The purpose of a rain chain is to control roof runoff. Installed in place of downspouts, the chains slow the water and direct it to the ground. The chains come in three basic types: links, cups and funnels. Originating in Japan, the Japanese rain chain is referred to as "kusari doi" which means "chain gutter."
The link style Rain Chains with their simple lines, more closely resemble the original Japanese chains, however they tend to splash much more than cup or funnel styles, and this may be important when they are considered for areas that are near doors, windows or walkways.
Modern designs are primarily made from copper, aluminum, and brass. Their function is to direct rain water down from the gutters, where normally the water would flow into the downspout. Although the water is not contained, in the way a downspout would perform.
Copper rain cups or funnels are the preferred choice for it's weathering ability, durability and natural beauty of copper's ever changing patina.
Cup or funnel style designs are a great improvement over links chains in performance and efficiency. A series of fluted cup-like containers with open bottoms, they act as funnels which catch the water, fill, and overflow into the container below it. Even in heavy rainfall, cup styles splash very little, so they can be placed anywhere.
A rain cups visual and sound effects of the swirling, falling water is soothing and relaxing to watch during a rain shower. At the bottom, the water can empty onto the ground, or on a small patch of landscaped gravel or pebbles to which the rain chain is anchored with a weight.
Often times the rain water is directed into a decorative basin. A catch basin can be any suitable container. Ceramic, terra cotta, stoneware pots or copper basin. Rain cups are also frequently used above a rain barrels.
Rain cups or chains are not recommended for areas prone to heavy rain storms or where gathering every drop is critical. Downspouts are more efficient for that type of climate.
Rain cups or chains are unique and beautiful, enhancing areas that otherwise go unnoticed. Installation is easy, and the price is reasonable. For all this, adding Japanese Rain chains as a downspout replacement is an attractive alternative.
Installation is usually quite simple. Most chains come with simple attachment hardware. First, remove the old downspout. Next, clip the chain to the attachment rod and insert the rod through the hole in the bottom of the gutter. Let the rod lie horizontally across the downspout opening.
a separate installation kit is used to reduce the hole size and focus water downward into the chain. The Installation Kit also provides an outlet tube or funnel, preventing water from running along the underside of the gutter. The chain can be adjusted in height by adding or removing one or more of the cups.
There is a possibility of damage to the rain cups in areas of heavy snow and ice. It's best to take the rain cups down during a big snowstorm to prevent damage to your rain cups or to your gutters.
In areas of high wind, rain cups and chains should be anchored or weighted so they do not swing heavily.
Link style chains are sold by the foot. The cup or funnel variety comes in standard 8 1/2 foot lengths. However, both can be ordered in custom lengths. Prices vary as to length, type and material, but generally range from $100 to $200, up to over $400 for the fancy ones. For custom lengths, measure before ordering, and order a bit longer than you need. You can always cut out a link section or disconnect cups to adjust the length. There are plenty of rain chain suppliers online. My favorite happens to be Rain Chains Direct, but you can also find them at garden supply stores and nurseries.
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