Downspouts and gutters, when clean and maintained, perform an amazing service for you at a relatively low cost. Rainwater cascades down the roof, hits the gutters, gets whisked to the nearest downspout, then courses to the ground. This saves your foundation and siding from ruin.
One issue is that most downspouts tend to be fairly unattractive. Little thought is given to aesthetics when manufacturing these powder-coated, squared-off steel tubes. Basic function is the only thing in mind. Aesthetically, the best thing you can do with metal downspouts is paint them to match the house color.
Are there alternatives that look better and maybe even work better?
Downspout alternatives such as rain chains, inverted bells, and cups direct water in a more or less straight line to the ground or collection container. Some are literally chains, the type that you buy at a hardware store or home center. Others are a series of linked vertical cups, performing the same function as the chain-style ones.
All alternatives replace downspouts entirely, though they don't move as much water as downspouts do. Rain chains must be anchored at ground level to prevent swaying. It often helps to have multiple chains that allow for better water direction.
All downspouts and alternatives lead to a collection point, whether a gravel-filled pit, barrel, or diversion device that channels water away from the foundation.
Done right, downspout alternatives rise beyond mere functionality and become an artistic touch that graces your home.
01 of 06
Single Rain Chain
This type of rain chain is about as simple as it gets. All items are available at your local hardware or home improvement stores, such as Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace, or Menards.
Begin with a minimum of 1/4 inch sized chain and cut to length so that it reaches from the gutter to the ground, with about one foot of chain draping on the ground.
If you want the modern look or just don't like rust, use a zinc-plated chain. It will remain shiny through the ages, as long as the plating is undisturbed.
Single chains are not the most effective solution for moving large amounts of water, but they are the least obtrusive.
02 of 06
Hammered Copper Rain Cups
Shining and dancing with light, these copper inverted umbrella cups are hand-hammered to lend rich texture to the surface. Beyond the visual appeal, these wider types of chains do a better job of keeping falling water vertical.
Rain cups can be rather expensive, especially when multiplied several times over to accommodate all downspout areas. But they are most likely to elicit murmurs of admiration from your guests.
03 of 06
Rain Chain Cups and Barrel
This is a solution to two problems. Rain cups descend from the gutter to direct rainwater into a barrel. The barrel prevents water from pooling around the foundation or, worse, blasting between the foundation and earth like a fire hose—a major cause of crawlspace flooding.
Adding the rain barrel to the chains will certainly make this set-up green and eco-friendly. Water that normally would have been wasted can be collected in barrels and sent to garden beds by tubes. Rainwater collection and usage is a major cornerstone for developing a net-zero water use home.
04 of 06
Multiple Rain Chains Mean Better Flow
Grouping rain chains is another quick and simple way to replace your downspouts. Keep the existing gutters and run the chains through the hole at the end of the gutter.
This owner formed a circle out of stiff wire (not visible) to keep the chains separated within the rain gutter.
Because gutters are formed from thin sheet metal and often not secured attached to the home's fascia, you should be cautious about loading them up with too much weight when you add multiple chains.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Most downspouts found at home centers and hardware stores have a square or rectangular shape, which allows them to fit tightly against the side of the house. But for a smoother, more organic look, consider round downspouts and elbows. At top, they connect to half-circle gutters. You can discharge water at the bottom into a basin, and then daylight the water off-property. Or send the water to a pop-up drain somewhere in the lawn.
06 of 06
Downspout Pavement Drainage
When water from the downspout drains directly onto hard paving, it can be a mess. The water creates a slip hazard, especially in winter when ice forms. The solution is a channel drain. Made of metal or plastic, a channel drain is 4 inches wide and comes in 10-foot lengths that can be cut down to size. A channel end cap plugs one end, with the other end left open to drain the water safely away.