Cable Railing Design for Cable Railing DIY

Variety is one of the most appealing things about cable railing. All cable railing systems have two things in common, cable and a way to attach it. Otherwise you can build a frame from any material you like as long as it is strong enough to handle the load applied by the cable and meet structural building code.

Many consumers choose to buy pre-fabricated systems from reputable manufacturers because they have been tested and proven.  Cable Railing Systems can be made of wood, metal and even some plastics or composite materials. These materials are often mixed in a design to create a hybrid system like no other. Cable Railing is a unique railing design in itself, but with a little imagination it becomes one of a kind.

Cable or wire rope infill systems, AKA Cable Railing Systems, are the most popular way for people to maintain a clear view and are often called view rails. Cable Railing is a unique railing design in and of itself, but combined with a little imagination it will become a truly amazing finish to any project. No matter which variation of material you choose to use, the frames need to be rigid enough to support without deflection against the combined pull of several rows of cable. If 10 rows of cable are used and each is tightened to 220 pounds, the combined tension will be 2200 pounds. That’s a lot of pull and needs to be considered in design.  The railing cable runs must be installed at distances of 3 inches apart with posts no more than 4 feet apart to prevent a 4 inch sphere from passing through the cable railing.

Since creating view rails are the most popular use for cable railing and horizontal cable is the cost-effective way to design a cable railing, we will maintain our focus on horizontal view rail. Cable Railing will always require a top rail to assist with absorbing the previously quoted view rail tension loads.  Post material may be as minimal as 1 ½  x  1 ½ inch if designed of material capable of withstanding the strenuous tensioning requirements. The top rail is just as important and is recommended to always be made of appropriate structural material, metal or wood, and mounted between posts unless specified different by a reliable and tested manufacturer.

The top rail should always absorb the pressure applied when the cable is tensioned, so you must have very positive fastening between the top rail and post or you must brace the rail between the posts. When building an all wood frame, it is always a best practice to securely brace the top rail between the posts rather than simply placing the rail on top of the posts. If your design requires running the top rail across the top of your posts, consider adding a smaller brace below the top rail and make sure the smaller brace is secured between the posts.

The best start to a good design is to choose your material wisely. DIY says to avoid cable not purchased from reliable sources or online from generic websites.  Even though you are a DIY consumer, you can still purchase the same materials contractors trust.