Cable railing, which has been used commercially for quite some time due to its strength and durability, has been praised and adopted heavily over the years for residential applications as well, and for good reasons. Besides adding a sleek and minimalistic modern-industrial aesthetic, cable is an ideal solution for maximizing visibility around a railing space. Not only is cable significantly slimmer than alternative railing options, but when strung horizontally, it blends seamlessly with the horizon, providing unobstructed views previously unattainable.
What is Cable Railing?
Cable railing, or cable railing systems, offer an alternative to traditional wood or metal stairway railing, in that they use cable rail wire tension for stability, instead of traditional newel posts and balusters. Cable rail offers modern design properties by utilizing metal posts and handrails, but can also be combined with wood stair parts for a hybrid custom style. Stainless steel cable rail is a popular choice for both interior and exterior railing because of its anti-weathering durability, reasonable cost, and strong luxurious appeal. For this reason, cable railing is used in many commercial and industrial buildings, as well as in marine and aquatic settings.
Types of Cable Railing Systems
Cable can be an ideal railing option for both residential and commercial projects, interior or exterior. A typical system consists of several horizontal runs of cable, spaced within building code requirements, and tensioned to a snug yet slightly flexible fit. At Viewrail, we recommend spacing our 5/32” cable 31/8” apart. The runs of cable are passed through posts as needed both to comply with building code requirements and reduce and eliminate cable deflection. We recommend the spacing between cable railing posts to be no more than 4’. Compatible post materials include stainless steel (we offer 304 and 316L marine-grade), aluminum, and wood.
While technical distinctions exist between metal and wood systems (such as components used and recommend installation techniques), the primary difference between the two is the overall aesthetic and ambiance. A metal cable rail system with stainless steel posts and handrails exudes an industrial tone, defined by its sleek, minimalistic character. Conversely, when paired with cable, wood posts combine traditional warmth with modern elegance.
Comparison of Metal vs. Wood Cable Railing System
|Features||Metal Cable Railing System||Wood Cable Railing System|
|Style||Modern, Minimalistic||Traditional, Modern|
|Used for Interior Projects||Yes||Yes|
|Used for Exterior Projects||Yes||Yes|
|Ideal for Stairways, Decks, Docks, Patios, and More||Yes||Yes|
|Uses 5/32” Marine-Grade 316L Stainless Steel Cable||Yes||Yes|
|Maximum Space Between Posts||4’||8’ with Intermediate Post Necessary Every 4’|
|Uses Intermediate Posts||No||Yes|
|Compatible Handrail Materials||Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Wood||Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Wood|
|Compatible Tensioning / Fastening Kits||Level / Angle Tension Kit, KeyMount Kit||DriveTite Kit, Wood Level / Angle Tension Kit|
|Fasteners / Tensioners Hidden Within Posts||Yes||Yes|
Cable Rail System Style and Design
There are three primary reasons why a cable system may be an ideal solution for a stairway or railing; the first of which is to both preserve and enhance the view around a piece of land or area of architecture. You’ve selected and designed a beautiful living space – why clutter the view? Whether a waterfront property with a breathtaking view of the horizon, a cabin tucked away in the mountain forests, or simply a beautiful interior staircase you walk up and down daily, the Viewrail system ensures all you see is beautiful stainless steel cable – and, of course, your view. This is accomplished through several key design features, such as the concealment of hardware fittings within posts, and using only enough cable and posts to exceed safety and strength requirements.
Another reason cable may be a superior alternative when compared to traditional railing systems is its sleek, modern aesthetic. Whether used with stainless steel posts to achieve an urban style, or hardwood posts to give the space a feeling of natural warmth, cable has a sharp, minimalistic look that traditional railing does not typically offer.
The third reason for which cable railing is often utilized is its natural strength and architectural integrity. Our system’s components are crafted from only the highest quality materials with state-of-the-art machinery, ensuring your railing is preserved for years to come.
Cable Railing for Decks
Viewrail is a versatile product that makes a fantastic stainless steel deck railing. Because of the strength and rust-resistant nature of our stainless steel, our cable deck railing is both stylish and durable. Including a wooden handrail is a great way to blend your cable deck railing into the natural environment surrounding it. Oftentimes, decks can feel closed off, especially with thick balusters or wooden slats. But installing cable rail on a deck will ensure your deck feels open and spacious. Decks are made so that you can be outdoors, so let yourself enjoy the view!
