What if you could take an ordinary, functional object and transform it into a work of art? What if that object could add a peaceful, Feng Shui feeling to your home? Meet the Japanese rain chain, an object that can turn your rain gutters into a water sculpture.
Rain chains are an alternative to the traditional gutter downspout, which controls the flow of water from your roof to the ground. Traditional downspouts are a square tube running along the side or corner of your house. A rain chain replaces that tube with a vertical chain running from your roof to the ground. Many rain chains feature cups strung along the chain. With or without cups, the rain chain controls the flow of water, keeping it away from your house, while giving the appearance of a waterfall.
Rain chains can be a beautiful addition to your home, creating a peaceful feeling. Many homeowners love the sound made as water flows down their rain chains. The sound will vary based on the style of cup used.
Cups come in all imaginable styles, including pineapples, Cala lily’s and the traditional Japanese lotus (a symbol of the royal family in Japan).
The Japanese have used rain chains, known as "kusari doi," for hundreds of years. Buddhist temples in Japan often feature elaborate rain chain designs, as do many homes. In the days before running water, rain chains were an important way for families to collect water.
They first gained wide attention in the US during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano and have quickly become popular.
While rain chains are beautiful, they do not have quite the utility of traditional downspouts. Since they are open, water can splash from the cups during heavy rain, which means you will want to hang the chains away from exterior walls.
"People ask about the functionality of rain chains and whether they can handle a large volume of water," says Mike Milliman of GutterSupply.com, "A good rule of thumb in high rainfall areas is not to exceed more than 25 to 30 feet of gutter draining into one rain chain.
Rain chains also need an object at the bottom of the chain as a splash block for the falling water. The bottom can be a metal or stone basin in the traditional Japanese style, while many US homeowners use a cedar box filled with pebbles.
Though they can be made of just about any material, rain chains are usually made of copper or brass.
Rain chains retail for $8 to $20 per linear foot, though handcrafted versions may sell for as much as $50 per foot. That’s more expensive that a traditional downspout, but a good price for a piece of sculpture that beautifies your home.
Mike Milliman is founder and partner of GutterSupply.com, the leading manufacturer and distributor of Rain Chain, Copper Rain Chains, and related tools and equipment.