Downspout Vs. Rain Chain

Houses need a system of channeling rainwater to keep it away from foundations. If your gutter and downspout system does not move the water away effectively, a wet basement may result. Although downspouts are the standard for collecting and moving water, a newer option called “rain chains” is also available. Assess the various options in both downspouts and rain chains and choose the system that will work for your house.

Standard Downspouts

A house might use both downspouts and rain chains.

A traditional gutter system on a home includes gutters along the eaves that empty into downspouts. The downspouts move water down to the ground level then away from the home. An effective gutter system is important to ensure that the ground around the home's foundation stays dry. If rainwater accumulates around the foundation, the moisture often begins seeping into the basement to eventually cause water damage.

Rain Chains

Rain chains originated in Japan and combine the enjoyable sounds of moving water with tinkling metal. Rain chains, typically made of copper, come in a wide variety of styles and shapes. Some rain chains are actual linked chains that channel water down from the gutters. Other rain chains are stacked copper cups that move rainwater down to the ground level. Often rain chains empty out into a bowl or even a rain barrel on the ground.

Rain Chain Disadvantages

When installing rain chains, the optimal eave overhang is 3 feet to provide enough space for the chains. Homeowners without sufficient space between the eaves and the siding may be able to modify or create a system that provides enough space by connecting an elbow downspout directly to the gutter then adding a rain chain. In geographic areas where rainwater contains a high level of acid, copper and brass develop a patina, which can be negative or positive depending upon the homeowner’s view.

Use Both

Although affordable and easy to install, rain chains cannot channel a heavy volume of rain. Homeowners who live in areas that receive heavy rainfall should not set up a gutter system that channels over 30 feet of gutter into one rain chain, according to Mark Ward, Sr., author of “Architectural Downspouts.” A combination of both downspouts and rain chains may better serve these homes. Some homeowners install rain chains only in areas where they can enjoy listening to and seeing the water trickling down -- near a backyard porch or patio, for example -- and use standard downspouts for all other areas of the home.