While a constructed Viewrail cable railing system is truly a work of art, the components it’s comprised of are just as innovative and lasting as they are attractive. Our cable and fittings, which are manufactured in the USA, are crafted from 316L marine-grade stainless steel. Our posts and handrails are cut, processed, and finished to order on a daily basis in order to accommodate each project’s unique specifications.
Cable Rail Wire
We’re proud to offer 5/32” 1×19 cable strung from 316L marine-grade stainless steel. Highly resistant against harsh corrosives, our cable is sure to provide long-lasting strength and beauty.
Cable Railing Posts & Handrails
We strive to offer as many customization options as possible for our cable railing posts and handrails, as these components enable our customers to truly make a unique statement with their design and make their space theirs. Our posts are constructed from aluminum, 304 or 316L marine-grade stainless steel and are available in four distinct post mounting styles, two different top styles, and can be finished with one of our many polishes or colored powder coats.
Our handrails are offered in metal, as well as wood. As with our posts, metal handrails can be produced from aluminum, 304 or 316L marine-grade stainless steel and finished with one of our many polishes or colored powder coats. Conversely, wood handrails are cut from one of our many available species and can be finished with a selection from our wide variety of paints and stains.
Cable Railing Hardware Kits
Crafted in the USA from 316L marine-grade stainless steel, Viewrail offers several distinct cable railing hardware kits, compatible with metal or wood posts. Unlike other cable railing systems where lengthy tensioners obstruct the view, Viewrail hardware is concealed within posts.
Metal Railing Systems
Our Level Tension Kit (VR290) contains everything needed to tension one end of a level run of cable: A Tension Receiver (VR305), a Threaded Crimp Fitting (VR306), and a Steel Insert Sleeve (VR331).
Similar to our Level Tension Kit, our Angle Tension Kit (VR294) contains everything needed to tension one end of an angled run of cable: A Tension Receiver (VR305), a Threaded Crimp Fitting (VR306), an Angle Washer (VR345), and an Adhesive Sleeve (VR339).
Our KeyMount Kit (VR292) contains all necessary components to fasten one end of a run of cable from within a post: A KeyMount Fitting (VR311) and an Adhesive Sleeve (VR339). However, the KeyMount kit is used on the condition that the opposite end of cable is being tensioned, as the KeyMount does not have tensioning functionality; rather, it simply holds the cable firmly in place to allow for tensioning on the opposite end of cable, leaving the edges of the post with a KeyMount flush with no visible hardware.
Cable Rail Kit for Wood Systems
We offer two distinct kinds of cable railing kits for installing and tensioning cable in wood posts: DriveTite and Tension. Our DriveTite kits allow for a particularly simple and painless installation process, and can even be completed with a standard electric drill. Conversely, our wood Tension kits are intended for posts with pre-drilled holes and are installed similarly to those of metal applications.
Our standard DriveTite Kit (VR297) contains everything needed to tension one end of a level or angled run of cable inside a wood post: A Tensioning Screw (VR364), a Barrel Fitting (VR360), a Cable Wedge (VR362), and a Wood Angle Insert (VR336). When installing this kit, we recommend utilizing our DriveTite Tool Kit (VR440), specifically to compress the Cable Wedge inside the Barrel Fitting.
Similar to our standard DriveTite Kit, our Crimped DriveTite Kit (VR298) utilizes a Cable Stop rather than a Cable Wedge. The Crimped DriveTite kit contains: A Tensioning Screw (VR364), a Barrel Fitting (VR360), a Cable Stop (VR312), and a Wood Angle Insert (VR336). While our DriveTite Tool Kit is not necessary for the installation of this kit, we do recommend utilizing our 5” long T-30 driver to tighten the Tensioning Screw rather than a standard length T-30 driver.
Our Wood Level Tension Kit (VR295) contains all necessary components to tension one end of a level run of cable: A Tension Receiver (VR305), a Threaded Crimp Fitting (VR306), a Wood Insert Sleeve (VR334), and a Stainless Steel Washer (VR340).
Our Wood Angle Tension Kit contains everything needed to tension one end of an angled run of cable: A Tension Receiver (VR305), a Threaded Crimp Fitting (VR306), an Angle Washer (VR345), a Wood Angle Insert (VR336), and an Oval Washer (VR342).
