Are rain chains better than downspouts? Home renovation experts advise

This ornamental solution is (almost) too good-looking to be practical – experts discuss their efficiency and whether they're right for you

Rain chain
(Image credit: Alamy)

It's hard to look past the aesthetic qualities of a rain chain, the ornamental garden staple that serves a purpose beyond its good looks. 

If you've asked yourself, 'what is a rain chain?', it is likely that you've read up on its function – which is to collect rainwater from your roof and gutters – and channel it down into your borders. However, while you may know what a rain chain is and does, its efficiency may feel slightly less explored. 

In all their beauty, it is hard to believe that a rain chain is as practical as its less aesthetic alternatives – the most prominent being a gutter downspout. 

Therefore, we asked experts, should you trust your rain chain? And are they better (or even as effective) as a downspout? Here's what those in the know what you to know. 

Are rain chains better than downspouts?

'Rain chains have generally been viewed as a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to downspouts, but they’re also incredibly efficient,' says Des Brosnan, a gardening and home maintenance expert at Brosnan Property Solutions (opens in new tab)

Rain chain in a wet garden

(Image credit: Alamy)

The most obvious benefit of a rain chain is how they look. 

'The main appeal of a rain chain is its look, they come in a wide variety of different styles, materials, and colors. If you live in a colder part of the world, they can also freeze, leaving you with a free ice sculpture,' Des Brosnan says. However, there are more hidden benefits to choosing this method. 

'Rain chains are also far quieter than regular downspouts,' Des says. 'More upmarket chains [such as this one on Amazon (opens in new tab)] will come equipped with small cups which help to slow down the flow of water as it travels down the chain. This creates a trickle effect as opposed to that gushing sound you get during a downpour from regular drainpipes. It also helps the surrounding areas around the chain.' 

Rain chain in a wet garden

(Image credit: Alamy)

Because the water travels slower down a rain chain (in comparison to downspouts), it loses its energy, which, in turn, reduces erosion and damage to the soil around the chain. So, if you're tired of clearing out clogged drains and downspouts, Des Brosnan suggests that a rain chain could be for you. 'There’s nothing to clog, so they’ll just keep ticking over,' he adds. 

I installed a rain chain and will never water my plants with tap water again – so I know it's the most sustainable option – and is a surprising way to save money at home, arguably, one of the most significant advantages of this therapeutic tool. 

However, it is vital to note that you should not replace all your downspouts, as this method is a stronger way of collecting rainwater. This is especially important if you live in an environment with notably heavy downpours or high winds. 

'We’d advise using rain chains to the front of the house or more visible areas as you’ll get the best of both worlds – a beautiful water feature that’s also practical while your downspouts are doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in the background,' Des concludes. 

While there are many advantages (as discussed above), it is hard to rival their decorative benefits. 'Rain chains, even if they are just ornamental, may improve the visual attractiveness of a home’s exterior,' says Terrence Thompson from Cut Above The Rest Seamless Gutters (opens in new tab).

'They are one of the most unusual gifts you might give someone because of how unique they are as garden ornaments.' So, while a downspout is stronger, this alternative unrivaled when it comes to adding the most curb appeal.

What is the advantage of a rain chain?

While there are many advantages (as discussed above), it is hard to rival their decorative benefits. 'Rain chains, even if they are just ornamental, may improve the visual attractiveness of a home’s exterior,' says Terrence Thompson from Cut Above The Rest Seamless Gutters (opens in new tab).

'They are one of the most unusual gifts you might give someone because of how unique they are as garden ornaments.' So, while a downspout is stronger, this alternative unrivaled when it comes to adding the most curb appeal.

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