Roofs are a complicated thing. There’s a lot to them, from flashing and shingles to decking, maintenance, and drainage. It can be a bit overwhelming. And yet, it’s also the most important single component of your house, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s your first and last line of defense against a lot of major natural ravages.
A prime example is that the sun, while vital to life, is also this raging atomic fireball, and from it there comes to a lot of intense heat and UV radiation which your shingles have to absorb and shed, as well as deflect.
It has to contain your climate control so that you don’t have your energy bills skyrocketing to unmanageable levels. It has to prevent pests, which can be dangerous or at the very least unpleasant, from invading and making themselves at home. It has to protect your possessions from the weather.
If it’s in bad enough shape, your home could lose its resale value, enrage neighbors with its curb appeal decreasing their resale value, or even get your home condemned. But one of the most important things it does, is to thwart water damage.
Importance of Drainage
Water damage is probably the most insidious problem that can come from a damaged or poorly-maintained roof. Water will get in anywhere gravity and a path of least resistance will enable, and it will pool up, becoming leaks, which then become spreading water damage.
This water damage, in turn, will rapidly accelerate the compromise of structural integrity, the decay of plaster and drywall, ruin your possessions, and above all else, cultivate mold and mildew. The latter is exceptionally hazardous because, on top of being unpleasant, black mold can actually be unspeakable toxic, even lethal to the young, the elderly and the infirm.
Roofs are designed to prevent this, from the pitch to them, the overlap of shingles, the seal of flashing and the like, and of course, proper drainage. Gutters are crucial in safely and effectively directing the water away from the roof, to a downspout system where it can be spilled out onto the ground. While you need to be aware of your landscaping in positioning downspouts, this mostly works out pretty well.
However, what many people may not know is that downspouts aren’t the only choice out there. Few people are actually aware of the concept of a rain chain.
What is a Rain Chain?
Never heard of a rain chain? That’s not surprising, they’re not that common in the United States or Canada, and only marginally more prolific in places like Europe, though it’s debatable that a more basic take on them may predate downspouts due to being easier to implement in a primitive setting.
Put simply, they are a series of bowl or funnel-shaped cups suspended from rope or chain in a stacked manner, with an aperture at the bottom which releases the water in a more gradual, bottlenecked fashion from one tier to the next.
Some variations (mostly for effect) are on swivels, which causes them to tip and spill in sequence from one to the next, though this isn’t as common, and is therefore rarely seen. These can be made of a variety of materials including ceramics, porcelain, brass, copper, steel or even wood, though most manufactured ones are copper or steel these days.
They tend to have more of a decorative look to them due in no small part to the fact that there’s more you can do with individual cup/bowl structures than you can with a piece of nondescript vertical pipe.
Rain Chains vs Traditional Downspouts
At the end of the day, downspouts and rain chains have the same ultimate goal – to direct water from gutters to a more precisely-located ground-based target. They both rely on gravity to do this, so neither requires particularly more technology than the last.
So, aside from the unique look of rain chains, and the waterfall-like soothing swishing sound they produce, what advantages might a rain chain offer over a traditional downspout, and what’s the catch?
One big advantage a rain chain can have is that it’s an open-air concept through and through. This means that if a clog forms (a problem with downspouts), it’s just going to be gunk sitting in one of the rain cups, which can easily be found, accessed, and cleaned out.
Rain chains also offer a somewhat more precision and controlled flow to the water when it becomes vertical. The series of catching cups means that the water will never achieve the speed it will in a vertical pipe, allowing it to be more gently released without splatter or erosive flow, and thus also making them ideal for rain barrels or other receptacles you may wish to store this water in for future use.
What’s the catch? Well, they’re more elaborate which can be a problem in severe wind storms, and they’re open to pests like birds or insects. They also can overflow if the rainfall is intense enough, making an unholy mess.
Finally, they may be a bit more of a pain to install than a vertical downspout (which is about the easiest thing in the world to put in place, with a 30 second online tutorial under your belt).
Of course, the overflow problems is only for smaller rain chains, and bigger cups exist, and you can always anchor it against winds under about 110mph readily enough.
What You Need for Proper Installation
While not quite as easy as just replacing your downspout, installing a rain chain isn’t really difficult, and comes with a simple fastening kit and a hole reduction attachment for the gutter.
Simply remove the downspout, attach the chain to the attachment rod, which slides through the hole in the gutter. If the chain is too long, you can easily remove one or more cups until it’s at a length you’re happy with.
These chains are sold by the foot generally, and while they’re generally costlier than a downspout at a standard 8.5 foot length, you can spend $100 for a basic one and still be pretty happy with it.
To learn more about rain chains and other roof draining technologies, fill out our contact form today.