DIYdiy projects

DIY Ombre Rain Chain

by Grace Bonney

When I visit other countries, I’m always fascinated by some of the simplest differences in even the most mundane things. A perfect example: rain chains. My husband and I visited Japan last Fall, and I noticed these beautiful copper chains — often with a series of cups — hanging from the gutters of homes and even temples. I assumed they were purely decorative, but in fact, they replace downspouts and harness the flow of rain water in such a simple, calming way. What a beautiful concept, no? What’s even better is that a simple rain chain is a super easy DIY, and adding a little custom color is only marginally more work — and well worth it. —Mandy Pellegrin

10 mini terracotta pots
blue, black, and white paint
paint brush
8′ of large chain
10 small chain links (small enough to fit through the hole in the bottom of the pots)

2 sets of pliers

1. Mix up four or more shades of blue by adding a small amount of black to the blue paint for the darkest shade and varying amounts of white for the lighter shades.

2. Give each of of the mini terracotta pots a couple of coats of one of the shades of blue. With four shades, I painted three pots in the lightest shade, two pots in each of the two middle shades, and three pots in the darkest shade.

3. Divide the large chain into 11 equal lengths. To separate a chain link, grip a set of pliers on either side of the link’s opening. Rotate your wrists in opposite directions to push one end of the link away from you and the other end towards you. Separate the ends just enough to slip an adjoining link off. If you’ve ever done any jewelry-making, it’s the same technique with just a little more elbow grease. You will use this same technique to detach the 10 small chain links you’ll need to assemble the rain chain.

4. Assemble the chain by slipping one one small chain link through the hole in the bottom of each pot and attaching a length of the large chain on either end of each small link. Close each link by reversing the technique used to open them. Hang your completed rain chain wherever it will get a decent amount of rain during the next storm, and enjoy!

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  • I love this! I’ve been looking for a good DIY on rainchains for a while since they are a bit pricey if you just purchase one. How would you suggest attaching it to the top of the gutter? Thanks!

  • These are called 鎖樋 (kusaritoi) and they are BEAUTIFUL on temples and traditional style homes. Would love to try and make this for my own garden! Thank you for the idea!

  • These are really wonderful. Such a simple design, but such a lovely way to transform the mundane to the beautiful! Thanks for sharing this post… Now, off to buy some mini terracotta pots.

  • This is a really great idea! I am also wondering how one would go about attaching this… ideas? photo?

  • So simple! Love, love, love this! I have about 35 of these mini terracotta pots leftover from my wedding centerpieces (10+ years ago) that will work perfectly. I’m from Seattle and love the rain. Can’t wait to do this project.

  • Lovely – fantastic design, this, you should bung it onto Pinterest. I think I’d probably mess this up if I tried it, though, as DIY isn’t really my thing. I only got a C at GCSE tech design, so this proves it.

  • I like this idea but wouldn’t be allowed in my area (we have to have downspouts that take water away from the foundation of our houses). Maybe it would be better if you were collecting the rainwater in a barrel for re-use?

  • sorry for this negative news, but i wanted to mention that i painted a few terracotta pots a long time ago, and after i watered my plants, the paint bubbled. perhaps i used a different (wrong) paint than you? anyhow, i appreciated learning about rain chains! thank you!

  • I saw the chains like that in Costa Rica too, and they led down to a grated drain. I love the pots though!! Very cute touch!! Thanks for sharing:)

  • Functional and beautiful. Love the colors. Like others, I also wonder how is the chain attached to the gutter? What type of paint was used? This is inspiring me to make one.

  • I’m wondering what you used to seal the pots with? If that’s regular acrylic (craft) paint, wouldn’t it need sealing if the project is going to get wet on a regular basis?

    • They sell a spray sealer. I recently got some. It’s made by Krylon and it’s clear polyurethane. I paid $6.99 at a craft store.

  • These have become very popular in the Portland/Seattle areas in the past couple years. This DIY version is probably my favorite that I’ve seen. I’m going to make this for my house.

  • What a lovely idea! When painting the pots, make certain that you cover every little bit of them with paint, then seal with a little waterproof varnish. Otherwise, water can cause the clay to swell slightly and then the paint will bubble and peel. I painted a clay pot as a beautiful table base back in 1995, and it looks as though it was painted yesterday. I live in northern Canada and my supplies were very limited at the time, so I used what I had (which was regular craft paint, not the outdoor type). Hope this answers some concerns about painting the pots.

  • I have seen these made with little metal buckets also. The aluminum shouldn’t rust and even if it did the patina would still look nice or buy painted ones at the dollar store. I have seen these made with copper in the DR but I think this would make the cost a little high. A rain barrel at the bottom is one place for the water to flow. Also a hole about three feet deep and filled with river rocks is another.

  • I live on the NC coast and have seen many rain chains but didn’t know you could make them yourself. Thanks. I’ll pin this for later use.

  • I’ve purchased 2 rain chains and enjoy watching them year round as icicles are equally nice as rain & snow. How dud you create the attachment to the gutter former diwnpipe opening?

  • I have been collecting terra cotta pots for sometime now. This looks great to go with my terra cotta pot scarecrow and pot worm, the colors of my cabin and garden. Hope I can just use a sealant so the terra cotta color stays the same.

  • I made a couple of these for our first house in Boynton Beach in 2000. I used progressively smaller terra cotta pots with the smallest at the bottom. I used a small chain and old wire coat hangers cut into small hooks. We did a drive by the house last summer and what a surprise they were still there but with an aged look that was wonderful. I wished I had taken a picture.

    I am making a couple more for our new house.

  • I tried this-we had a severe thunder storm & all the pots broke being blown against the house:(

  • Anchoring the RainChain to the ground will prevent it from blowing around in a storm.

  • I’ve seen these for many years and always wanted my own. Now I can – just make it. I have the perfect spot since the downspout fell off with this winter’s ice.

  • A lovely idea
    !I bought a rain chain and it is nowhere near as good as this. Thank you for sharing

  • my son told me about this he saw it on tv I put a celling under his deck with a down spout it looks ugly…. I,m going to make one of these,,,, I think it’ll look a 100% better
    I like the idea of collecting the water to use else where

  • Just curious, it looks as if you used regular paints and I am wondering how well it held up under the water or if you did something to make it waterproof???

  • Where do you find the chain links & where do you find this chain?? I went to Lowes and found the chain but it was so strong to try to bend I was using swag chains ( the ones you see above a hanging lamp) could hardly bend them open to be able to construct one Rain chain!!! The Chain links are what’s impossible to find!!!

    • Ask the Lowe’s sales person to cut your chain in sections, then you hook as shown. I frequent Home Depot and I would ask them to cut the sections (as they would lumber), find the hooks in the hardware section, then hook together. I always go for the natural look.

  • That is a GREAT diy rain chain — really cute! We encourage people to make their own. If anyone wants production rain chains, I make the best! @www.rainchains.com

    • Just visited your site – yes, they are beautiful! Never knew that someone specialized on this. One of your most beautiful is the one with the water lillies.

  • Does it matter what kind of paint you use for the pots? or just any Acrylic Paint for outdoors will do?

  • I made this and it looks great. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. The pots fill with water. The water overflows on to the full pot below and splashes everywhere. Only some of the water flowing through the gutter reducer flows to the chain. The rest falls through and splashes all over my porch. Time to try another design.

  • Unfortunately you didn’t say may about how to attach these to your gutter system or where exactly it should go. Gutters and downspouts serve an important purpose, and if all these rain chains do is allow water to flow directly down near the foundation, you could h ave water in the basement during heavy spring rains or thunderstorms.