Rain Chains as a Replacement for Gutter Downspouts

Rain Chains as a Replacement for Gutter Downspouts

One of the most common questions we receive is “are rainchains really a good replacements forgutter downspouts?”  We often getthis question from homebuilders, roofers and gutter installers who are new torain chains (never having installed them) and have a client who wants theminstalled instead of downspouts. The short answer is not only “yes,” but that they are in most cases a superior choice.  Of course the writer of this article isa bit biased writing for Rain Chains Direct, however the good news is that itis absolutely true.  In thisarticle I will explain the reasons why.

To understand how rain chains can be a superior choice toconventional gutter downspouts it is first helpful to understand the functionof them in the first place.  Therainwater that falls on a roof must be managed so that it falls off of the roofin a controlled manner.  This is sothat it does not get too close to the foundation and also so that it remainsclear of falling over the threshold points for entering and exiting thestructure.  In order to accomplishthis gutters and downspouts are placed along the edges of the roof to capturethe runoff.  The size of the roofwill determine the frequency of downspouts that are needed.  Rain chains fulfill the purpose of thedownspout by acting as the conduit through which water travels from the gutterlining the roof to the ground or catchment system below.

If water were to simply fall out of a hole in the gutterwithout a downspout to lead it to the ground (and most often an elbow at thebottom to direct it away from the foundation and to mitigate the impact of thefalling water) then the falling water would be more likely to cause erosion atthe point it hits the ground not to mention the uncontrolled manner in whichthe water would be exiting the gutter. Downspouts of course solve this problem.

Rain chains fulfill the same purpose but also with someadded benefits as well.  Both linkand cup style chains break the flow of water as it is guided to the ground sothat the impact is mitigated (as in the case of the elbow at the bottom of thedownspout).  Downspouts are oftenrun from the gutter then back closer to the structure before they make theirrun downward until the elbow takes the exiting water away from the structureagain.  This type of installationmakes sense both structurally and aesthetically because downspouts are usuallynot something that most people want that visible – so the more it can be hiddenfrom plain sight, the better. However rain chains are different in this respect.

Rain chains don’t need to be hidden because they are made tobe seen – in other words they are far more attractive than conventionalspouts.  Far from detracting fromthe look of the gutter system, they most often complement the look of thestructure.  And because they aredesigned to channel the water straight down from the gutter hole,  they don’t need to be routed backcloser to the structure on their way back down to the ground.  Because they are already (typically)set apart from the structure at the point of exit from the gutter, they don’tneed to be carried away from it such as in the case of a downspout that isattached to the side of the structure. In cases where the overhang of the gutter is not set far enough apartfrom the structure, a splash block can be used to carry away the water at thepoint at which it meets the ground. 

Often the questions is raised as to whether the chain causesexcess splashing.  Although rain chainsdo have a certain amount of splashing due to the fact that they are an opensystem, the splashing should not be any more excessive than the exit point of aconventional downspout, given there are adequate exit points for the size ofthe roof.

So, rain chains ultimately not only fulfill the samefunctions of the conventional downspout, but they also have the added benefitof accenting the overall look of the architecture.  The clear trend in new construction is toward a greater useof rain chains in lieu of downspouts. Every indication is that this trend will continue to grow.