To simplify and ease the installation of these cable fittings, we recommend utilizing our Cable Rail Installation Tool Kit (VR400), which allows customers to rent or purchase professional equipment at an affordable price. This kit includes the following:
• Cable Crimper
• Cable Cutter
• Cable Rail Insert Tool (Yours to keep)
• Guide Pin
• Allen Wrench (Yours to keep)
• T-30 Screw Bit (For installing mounting screws)
• Insert Sleeve Driver (Wood block)
• Bundle of String (For ensuring holes are aligned prior to mounting posts)
DIY Cable Railing Videos
View 15 related DIY cable railing videos that offer guidance for cable railing installation. Included in this collection are the following videos:
• Level Tension Kit Installation Guide
• Angle Tension Kit Installation Guide
• KeyMount Kit Installation Guide
• Cable Railing Installation Kit
• Postside Handrail Bracket Installation Guide
• DriveTite Kit Installation Guide
• DriveTite Kit Angle Installation Guide
• DriveTite Kit Installation Tips
• Introduction to Viewrail Cable Rail System
• Cable Rail Post Spacing and Cable Deflection
• Sketch Your Cable Rail Project
• Using Washers and Oval Washers with Wood Posts
Recent Cable Rail System Projects
View recent cable rail projects sent to us from satisfied customers, who’ve used StairSpplies™ for their cable railing systems. Below features a wide range of different custom cable railing designs, with beautiful craftsmanship.
Cable Railing FAQs
Q: What type of Material should I choose for my interior project?
A: For most interior projects we recommend 304 Stainless Steel. For any project within 5 miles of ocean water, we recommend 316 Stainless Steel (with a brushed finish), which is more corrosion resistant, and will require less maintenance than 304 Stainless.
Q: Can I use Aluminum posts inside?
A: Technically speaking yes, Aluminum posts can be used inside. However due to the nature of aluminum, the finished product produces a slightly less smooth finish than powder coating 304 SS. Therefore we recommend you don’t use Aluminum on interior projects.
Q: What type of Material should I choose for my exterior project?
A: For 90% of customers we recommend using either Aluminum or 304 Stainless Steel. For the remaining 10% (which is any project within 5 miles of ocean water), we recommend 316 Stainless Steel (with an electro polished finish), the electro polishing will reduce the amount of ongoing maintenance that is required (some maintenance is still required), as it is less likely to get staining from the salt in the air.
Aluminum is perfect if you’re wanting a powder coated product (black, white, grey..etc). Stainless Steel can also be powder coated to ensure that you have the strongest base possible.
Q: Are Insert Sleeves necessary on my intermediate (pass through) posts?
A: No, they are not.
Insert Sleeves give a more decorative & finished look so that your tensioning posts (end posts) and your intermediate posts have a consistent look.
Q: I want to make my own metal posts, what size holes do I need to drill?
A: Both our Level Tension Kit & Angle Tension Kit require 1/2″ holes. If you want to use insert sleeves on intermediate posts, you’d drill 1/2″ holes as well.
For corner posts we recommend using our “Steel Inside Post Mount” & “Steel Inside Post Washer” along with an “Adhesive Sleeve” to give it a finished look.
Q: I’m using existing wood posts, what size hole do I need to drill?
A: Hole size and depth depends on which tension kits and components you are installing. Here’s the breakdown.
If you are installing Wood Insert Sleeves in your pass-through posts, you’ll need 1/2″ holes. If you’re not using inserts, we suggest 5/16″ holes.
An end post is any post that will have tensioning components attached. If you are installing our Wood Level Tension Kit or Wood Angle Tension Kit, you will need 1/2″ holes that go all the way through your post. We recommend a 1/2″ space bit for drilling these holes.
For DriveTite, drill an 11/16″ hole 1″ deep. You’ll also need to drill a 1/8″ pilot hole at the bottom of the 11/16″ hole.
Q: What handrail height should I pick?
A: In most locations code calls for handrail on stairs to be between 34″ – 38″, therefore we recommend using 36″ tall system on your stairs.
Code for balconies varies more depending on the location. The most commonly used height is 39″, but for more safety conscious (and for taller customers), we recommend going with 42″. Please check on your local code requirements before placing an order.
Q: How do I install my posts on a floating staircase?
