Most suburban house gutter systems include a rectangular aluminum downspout which contains the water as it runs from the roof-gutter to the ground--but these downspouts do little to enhance the home's aesthetic appeal. There are many alternatives to the standard aluminum downspout which will help guide your rainwater downward while being more pleasing to the eye--and even to the ear. Rain chains, copper piping, and rain barrels enhance your home while they rein in the rain.
Rain chains, usually made of copper, provide a guide that slows rainwater's descent from the gutter to the ground. Water "sticks" to the chain due to the properties of water's surface tension. Depending on the heaviness of the rainfall, the water will swirl around the chain in different patterns or directions. Many rain chains also chime as the water descends them, creating a lovely accent to the sound of falling rain. Some rain chain designs work as vertical fountains, with a series of cups that fill with water then overflow into the cup below, in a descending cascade.
If a contained vertical water channel makes the most sense for your architecture and landscape design, you can still improve upon the rectangular aluminum downspout. Copper downspout pipes are available in round, square and other architectural shapes, in coated polished finishes that won't tarnish, as well as with unfinished surfaces that will age to a lovely green-blue patina. Commercial gutter supply firms can also manufacture downspouts in stainless steel, zinc and other materials to match your home's architectural tone and style. Having pipes custom-cut also opens the door to artistic downspout styling, such as creating a water wheel or series of small birdbaths cut into the downspout to take advantage of the water as it falls.
Today's rain barrels come in dozens of different designs, from faux terra cotta urns to traditional barrel shapes. Rain barrels purchased from garden suppliers usually come with child-proof lids and screens for mosquito control. A rain barrel can be installed so that a downspout enters an opening in the lid--or can simply be placed under the end of the gutter to catch the rainwater as it tumbles off the end of the gutter trough, creating a joyous loud splashing sound. Rain barrels let you harvest water for later use on your lawn, for watering houseplants without the chemical additives found in tap water, or for filling your backyard water garden pond.