Cable Railings: A Step-by-Step Guide to Buying

Cable Railings: A Step-by-Step Guide to Buying


A cable railing is a safety railing component that you can install in a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces. With this in mind, you must consider structural requirements, material selection, etc. to ensure a smooth installation. Knowing these elements can allow you to avoid problems and get the most out of your cable railing project.

cable railing is a safety railing component that you can install in a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces. With this in mind, you must consider structural requirements, material selection, project location, cost, building code compliance, and more to ensure a smooth installation. Knowing these elements can allow you to avoid problems and get the most out of your cable railing project.

1. What strength should the cable railing be?

The International Residential Code requires top railings to be able to withstand a concentrated load of 200 pounds horizontally or vertically at any point on the railing assembly. Local building codes may also require a smaller load of 20 pounds per square foot on cable fill.

The presence of the cable sets the cable guard system apart. Posts should be strong enough to withstand the tension associated with the cables. In addition, the top rails are often subjected to minor shocks and pressures from objects or individuals leaning against the structure.

2. How high should the cable railing posts be?

Most state residential codes require a minimum height of 36 inches for railings. California is an exception to this standard and requires that all residential railings be installed with a railing of at least 42". The 42" railing height requirement also applies to commercial building codes. Column height is the handrail measured from floor to top.

All railing installations must comply with applicable standards related to post height and cable spacing. When determining the height of a railing post, you should consider handrails, type of location, and local, city, and international building codes.

3. How far apart can the cable railing posts be?

A maximum center-to-center distance of 4 feet is recommended between posts to accommodate 36" or 42" posts and to account for cable deflection issues. Openings should be no larger than 4 inches. Spacing between posts should be consistent (if possible) along the cable assembly to aid aesthetics. Building codes require posts not to be spaced more than an amount that could increase cable deflection.

4. How far apart should the cables be?

The spacing between cables is less than 3 1/4" to account for cable deflection associated with column spacing. According to the International Code Committee, a 4" sphere should not fit through the gap.

5. How many cables?

A cable railing system with 36" high posts should run with 10 horizontal cables. A cable railing system with 42" high posts should run with 12 horizontal cables. Building codes state that openings must not exceed 4". 10 and 12 cable counts allow for a distance of 3 1/8" between cables.

6. What cables are best for cable railings?

1x19 strands of stainless steel wire have the smoothest construction with low bending and tensile properties. These specifications make it an ideal solution for railing applications.

7. Are there different types of top rails?

The top rail completes the railing frame needed for a cable railing project. Stainless steel is strongly recommended for the top rail. This metal is resistant to corrosion, moisture, chips, and light shock.

Marine grade stainless steel is suitable for railing installations in rugged locations such as outdoor waterfront properties, marinas, outdoor decks, roofs, etc. In addition, stainless steel top railings are suitable for interior spaces, including commercial premises, offices, and public buildings.

Some project requirements may require a wooden top rail. To ensure long-term structural integrity, individuals should consider installing rebar under the wood top rail for additional support. This implementation can help maintain the function and integrity of the timber components, primarily as safety barriers on decks, stairs, and ramps.

8. How big should the hole for the cable railing be?

The middle post needs to be drilled to pass the cable through. Drill holes are approximately 5/64" (or 2mm) larger than the diameter of the cable being used to avoid excessive bending of the cable.

9. How long does the ropeway run?

When using a 1 x 19 construction type 316 stainless steel cable with a 1/8" diameter, the maximum recommended cable run distance is 30 feet. The cable run consists of cable tensioners, cable terminations, and wires. The rule thumb is in the corners, the cable Run ends.

10. Will cable railings rust?

Cable railings made of stainless steel grade AISI 316 will not rust when properly maintained, especially in environments conducive to corrosion.

11. Are cable railings safe?

Cable railings are structurally safe and meet building codes when properly installed. Cable railing construction relies on the tightness of the cable filler. End posts and corner posts need to be strong enough to support the pull of the cable.

No openings shall exceed 4". Although the cables are deflected; therefore, the openings between cables should be less than 3 1/4" depending on the spacing between cables.

12. How to tension the cable railing?

Each cable run consists of a tensioner, a terminal, and a cable. Apply a cable on the tensiometer tool, then twist the tensioner hardware enough to get the desired reading on the tensiometer. Repeat this process for the remaining cable runs so that all wires have the same tension.

Pro tip:

Begin tensioning the cable in the middle and work your way up to the top and bottom. Use a tensiometer to evenly tighten the cable.

Avoid over-tensioning the cable. 

Cut all wires from the same length to the same length. Make sure all posts are leveled from all sides.

Before installing cables, make sure your handrails or top rails are properly installed.

13. How to install cable railings?

To install a cable railing system, you will need to install posts or railings with a maximum spacing of 4 feet. Then install the top rail tube to support the post from the pull of the cables.

Run the cable from the end post through the middle post to the end post. The opening should not exceed 3 1/4". Tighten the cable evenly. Use a cable cutter to trim off excess wire.

The above content describes in detail how to buy cable railings, if you want to buy cable railings, please contact us.

Terada Hardware is a professional custom cable railing manufacturer. Our role goes beyond designers and manufacturers. We treat our customers as part of the team and support them as partners. For non-standard hardware. We listen carefully to customers' requirements and provide some professional advice and technical support. Follow the new designs to make the most suitable hardware for your project.