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what is a rain chain?

5 Reasons Homeowners are Choosing Rain Chains over Gutter Downspouts

Ask any homeowner: rain is one of the major challenges of protecting a home and its roof. Whether you live in a dry climate or a remarkably wet one, you’ll need to install some sort of mechanism to guide water down a drain.

Some homeowners are surprised to learn that there are options for water drainage beyond the traditional gutter downspout. Recently, a more attractive and very effective alternative has become more prevalent: the rain chain.

While having recently surged in popularity here in North America, rain chains have actually been used for centuries in Asia. They originated in Japan, where they are called kusari-doi. They are still used today to keep water runoff away from the roofs of both homes and religious temples. Like many items that hail from Japan, rain chains are a perfect mix of functionality and beauty.

Already ready to pick out a rain chain?

Read on to discover seven reasons why more and more people are turning to rain chains to keep their homes safe and stylish.

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1. Rain Chains Are Just Plain Pretty

But rain chains were meant to be showcased, not camouflaged. They can be simple or ornate; classic or themed. Colorful or copper-colored. Some feature hearts; others, watering cans or lilies or pineapples. Rain chains are understated but charming. Plus, they enhance the beauty of other garden decor like stone statues or outdoor chimes.

This Lily Cup Rain Chain Makes a Great Gift

Plain and simple, rain chains offer curb appeal—even if they’re just for show. And because they’re one of the more unique pieces of garden decor available, they make an incredibly special gift.

2. Rain Chains Are Easy to Install

You can hire an expert—or bribe your son-in-law—to install a rain chain for you… but you don’t have to! Rain chain installation is relatively simple and intuitive, and most buyers find they are able to handle setup themselves. You can see our installation guide further down this article. Whether you live in a dry climate or a remarkably wet one, you’ll need to install some sort of mechanism to guide water down a drain as well as a way to keep your gutters free of debris.


This rain chain is great for any home.

If you are adding it onto a gutter that lines the top of your roof, then you can simply use a gutter clip to secure the rain chain to the gutter. These are typically included with a rain chain. For extra support, use a simple stake or anchor to secure the end of the rain chain to an existing drain. In keeping with Japanese tradition, many homeowners will cover the drain below a rain chain with assorted pebbles and stones.

3. Rain Chains Are Affordable

Many buyers incorrectly assume that rain chains are expensive because they’re so darn pretty. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Rain chains are reasonably priced and can boost your garden’s wow factor for less than you think.

This watering can rain chain is a great gift for any gardener.

You can purchase a high-quality rain chain starting at around $50—a small price to pay for an item that’s as pretty is it is effective.

4. Rain Chains Are Less Likely to Clog

Many people will concede that rain chains are beautiful, but are resistant to making the switch because they just can’t believe something so attractive could also be so functional.

This colorful rain chain is a great way to brighten up your porch.

We all know that old muddied leaves wreak havoc on gutters. Did you know rain chains, by design, are much less likely to clog? There is simply no space for leaves and other debris to pass through these chains. Only water can move freely through them. And that’s one less thing to worry about.  

5. Rain Chains Sound Great

Gutter downspouts are industrial by default. It should be no surprise, then, that they can sound clunky and unnatural when rain is rushing down them. On the other hand, rain chains were specifically designed to create beautiful sounds when rain falls.

Rain chains look and sound great when water moves through them.

During showers and storms, water will cascade down rain chains, creating an almost waterfall-like sound effect. Psychologists consider moving water to be a form of white noise—a calming alternative to silence that famously soothes and relaxes fussy babies… and overextended adults!

For a melody custom to your own outdoor oasis, combine rain chains with unique wind chimes.

6. Rain Chains Age Beautifully

Over time, gutter downspouts will not-so-gracefully age, requiring repainting, repair and ultimately, replacement. One of the many reasons more and more homeowners have been replacing downspouts with rain chains is because the latter is actually designed to become more attractive overtime.

Many rain chains are copper or finished to appear copper, helping them age well.

Many rain chains are made of copper, an already-gorgeous element which famously develops a unique patina over the years. Others are made of steel and finished to stay copper-colored forever.

7. Rain Chains Can Also Be Purely for Decoration

Many homeowners think rain chains are gorgeous but want to keep their gutter downspout systems in tact. If you’re like these folks, there’s no reason to choose one or the other. Simply pick out a rain chain for your front porch, garden or backyard and add it to the existing gutter infrastructure.

