not, prepare to be enlightened. A rain chain, or ‘kusari doi’ in Japanese, is more than just a decorative element. It’s an ingenious device that has been used for centuries to direct rainwater from the rooftop to the ground—all while creating a mesmerizing visual spectacle.

Ahead, we’ll explore what makes rain chains so fascinating, their origins, the different types available, and why they might just be the perfect addition to your garden or patio. Let’s get started!

What is a Rain Chain?

A rain chain at a backyard | Pic by chaim zvi on Flickr
A rain chain at a backyard | Pic by chaim zvi on Flickr

Rain chains originated from Japan and are a decorative alternative to a downspout or gutter pipe. It’s a series of metal or ceramic pieces linked together that guide rainwater from the roof to the ground.

As the water flows down the chain, it creates a mesmerizing, soothing water feature effect. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, rain chains are also used for water collection and conservation purposes.

Types of Rain Chains

There are several types of rain chains, including cup-style and link-style.

Cup-Style Rain Chains

Cup-Style Rain Chains | Pic by Anguskirk on Flickr
Cup-Style Rain Chains | Pic by Anguskirk on Flickr

Cup-style rain chains are a type of rain chain that features a series of cups, typically made from metal or ceramic, linked together by chains. The design is aesthetically pleasing and functional.

These rain chains work by collecting rainwater from the roof. After they collect rainwater, they guide it down through the cups, creating a beautiful waterfall effect. The cups slow down the water flow, which minimizes splashing and makes this style more effective at handling heavy rainfall compared to link-style rain chains.

Link-Style Rain Chains

Link-Style Rain Chains | Pic by contraption on Flickr
Link-Style Rain Chains | Pic by contraption on Flickr

Link-style rain chains are a type of rain chain that consists of a series of interlinked pieces, typically crafted from metal. Unlike cup-style rain chains, they don’t have individual cups to capture the water. Instead, rainwater cascades freely down the links, creating a visually pleasing effect that’s similar to a moving sculpture.

While beautiful, they might not handle heavy rainfall as effectively as cup-style chains due to potential splashing.

How To Install Rain Chain

A link-style rain chain
A link-style rain chain

Installing a rain chain is a fairly simple process that can be done in only a few steps. After surveying the location to install a rain chain, which is typically where the gutter system leaks, start doing these steps:

  1. Remove the Existing Downspout: Start by removing the existing downspout where you want to install the rain chain. This is typically done by unscrewing it from rain gutters.
  2. Install the Rain Chain Hanger: Next, install a hanger for the rain chain. This can be a bracket or a V-shaped hanger that fits into the hole in the gutter where the downspout was removed.
  3. Attach the Rain Chain: Now, attach the top of the rain chain to the hanger. Ensure it’s secure and hangs straight down.
  4. Check the Length: The chain should hang about 2-3 inches above the ground. If it’s too long, remove links as necessary. Be careful to keep the chain balanced.
  5. Ground Placement: At the end of the chain, you may place a basin, a garden stone, or a splash block to prevent erosion caused by the falling water.
  6. Test Your Installation: Finally, pour a bucket of water into the gutter above the chain to test your installation. The water should flow smoothly down the chain.

Remember, it’s important to regularly clean and maintain your rain chain to ensure it functions properly. Always check manufacturer instructions, as specifics may vary based on the design of the rain chain.

Reasons Why Using Rain Chains

There are several reasons to consider installing rain chains in your house. They’re ready to install, affordable, and ideal for decoration.

Rain Chains are Easy to Install

Rain chain in a house garden
Rain chain in a house garden

Rain chains easy installation are easy to install because they usually require no special tools or professional help. The simplicity of their design and installation process makes rain chains a popular choice for homeowners looking to add a functional yet decorative element to their outdoor space.

Rain Chains are Affordable

Rain chain in a terrace
Rain chain on a terrace

Another reason why rain chains are a good addition to your home decor is because they are affordable, especially compared to traditional downspouts. They not only serve a functional purpose by directing rainwater away from your home but also add aesthetic appeal, potentially increasing the value of your property without a large investment.

Rain Chains are Also Suitable for Decoration

Rain chains for decoration | Pic by Ken Mayer on Flickr
Rain chains for decoration | Pic by Ken Mayer on Flickr

With their varied designs, materials, and finishes, rain chains can add a unique aesthetic element to your home’s exterior. Even when it’s not raining, rain chains can act as a beautiful hanging sculpture, catching the light and adding visual interest.

Some people even add wind chimes or bells to their rain chains for an added auditory element. So, while they are functional in directing rainwater, their decorative potential is equally significant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a rain chain work in heavy rain?

Rain chains can handle heavy rain, but their effectiveness varies with design and rainfall intensity. While standard designs may struggle with heavy downpours, there are models created for high-rainfall areas.

What are rain chains made of?

Most rain chains are typically crafted from durable materials such as copper, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, and occasionally glass or ceramic, chosen for their weather resistance and aesthetic appeal.

Do rain chains cause flooding?

Rain chains are designed to slow and direct rainwater, potentially helping to prevent flooding. However, improper installation can lead to poor drainage, and they may struggle with large amounts of water or in windy conditions.


In conclusion, rain chains serve as a unique and aesthetic alternative to traditional downspouts. Not only do they provide a visually appealing spectacle during rainfall, but they also contribute to water conservation when paired with rain barrels.

However, it’s essential to install them properly to avoid drainage issues. While they may not handle heavy downpours as efficiently as traditional downspouts, their charm and environmental benefits make them a worthy consideration for your home and your house garden.

So, next time the rain falls, imagine it cascading down a beautifully crafted rain chain, turning a mundane event into an enchanting water display!