How to Make a Rain Chain

My Garden Life
July 27, 2019
Table of Contents
Rain chains are a fun and easy way to add a unique water feature to your landscape. The idea originated in Japan where they have been in use for hundreds of years. Rain chains are called “kusari toi” (or “kusari doi”) in Japanese which literally translated means, “chain gutter”. They can be found adorning homes, temples and tea houses. Rain chains were originally made of rope fabricated from plant materials and evolved to actual chain when metal-work became more commonplace.
rain water flowing down a rain chain
Rain chains attach to your gutter’s downspout in place of a drain pipe. Beyond their ornamental value, they serve a very practical purpose. By channeling water slowly, they help reduce erosion and allow water to percolate more evenly into the soil. Distributing water in this way also helps reduce the pressure on your community storm systems that collect and redirect large volumes of water runoff.
While decorative rain chains can be purchased, they can be expensive. Here are the basics for making your own rain chain out of metal-link chain. Depending on what type of materials you use, you can go with a streamlined, contemporary look or a crafty and colorful display.

Supplies:

Supplies needed to make a rain chain

  • Length of chain the distance from your gutter to the ground. (Chain is available for purchase by the foot at many hardware stores.)
  • Metal strip approximately 12” long, ½” wide. It needs to be thin enough that you can bend it, but sturdy enough to hold the weight of your chain.
  • Spool of wire
  • Pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Bag of medium-sized decorative landscape rocks
  • Optional: Decorative bowl, bucket, or barrel
  • Optional: Decorative objects

Directions:

1. If you are not attaching decorative objects to your chain, jump ahead to step 5.

2. If you are attaching decorative objects to your rain chain, lay the chain out and decide how you want to arrange your items and the amount of spacing between them.

Lay out the design of a rain chain

Pro tip: Once you know the layout of your items you can temporarily hang your chain from a hanger and attach them. This way you can assess the overall look as you go.
temporarily hang a rain chain from a clothes hanger to work on attaching decorative objects

3. To attach objects, loop wire through the hook, through the object if there is a natural hole, or wrap it around the object. Use enough wire that you will have two even lengths left to loop through a chain link in the next step.

Attach decorative objects to a rain chain using wire

4. Loop the wire through a link and twist the two wires together until you have about a half inch of twisted wire. Snip the two ends off then tuck and wrap the remaining wire in towards the chain link.

Attach decorative objects to a rain chain using wire

5. Before attaching your rain chain to your gutter, if you have a downspout attached you will need to remove it.

6. Create a bracket from the metal strip by bending it first into a “v” shape. Next bend each side so that the ends are long enough to securely rest on either side of the downspout opening. (Rain chain gutter clips can also be purchased online.)

rain chain bracket to attach to gutter spout

7. Rest the bracket across the gutter with the “v” placed down through the downspout opening.

8. Attach the rain chain to the bracket through the underside of the downspout opening using sturdy wire, an “S” hook, or slide the chain onto the bracket.

Finishing Touches

Traditionally rain chains are secured to the ground in a shallow pit filled with decorative rocks, but you can get more creative.

rain chain mounted to the ground surrounded by decorative stones

You can weight your chain with a heavy rock or large piece of driftwood, direct it into a large planter of water-loving plants or place your chain into a water barrel to store water for your garden plants.

collect water from rain chains in decorative containers

Attaching Decorative Objects

It’s fun to attach small trinkets that will give your rain chain a touch of your unique, personal style. You’ll want to choose items that can hold up to weather and water and that you can either drill through, or wrap with wire to attach to the chain. Some examples are wire-wrapped stones, sea shells, glass crystals or large beads, broken shards of old porcelain cups and saucers, stones with naturally occurring holes in them, and driftwood. Check out thrift stores for large pendants and earrings that can be taken apart and turned into ornaments.

You could create a whimsical rain chain for a poolside cabana or a playhouse roof by attaching plastic items such as fish, flying dragons, or rubber ducks. Screw small eye-hooks into the plastic to create a hanger.

rubber ducks, fish or other toys can be used to make whimsical rain chain ornaments

Seashells are a fun, natural decoration for a rain chain that go very well with the water theme. To attach them you’ll need to carefully drill a hole through the shell to insert a wire. Try adding a bead for extra color or a little sparkle.

Drill a hole through a seashell and attach wire to make an ornament

Pro tip: If you are thinking about attaching small trinkets along your rain chain consider using metal wire Christmas ornament hooks instead of a spool of wire. They’re simple to attach and the wire is easily bent to secure your items.


rain chain with decorative trinkets attached

If you love the rain chain look but can’t replace a drain spout to hang one, consider making one as garden decoration and hang it with an “S” hook from a wall bracket attached to a shed or garage, or hang it from a shepherd’s hook in the garden.

What will you do to give your rain chain a personal touch? Show us your rain chain creations by sharing a photo to the My Garden Life Facebook page.

An assortment of different rain chains

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