Why We Can’t Recommend Rain Chains

Rain chains may replace down spouts and down pipes in Japan, where they are treasured for their cultural value and intrinsic beauty. They are becoming an innocent fad among some homeowners in Calgary, but they are no substitute for the real thing with our climate.

That’s because they are cute ideas for transporting small amounts of rainwater from eavestroughs to water features or water-wise gardens. But unfortunately they just can’t cope with heavy rain and wind in a storm.

Rain Chains Can’t Replace the Efficiency of Modern Drainage

The flashing, gutters and downspouts on Calgary homes combine to lead water from roofs to the ground, where storm water drainage leads it away. The walls and windows stay dry, and the foundations avoid water penetration. However, like a sports team they all need each other for the system to work.

The eavestrough gutters bring the rain and melt under control, but they will soon fill up and over flow. The downspouts receive it, and carry it down in a controlled fashion. However, if they discharge at the bottom the force of the water could erode the foundations, perhaps leading to structural problems.

The shoe at the bottom of the pipe breaks the force of the falling water, and directs it into the storm water drainage system. This could be an open ditch, an enclosed pipe, or gently sloping terrain leading away from the building.

Rain Chains Look Pretty But Where Does the Water Go?

The short answer is the rain and melt keep coming, and this accumulates on the ground. Rain chains may work reasonably well if they replace an existing downspout feeding into a storm water runoff. However, rain chains can’t control large amounts of water properly, especially if there is a wind blowing.

That wind flings the water off the rain chain in a wide arc in an uncontrolled fashion. This can stain siding, gradually wash away foundations, and make the doors and windows dirty all over again.

Should We Ban Rain Chains Completely?

The impacts we have seen inclines us to say yes. You could still make an artificial rain chain of course, with water circulating down it with the help of a small pump. We for ourselves at Valiant Exteriors would never use rain chains instead of down pipes. That’s because it will just be our luck a storm breaks while we are out of town.


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Rain chain of a building in Asakusa near Nakamise: Image Dquai BY CC 4.0

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