What is a Rain Chain?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A rain chain is a garden accessory that is an aesthetically pleasing alternative to a downspout. The chain is usually made out of metal but can be made out of plastic and is composed of a series of interlocking hoops that hang down from a gutter. Surrounding this chain of hoops may be cups that help to guide the flow of water. The cups may be a simple round shape or they may be angular or in the shape of the head of a flower. In many cases, a rain chain connects from a roof down to part of a garden water feature.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

In most cases, a rain chain can support a flow of water that is equivalent to the flow of water that is supported by a downspout. This is especially true for residential structures. To accommodate heavy rainfall, one may install a double rain chain on a double or split downspout.

Just as there are a number of materials that are used to make gutters and downspouts, there are also a number of materials that are used to make rain chains. These materials can be matched. Someone who has copper gutters, for example, can outfit their home with a copper rain chain. Some people prefer to purchase copper rain chains even if they do not match the material used to make the gutters. This is because the copper rain chains are quite attractive, even after they begin to oxidize.

Some rain chain kits come with a bowl or basin that is used to collect rainwater. This rainwater may be used for gardening purposes. For areas that have mosquito problems, it is important to take the right steps to make sure that these basins do not become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Those who already have rain barrels can replace the downspout that connects to that barrel with a rain chain, even if the barrel and the rain chain are purchased separately.

The links that make up a rain chain are usually round, even if the links are surrounded by a cup. There are some exceptions. One of the most common alternative link shapes is teardrop shaped. The functionality of a rain chain is not largely determined by the shape of the loop or whether there are cups around the loop. The mere presence of the chain helps to direct the water in one direction.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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