Raindrops on Rooftops

Filed in Gardening by on June 1, 2015


Photo Source: rainchains.com

by Wanda Perkins


For centuries, Japanese homes and businesses have utilized rain cups and chains to capture overflow water from rooftops. Unique custom made gutters and water collection systems are another popular alternative for homeowners. There are thoughtful options to traditional downspouts and gutters that protect your home and offer an attractive appearance as well.


Besides their artistic beauty, functionality and tranquil sounds, rain cups and chains offer homeowners one decorative way to replace traditional downspouts and gutters. “Rain chains are a functional and pleasing alternative to regular downspouts. They are artistic downspouts,” notes Garm Beall, owner of RainChains.com in Canoga Park, California. “They add an artistic and sculptural touch to a home’s exterior, while creating pleasing, soothing creek-like burbling or white noise sounds. Rain chains turn a gutter system into a water feature, allowing us to see cascading water as it is drained to the ground.”


There are several benefits to installing rain chains. They replace the downspout of a home’s gutter system by using a boring tube which carries rain water and then spills it into a catchment center. “Carrying water to the ground like a downspout helps minimize erosion and drains water to the ground where it can be carried away from the foundation of the home,” Beall describes. “And they look great even when it’s not raining!”


Accessories are also available for installation of rain chains near the top where they connect to the gutter. “Dishes, stakes and basins are available to secure the chain at the bottom in windy places, though this is not necessary in most locations,” Beall adds. “Homeowners may choose to use pottery, stones, pebbles and other creative treatments to personalize their installations.”


A variety of ornate designs using copper, aluminum, brass, stainless steel and iron finishes are available for every distinguishing preference. Rain chains and cups typically use an ornamental urn, rain barrel or ceramic pot to catch excess rain water. These also come in many shapes, sizes, colors and finishes and offer an attractive accent piece to a home’s exterior.


Should you choose cups or chains? “Rain chains are divided into two broad categories: link styles and cup styles,” explains Beall. “Link chains are a traditional, open design (easy to see through) and less conspicuous, although they splash more than cup designs. Cups with open bottoms focus the water and pass it down from cup to cup. These are able to handle larger water flow requirements with minimal splashing.”


There are other unique ways to divert water that offer beautiful curbside appeal. David O’Brien Wagner AIA, Principal at SALA Architects in Minneapolis recalls two projects that utilized interesting water drainage systems. On one project, Wagner incorporated a roof spout off a long custom made gutter. “The dining room, which spans across a dry creek bed, has floor-to-ceiling windows which allow both the gutter and spout to be seen from inside,” Wagner recalls. “During a rain event, water flows to the spout where it shoots forth and dramatically cascades to the rocks below.”


“For another homeowner,” Wagner describes, “I designed a butterfly roof to focus all of the roof rainwater to an open copper downspout where it then travels into a boulder strewn stream meandering through the homeowner’s Japanese garden.”


“Water is an elemental and powerful force that if not dealt with can be damaging to a building. But that same force can be fascinating when collected and visually channeled in architectural design,” Wagner responds. “I will often design a feature gutter or trough to collect water and divert it to a spout, rain chain, or open downspout where the action of the water becomes an event to celebrate during a rainstorm.”


Besides protecting your home from erosion and the decorative and aesthetic beauty non-traditional rain systems provide, there are other benefits to consider. Rain water provides plantings, bushes, shrubbery and gardens with an extra boost of nutrients that water from garden hoses simply cannot supply. Moreover, they are an environmentally friendly way to recycle and repurpose nature’s own water supply.


“The beauty of water can also be collected and used in several beneficial ways,” continues Wagner. “Many of my designs will gather water in a cistern for landscape watering or collect it in a rain garden and allow it to slowly infiltrate into the ground. This creates a way to divert water away from often overtaxed city storm water systems. Additionally, this diversion prevents direct runoff to lakes and streams which commonly contributes to flooding, erosion and water contamination.”


Whether you opt for handcrafted cups or rain chains or lean towards a custom made creation, your rain collection system will bring years of protection for your home. And the peaceful sounds from collecting rain water, the artistic charm, and the architectural interest of your design will enhance the beauty of your home’s exterior.



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