Most downspouts simply aren’t good-looking. Here’s how to transform the system that protects your foundation into an eye-catching asset.
Elephants love playing in water, and this pair of pachyderms is no exception. Made of copper and featuring tusks made of bull (cow) horns and glass eyes, these fully functional downspouts (about $2,000 each) will channel rain water in high style. Hook ‘em up to your gutters or leave ‘em as exterior wall ornaments that show your wild (life) side.
In the Pacific Northwest, dealing with rain is a key component of house design. The architects of this residence on Puget Sound created pairs of sleek galvanized steel tubes that look more like structural elements than downspouts. This pair of downspouts empties well away from the house foundation to avoid any drainage problems.
Here’s one way to put nature’s free water to good use — let downspouts dump directly into a planter. This handsome copper gutter and downspout empties into a sizeable stone patio planter full of hostas and ornamental grasses. Built-in planters should have a drain hole facing away from your house to keep excess water from soaking the soils around your foundation.
Copper downspouts add a bit of bling to your exterior, but over time they’ll oxidize and turn a dull green. Although some like the aged patina, you’ll have to use some preventative maintenance to keep your copper downspouts beautifully bright. Before oxidation occurs, apply a clear protective coating with ultraviolet blockers and antioxidants ($40/pint) that’s made specifically for copper.
The open design of this painted metal downspout makes clearing downspout clogs a snap, an especially handy feature for a tall, two-story residence. The natural tendency of water to cling to surfaces means runoff stays inside the downspout and doesn’t leak out the front. The open design and square shape is a clean, contemporary look that blends well with this modern-style house.
Give Your Downspouts a MakeoverLiving Rain Storage
What appears to be a column of ivy growing up a wall trellis is actually a rain harvesting system designed to capture gutter runoff. A tank concealed by the greenery stores water and slowly releases it for use by climbing plants that scale the stainless steel framework. A 70-inch-high system with a 60-gallon capacity is $1,107. Additional 30-gallon add-ons are $429.
A specially-made gutter and downspout system from a sheet metal fabricator adds architectural flair to your home. The flared opening at the top of the downspout is called a leader box; this one is made of copper and costs about $150. A complementary 2-by-3-inch copper downspout runs about $16 per foot.
Give Your Downspouts a MakeoverSingin’ In the Rain
Downspout rainwater sluicing through this giant, 14-foot-high copper treble clef turns a water wheel, which powers a music box that plays Canon in D major. Don’t fret — you can choose other musical backgrounds as well. The base price is $3,000.
Give your rainwater a proper sendoff with a cast-resin gargoyle downspout ($50). This mouthy fellow has a 3-by-5-inch opening so it won’t get clogged. Make sure your downspout sends water away from your foundation; this one opens onto a sloped tile patio that carries water away from the house.
The Darwin Martin house in Buffalo, N.Y., is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s best examples of Prairie School architecture. Wright wasn’t about to let practicality get in the way of the strong horizontal lines of his design, so he made the downspouts disappear into the support columns and exit out the base of the foundation walls. Good for visual appeal; tough when it comes to replacing downspouts.
Give Your Downspouts a MakeoverA Cup of Rain, Anyone?
Originating in Japan hundreds of years ago, rain chains are a decorative alternative to the humble (and usually boring!) downspout. Rainwater clings to the chain links and dances its way down to the ground, where a splash block channels water away from your foundation. This imaginative polished copper tea set is $111 for an 80-inch chain, teapot, and four cups.
Part of an urban Seattle project called “Growing Vine Street,” this apartment downspout system channels rainwater through built-in planters. The planters act as bio-filters to remove pollutants before runoff can enter natural waterways. Hardy grasses and succulents that grow in the planters also help evaporate storm water, reducing the amount of runoff.