A: We offer two products that are essential for floating staircases. The first is called a “Mounting Bracket”. This bracket looks similar to the foot on our posts, but has 4 square holes. The second item we recommend is our Carriage Bolts, which can be run up through the square hole in the mounting plate, and then tightened on top of the foot.
In order to give yourself the cleanest installation we then recommend covering the post foot with a foot cover, this gives the top and bottom of the tread a clean look.
Q: What is the smallest handrail I can use?
A: Our smallest handrail that provides adequate strength is our 1″ tall x 2″ wide Metal Handrail. The smallest wood handrail that people select with our cable railing system is our 6100 handrail, which is 1 1/2″ tall x 2″ wide. Our most commonly used handrail is our 6000 handrail, which is 1 5/8″ tall x 2 3/4″ wide. It’s a nice proportion to the 2″ post, and gives it a warmer feeling that our metal handrail.
We strongly recommend not using a wooden handrail smaller than 1 1/2″ x 2″, as it won’t provide the necessary support to prevent the posts from pulling in on each other.
Q: What’s a typical linear foot price for cable railing?
A: The price varies greatly depending on 3 things: How long of runs you have (how often are you turning corners), what material you want your posts made out of & what type of handrail you select.
However, a general ballpark is between $80 – $150 per foot. Could be more, could be less depending on your specific project. To get an exact quote us our Cable Rail Design Help form.
Q: Can you match the trim on my house with the powder coat color on the posts?
A: We have several standard powder coat colors that we offer, that will work for 90% of applications. If you’re wanting to get a closer match, we can custom order powder, but we’d need a sample of your trim. This process will take more time, and we can’t guarantee that it will match totally, but we should be able to get close.
Q: Do I need to have 10 cables? I think 5 would look nicer.
A: We space our cables at 3 1/8″ so that when tensioned your cables shouldn’t deflect past 4″ (which is code in most areas). There are other factors involved with cable deflection, but if you have a post every 4′, and cables at 3 1/8″ you should meet code.
If for some reason you don’t care about meeting code, you could use fewer cables, however we don’t recommend this.
Q: Does cable railing pass code? Are cable railing systems considered dangerous because it creates a ladder effect?
A: In most areas of the country if you stick to our recommendations (post every 4 feet and cable every 3 1/8″), cable will meet code. However, there are some local codes that require you to install a thin layer of Plexiglas beside the cable, in order to eliminate the ladder effect.
We recommend checking with your local code office before placing your order.
Q: Do you offer round posts?
A: We do not offer round posts. They are not able to be used in corner applications, and therefore the system becomes much busier and more expensive.
Q: Do your components work for round posts?
A: Our Level Tension Kits will work (although the fittings won’t sit flush on the post), the other products we offer typically will not work with round posts. There are some exceptions, but for the most part our product are designed to work on square posts.
Q: How can I get a price for my cable railing project?
A: The best way that we can help you is for you to fill out our Cable Rail Design Help form. This gives us the information necessary to get you an accurate quote.
Q: What is the difference between 304 Stainless Steel & 316 Stainless Steel?
A: 316 Stainless Steel is contains molybdenum & additional nickel to be more corrosion resistant to salt water. 316 Stainless Steel is what we recommend when you are within 5 miles of the coast. If you’re located anywhere else 304 Stainless will be adequate.
Q: What is the difference between Brushed Stainless & Electropolished Brushed Stainless?
A: For Brushed Stainless we manufacture the products with a sanding process in order to give it a premium brushed look. We recommend you use our Brushed Stainless on interior applications (if you’re wanting to reduce fingerprint marks on the post we recommend getting a clear powder coat on top of the brushed finish).
The eletropolishing process is done after the product has been brushed to make it more resistant to surface contaminants. We recommend this finish for all applications where the product is within 1/2″ mile of ocean water. If you select standard brushed finish, you’ll be susceptible to staining of the post. The structural integrity of the post shouldn’t be compromised, but the surface can get some contaminants on the post that require cleaning.
Stainless Steel is not stain resistant, but it will Stain LESS than normal steel.
How to Install Cable Railing Systems
The Latest In Stair Design Trends
Tools and Supplies You Need for Cable Rail Installation
How to Utilize Internal Cable Rail
Excellent External Cable Rail Projects
4 Reasons To Use Stainless Steel Cable Rails
Making Cable Rail Easy
Improving Your Deck With Stainless Steel Cable Rails