This Heart Rain Chain Looks Great in Both Modern and Quaint Settings

Ready to pick out a rain chain? Have more questions about how rain chains work? Curious which one is best suited for your own home or garden? At Happy Gardens, we’re here to help via phone or live chat.


How do rain chains work?

Rain chains are one of our favorite ways to add both beauty and function to your outdoor space! Rain chains have become increasingly popular in recent years. They add drama and movement to otherwise still outdoor areas and create multi-sensory experiences for homeowners and passersby alike to enjoy.

If you've been considering adding one of these functional ornaments to your outdoor space, we are here to cheer you on! These inexpensive additions will help transform your front yard into a more charismatic, unique space... even on the gloomiest of days!

In this article, we'll reveal everything you need to know about rain chains, including exactly what they are, what they do, how to install them and how they'll function alongside gutters and downspouts.

A selection of rain chains

What is a rain chain?

Rain chains are a decorative, functional alternative to downspouts. They beautifully move rainwater from gutters to drains or decorative water receptacles, turning a relatively unglamorous activity into a compelling, attractive water feature.

Rain chains famously hail from Japan, where they are called kusari-doi. They are often found in contemplative gardens, beautiful temples and other iconic settings. Over the past decades, these rain chains have skyrocketed in popularity here in the United States. You'll find them not only at famed botanical gardens, but also near the porches of everyday cottages across the country.

While most homeowners go to great lengths to camouflage unsightly gutters, rain chains have been carefully designed to add character and charm to your outdoor space. You can find a rainchain in just about any color and every theme, although the copper-colored variety are definitely the most popular.

What's the point of a rain chain?

A rain chain does two things: guide rainwater to drains and receptacles, and add beauty to a home's exterior. When you install rain chains, you're beautifying your home while making it more functional, too.

For the most discerning homeowners, installing a rain chain is a great opportunity to protect your home without sacrificing curb appeal. These chains turn purely utilitarian gutters into true water features that add a new focal point to your home. Talk about a win-win!

Can you use a rain chain without gutters?

Yes, you can use a rain chain without a gutter, but you do want your rain chain to be able to capture enough water to be able to function. Cup-style rain chains can often handle more water than link-styles, so choose according to your home's needs and local climate.

You can quickly figure out how your roof handles rain, then use that information to inform your installation decisions. Run a hose on your roof for 10 to 15 minutes and see how water pools. If you have a sloped roof, rain will likely move toward a well-placed rain chain naturally. See where it goes, and place your rain chain accordingly.

You can also attach your rain chain to gutters or downspouts! This will ensure great (and good-looking!) drainage, even if you live in a climate susceptible to constant, heavy rain.

Do rain chains work in heavy rain?

Every rain chain is different, but in general, you'll want to attach your rain chain to a gutter or downspout for best results during very heavy rain. Don't worry, you won't need your gutter or downspout to go all the way to the ground. That's what the rain chain is for. The gutter or downspout will just make sure the water is properly transported to the rain chain.

If you live in a more arid climate that experiences very little rain, such as Arizona or Southern California, you'll probably be fine without gutters. If you're in South Florida or another tropical, water-rich climate, using a gutter or downspout and a rain chain for the best (and most beautiful!) results.

What do rain chains look like?

Most rain chains are copper or finished in a flamed-metal color for a copper-like, neutral effect. Over time, thanks to water and weather, rain chains often develop a rustic patina that's both charming and unique.

Rain chains have two main styles: cup or link. The cup style is better for climates with more rain, but they're both effective and attractive.

At Happy Gardens, we offer a wide selection of both cup- and link-style rain chains suitable for year-round use. Our selection ranges from rustic to modern, ornate to simple. Some of our best sellers include our shabby chic multicolor heart rain chain, our vintage-inspired watering can rain chain and our classic, romantic lily cup rain chain.

Can you build your own DIY rain chain?

You can build a DIY rain chain using simple materials such as copper, recycled sheet metal, stock tanks, rocks, copper tubing, mini planters and more. We've even seen people use old yogurt cups and cookie cutters to make kid-friendly rain chains.

For tons of DIY inspiration, check out Pretty Handy Blog. And remember, practice makes perfect. Since you're not making purely decorative crafts (such as a mobile or garden stake), this DIY project won't be quite so simple. You'll need the chain to function, not just look pretty... So ensure you test your rain chains for optimal flow.

How do you install a rain chain?

Fortunately, rain chains are relatively easy to install. So if you were wondering how to install a rain chain, know that it's something you can certainly do, likely without any help.

