Rain chains, or kusari doi, have been used in Japan for hundreds of years to direct and collect water runoff. Rain chains are installed in place of downspouts, contributing both beauty and functionality. Aesthetically, rain chains are appreciated for their sight and their sound as water trickles and flows to the ground.
Rain Chain Basics
Rain chains hang from the gutter to the ground. Measure this distance so that your chain will be the appropriate length. To attach your rain chain, remove the downspout. If the hole for the downspout is large, you may need to purchase an installation kit, which comes with a reducer to direct the water to the rain chain.
Hang your chain by placing it on a straight piece of metal that spans the downspout hole, or purchase a gutter strap or rain chain hanger. Anchoring the chain to the ground will help the water flow in the direction you desire.
Simple Options for Rain Chains
Any weather-durable item that can be joined with like items can be used to make a rain chain. Examples include shower curtain rings and book rings. One simple option is to buy a length of chain, which are sold at home improvement stores by the foot in a variety of sizes and colours. If a smaller chain size appeals to you, consider hanging two or three together to form your rain chain. Even old bike chains can be repurposed as rain chains.
Making a Copper Rain Chain
Traditional rain chains are made of copper. To make one at home, you need 6 gauge copper electric wire or 1/4-inch copper tubing. Wrap the tubing tightly around a length of 3-inch PVC pipe or an aerosol can. Cut through the tubing to make rings. Join the rings into either a double or single chain. Solder the rings together or wrap them with thin copper wire at the joints. If you don't like the natural patina that develops as copper ages, coat your chain with shellac to keep it shiny.
Rain Chain Base
A finished look at the base of your rain chain is both practical and pretty. Something as simple as a grouping of medium-sized rocks helps direct the water and prevent erosion. A more elaborate rock garden adds flair .
Traditionally, rain chains are used to help collect water. This could be as complex as feeding water into an underground collection tank, or as simple as finding an appealing basin, pot or barrel that can hold water for use in your garden or flower bed. You could use a outdoor fountain as a catch basin, or add a fountain pump to a barrel or pot. If the collection container is liable to overflow, be certain to tilt it away from the foundation of your home.