Rain Chain vs. Downspout: What Are the Differences?

Rain chains have become a functional and aesthetic alternative to traditional downspouts, and your customers may request them. However, the question remains: do they direct the water from the building efficiently?

In this article, we explore the concept of rain chains, how they work and their styles while comparing them to downspouts. We will also discuss cost and installation considerations and provide a comparison table for easy reference.

What Are Rain Chains?

What Are Rain Chains?

Rain chains are decorative chains made of copper, brass or aluminum links. They serve as a visually appealing and functional way to divert rainwater from gutters to the ground. Rain chains can be hung anywhere desired, and they transform into elegant landscape features when it rains.

How Do Rain Chains Work?

Rain chains rely on surface tension to direct water. The water naturally adheres to the chains which slows it down in order to minimize splashing. Cup-style rain chains feature cups that re-funnel the water as it cascades down, which reduces splashing even further. Some rain chain systems include a basin to collect rainwater and anchor at the tail-end of the chain. Rain barrels can also be placed below the chain for rainwater harvesting.

Rain Chain Styles

Rain chains come in various styles, including links and cups. Link styles are more affordable, while cup rain chains have a more noticeable and upscale appearance.

Cup-style rain chains can take on different shapes such as watering cans, lily pads and hammered cups. The choice of materials also affects the aesthetics — aluminum and steel offering silvery tones, and copper developing a distinct patina over time.

Rain Chains vs. Downspouts

Rain Chain vs Downspout: Key Differences Explained

Curb Appeal

Rain chains add a novel element to a home or garden that resembles dangling metal wind chimes. During rainy weather, they transform into fountain-esque sculptures to create a peaceful sound. While downspouts are traditionally considered purely functional, they can be enhanced with accenting colors, such as glossy copper gutters, for an elegant appearance.


When it comes to performance, downspouts have an edge over rain chains. Downspouts effectively direct water away from the building to prevent splashing that can damage windows, siding and the foundation. Rain chains, while visually appealing, may splash water during heavy rainfall and require additional drainage systems to divert overflowing runoff.


Rain chains typically cost between $40 and $300 per unit, depending on length and style. Additional expenses include the gutter adapter ($10-$25) and basin ($35-$200).

For downspouts, installers charge between $2 and $4 per linear foot of aluminum downspout for a total cost between $30 and $75 per downspout for a typical home.


Rain chains and downspouts have a relatively easy installation compared to other exterior home components:

  • Rain chain kits include the hardware that slides into the downspout cutout, and basins are used to collect water and anchor the chains.

  • Downspouts can be professionally installed or done as a DIY project by cutting a hole at the low end of the gutters and attaching the downspout.

Comparison Table

Comparison Category

Rain Chains


Curb Appeal

Novel and aesthetic

Can be enhanced with accenting colors


May splash water during heavy rainfall

Effectively direct water away from the building


$40-$300 per unit

$30-$75 per downspout


Relatively easy

Can be professionally installed or DIY

Downspouts: Traditional and Aesthetically Pleasing

Downspouts: Traditional and Aesthetically Pleasing

Downspout and Drain - Geograph

Downspouts are a traditional solution for directing water away from the building and have the flexibility to be aesthetically pleasing:

  • Downspouts can be aesthetically enhanced with various accenting colors. For instance, a glossy copper downspout adds a touch of elegance to a property, by subtly enhancing its visual appeal.

  • Besides redirecting rainwater, downspouts also play a crucial role in protecting buildings from potential water damage.

  • They can be professionally installed or can also be set up as a DIY project, for flexibility in terms of installation.

Innovations and Future Trends in Rainwater Diversion

Exciting innovations and future trends are shaping the world of rainwater products.

One advancement is the emergence of smart rainwater systems, which not only optimize water collection and conservation but can also direct rain runoff. These systems utilize technology to monitor rainfall patterns, water levels and effectively manage the flow of rainwater to prevent overflow and maximize utilization.

Efficiency of Downspouts in Directing Runoff

Downspouts are highly efficient in managing rainwater runoff for several reasons.

  1. They use gravity to effectively divert rainwater from the roof to the ground, to reduce the risk of water damage to the building's structure. Unlike rain chains, downspouts can handle large volumes of water, which makes them ideal for heavy rainfall regions.

  2. Downspouts are typically designed to guide the water away from the building's foundation. This prevents soil erosion around the foundation and mitigates risks associated with water intrusion into basements and crawl spaces.

  3. When paired with a well-designed gutter system, downspouts can prevent the unwanted splashing of water on windows and walls to help preserve the aesthetic and structural integrity of the property.

Alsco's Downspouts: The Perfect Blend of Functionality and Aesthetics

Whether you're looking to install a new rainwater management system or replace an old one, downspouts from Alsco® are the perfect blend of functionality and aesthetics.

Explore our range of products and find a solution that not only effectively diverts rainwater but also enhances your customer’s curb appeal. Contact us today for more information!