Rain chains are dumb and destructive to your home-use rain cups instead!
The roof, flashings, gutters and downspouts on your home all play different but important roles in shedding and controlling rain water off of and away from your home.
Your home has a “rain shield” system
The roof and flashing systems are the first lines of defense. They serve to shed the water and to keep it from penetrating into the structure by moving it downhill via gravity to the roof edges.
The gutters are the next defensive line. They capture the water as it sheds off of the lower edges of the roof. Once the water is collected, it is moved (again by gravity) through the slightly-sloped gutter to a downspout opening.
Once the water leaves the gutter it is the downspout’s job to deliver it downward in a controlled manner safely either to the ground or into a drain system.
The weak link
“Rain chains” are used frequently on homes as a substitute for downspouts. This usually takes place in locations where a normal downspout would be ugly or just doesn’t work mechanically. This can happen at a roof edge that extends past the exterior wall leaving no place to attach a downspout.
The issue I have with rain chains is they cannot and do not control the runoff water.
In theory rain chains provide the water a pathway to trickle out of the gutter and then run down the length of the chain to the ground. Unfortunately, rain very seldom happens in trickles as it would during a nice, calm, wind-free day. Usually rain happens during storms with wind blowing and water flowing.
In storm conditions rain chains are worse than useless…as if they were not there at all. Wind blows the water off the chain and all over the structure in a wide arc of destruction. If it lands on the ground, it may end up in places you do not want it, like at the base of your foundation. I have seen a lot of damage to siding, windows doors and foundations caused by relying on rain chains instead of downspouts.
Rain cups, the better option
An alternative, and much better solution is to utilize “Rain Cups” instead of rain chain. Rain cups are a vast upgrade in both looks and in how the water is controlled during its decent to the ground. You can search for Rain cups on the internet by looking for custom or decorative rain chains.
Rain cups come in a vast array of decorative materials and shapes. Get large cups 3-4” in diameter or larger if your area is subject to heavy rains. Don’t get cheap versions with tiny cups. These are as worthless as chains and not worth the time to install.
Rain cups fit under the downspout opening in the bottom of your gutters. They normally come pre-assembled, with instructions and are fairly easy to install, but you will need a tall ladder so be careful. Anchor rain cups at the bottom so they cannot be blown around in strong winds and cause damage. Anchoring can be done simply enough with a stake or even a heavy rock placed in the bottom cup.
If you already have rain chains or are considering them for your home, I highly recommend you abandon the idea and go with a rain cup version instead. Rain cups control the water well and can be a very attractive addition to your home. They will even create a pleasant water feature during an otherwise gloomy storm if placed in a good location. Check out the video below to see some 3″ copper rain cups in action.