What is a Cup Rain Chain?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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A cup rain chain is a decorative garden accessory as well as a water draining piece that fits onto the end of a roof gutter. It's designed to be used instead of a closed gutter downspout. Cup rain chains feature a vertical row of small, individual cups made of metal. They're available in many different shapes and designs that allow roof water to have an almost waterfall effect as it flows down the side of a building to flow through the cups.

Cup rain chains originated with Japanese houses and temples which used them as water collecting vessels. During a rainfall, the chain of metal cups would direct the water that fell off of the roof into a barrel. The Japanese used this rainwater inside their homes and temples. Today, depending on the country, a cup rain chain is likely to be just a decorative way of guiding the water downward from house roof gutters. Rain chains are designed to fit onto a corner house eave on a gutter drain hole.

The number of separate metal cups on a rain chain will vary according to its overall size. Copper and aluminum are two of the most common metals used for cup rain chain styles. Although the shape of the cups vary, typically, they have tapered sides. Rectangular, cylindrical and round cups are all usually narrower at the bottom than the top. This design helps each cup receive and drain its flow of rainwater effectively.


A rain chain cup is open at both ends. It may also feature cut-out shapes or patterns. Cut-out cup rain chains allow even more water to flow out than the solid sided ones. A metal chain typically links the individual cups together. Since there is a space between each cup, the water flow is very noticeable even in solid walled cups.

Rather than just the visual pleasure that watching a cup rain chain can provide, the sound of the flowing water can also be pleasing. Many people like the sound of fountains and the sight of waterfalls, and a rain chain can offer some of the similar effects in a more compact, vertical way. Rather than keeping the closed rainwater runoff pipe that may be built onto a home, it can usually be removed to fit a cup rain chain in the same place. Measurements should be taken before purchasing the rain chain though just to make sure. Many garden centers sell cup rain chains along with other accessories.


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