Are you tired of railings obstructing your views of skylines, mountains, oceans, and lakes? If you want your railing to take a backseat to the vista, avoid traditional pickets. Instead, you might want to explore cable railings. In place of spindles, pickets, glass, or mesh, these safety rails use cables to fill in the spaces between the posts.
The design of cable railings places a heavy load on the posts, so it is crucial that they are properly designed and installed. When force is applied to the cables, they stretch, so the frames must be very rigid to support the weight placed on the cables. The tension of the cable, the spacing of the intermediate posts, the diameter of the cable, the top rail cap material, and the spacing of the cables will all affect the rigidity of the frame. Cable railing frames can be constructed from a variety of different materials, including aluminum, steel, and wood.
Benefits of Cable Railings
- Unobstructed View: Since cables are much thinner than spindles, this type of railing hinders the view far less than other types (like vinyl or wood). In fact, the view is virtually unobstructed.
- Modern Style: Cable railings have a modern design style, which complements contemporary architecture and landscaping. If you like sleek and simple designs, these rails should be right up your alley.
- Perception of Space: Because they offer an open and airy feel, cable railings can make a space feel larger. So if you have a small balcony or a narrow deck, you might prefer a cable railing to vinyl or wood.
- Ventilation: Where glass railings block off fresh air and prevent the wind from passing through, cable railings welcome in breezes. On a hot day, you’ll appreciate that the wind can reach you. In some locations, however, this will be a disadvantage.
- Safer for Birds: When compared to glass railings (which also provide obstructed views), cable railing systems are safer for birds. Since birds can see the cables, they are better able to avoid them, which prevents injuries.
- Easier Snow Removal: If you live in a climate with a lot of snowfall, you’ll appreciate that snow removal is far easier with cable railings, especially when compared to glass or vinyl.
- Low Maintenance: Glass railings require a lot of cleaning, especially if they’re located outdoors. Cable systems, on the other hand, require no periodic cleaning whatsoever. The overall cost of maintaining them is also quite low.
- Versatile: You can use cable rails indoors or outdoors, in residential or commercial applications, and in a number of different places, including balconies, decks, and walkways.
Vertical vs. Horizontal
In a cable railing system, the cables can be oriented horizontally or vertically.
Horizontal cables can be dangerous for children (and children-at-heart), who might view the cables like rungs of a ladder and attempt to climb up. For this reason, some jurisdictions don’t allow horizontal railings. Check with your local building authority before purchasing or installing such a rail. In addition, due to some homebuyers’ safety concerns regarding horizontal railings, they may affect your home’s resale value.
At MMC Fencing & Railing, we prefer vertical cables, because they are typically safer and less labor intensive when compared to horizontal cables.
Building Code Requirements
Whether the cables of your railing are installed vertically or horizontally, they must pass all applicable building codes. For example, most building codes used in the United States require that spaces in a railing must be small enough that a 4-inch sphere cannot pass through. In addition, minimum height requirements vary by building code. Most states require that residential railings reach at least 36 inches (measured from the floor to the top of the railing), while commercial railings that comply with the International Building Code (IBC) must be at least 42 inches in height.
The cables within the railing must be capable of tensioning (being stretched tight) without causing harm. When a cable cannot be properly stretched, safety hazards arise. For example, with too much deflection, cables might allow an item larger than 4-inches in diameter (like a child’s head) to pass through an opening. Improper design or a lack of cable flexibility/strength could also cause the cables to pull out of the end fittings.
Never underestimate the amount of pressure the cables will apply to the end posts, and be certain that (1) the cables are properly tensioned, (2) the intermediate posts are properly spaced, (3) the cables are properly spaced, (4) the cable diameter is adequate, and (5) the top rail is strong enough for the job.
Ready to Purchase?
Would you like to purchase a cable railing system? Check out VertiCable in Style C80, available in the MMC Fencing & Railing online store. The system’s vertical cables and balusters feature contemporary architectural style and are available in twelve standard colors. Plus, you can further enhance your railing with accessories, like welded corners, caps, and flairs. The sections of railing are assembled and tensioned in-factory and then shipped on pallets for quick and easy installation.