To install a rain chain, you'll need to select where you wish to place the rain chain, gather the required supplies for the job, and install the piece. Below, you'll find step-by-step installation instructions.

Supplies needed to install rain chains

When you buy a prefabricated rain chain, the piece may come with an installation kit. If so, you likely won't need any extra supplies or materials to install your rain chain, although you should read the installation guide carefully before beginning work. This is especially true for identifying any tools you may need.

If the rain chain you purchased doesn't come with an installation kit, you can stop by your local hardware store for the supplies you'll need to install this water feature properly.

You'll need to pick up:

  • Stones or gravel (optional)
  • Tin snips
  • Leaf filter (if required)
  • Hanging bar
  • Hacksaw
  • Tape measure
  • Gloves
  • A rain chain, if you haven't picked one out already!

Steps to install your rain chain

1. Pick a location

First thing's first: decide where to place your rain chain.

Remember, rain chains aren't just art; they can serve a function, too. So think about how rain falls outside your home, and decide accordingly. Think: where does your downspout flow into your yard? Into a landscaped area? Into a French drain? Into a rain barrel?

Rain chains present the opportunity to divert rainwater away from your house and its foundation into something far more beautiful than a gutter, but a gutter will do the trick.

Identify areas of your outdoor space that could use a little extra water. Maybe that's a landscaped area or an area that's simply away from your home's foundation

2. Adjust your gutter

If you have gutter downspouts, you might need to remove them since your rain chain will now serve as your new drainage system. Remember, rain chains can take the place of the downspout in your gutters.

3. Use tin snips to make an opening

If you adjust your gutters, you can use tin snippers to cut the gutter opening, making a hole for the rain chain.

4. Attach a hanging bar

Then, attach a hanging bar. This bar looks more like a "U" or a "V," and you can always bend a copper bar to create that shape. Once the bar is connected...

5. Hang your rain chain from a hook

It's time to hang the rain chain from a hook. Remember, you'll want to hang the rain chain precisely as outlined by the rain chain's manufacturer.

One last thing: When hanging your rain chain, don't forget to consider the weight. You don't want your rain chain to break or fall when it rains. (Remember, the rain will add to the weight put on the product.)

Using a copper V hook can help your rain chain hold up to the extra stress of inclement weather and reduce the chances it falls and breaks, leaving you with quite the mess on your hands.

6. Pick the length of your rain chain

Once your rain chain is hung, you may need to adjust its length. For a properly functioning rain chain to effectively replace a downspout, the rain chain should connect the gutter to the ground.

7. Run your chain

Now that you've picked the length, confirm that your rain chain runs perfectly from the gutter to your garden's ground. If you don't have a drain, you can use beautiful rocks or a rain chain receptacle to collect rainwater.

To keep your rain chain shorter, you can always add extra rocks to your receptacle or even use a barrel to collect rain.

8. Anchor the bottom of your chain, if needed

Finally, you might need to anchor the bottom of your rain chain to the ground. This is likely the case if you live in an area where the wind is a significant issue. While the weight of your rain chain may be enough to stabilize it, you certainly don't want the rain chain to move very much at all.

The correct anchor can save you a lot of grief and help keep your rain chain secure all year long.

About Happy Gardens

Happy Gardens is the premier destination for cheerful, unique outdoor decor and merchandise. Whether you've been curating a collection of garden decor for years or looking to purchase your first piece, we're confident that you'll find what you're looking for at Happy Gardens. Every product we stock is handcrafted to bring you happiness year after year.

Our beloved, best-selling collection of rain chains are perfect for all styles of homes and gardens. Whether you're style is eclectic or traditional, you'll find that every one of our rain chains is high-quality, beautiful and functional.

The rest of our Happy Gardens shop is stocked with garden decor essentials like garden stakes, wind chimes and wall decor items. This past year, we added merchandise and gifts for the garden lover: think wine glasses, tote bags, coffee mugs and mini planters!

Our customers, whom we call our Happy Tribe, hail from all over the United States. Some have sprawling yards and gardens to accessorize. Others have nothing but a small balcony or fire escape to jazz up. You can see how our customers use our products to customize their spaces on our Instagram page.

To be the first to learn about new products, get insightful outdoor living tips and access exclusive promotions, join our email list.

Need help picking out that perfect rain chain? Desperate for a good gift idea? Our Happy Gardens team is here to help you via chat, email or phone.

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