Our craftsmanship adds value. Our people add warmth.

Cable Railing vs. Wood Railing

Oct 3, 2018 | Featured, Specialty Projects

floating staircase with cable railings

Newest Trend in Railings

Contemporary and modern styles have permeated the remodeling and home-building market, with homeowners choosing this uncluttered, streamlined design approach. One such choice that stands out is steel cable for modern stair railing. These railings have made it big with the outdoor deck and porch and interior railings in modern and contemporary style homes. Homeowners are now deciding on cable railings vs. wood railings and which is best for their home interior and exterior spaces.

close up of interior staircase with cable railing

Cost of Cable Railings vs Wood Railings

One of the first decision-making criteria for most homeowners is the cost. Usually, the cost of cable railings is double the cost of wood, but the design and installation methodology can help curb that cost. One of the best ways to lower costs for exterior railings is by using double corner posts, which allows for longer cable runs and fewer cable assemblies, meaning less hardware all the way around. How does it work? When running cable with single corner posts for a deck with 60 perimeter feet, you can only run 15 feet maximum before terminating at the corner. When installing double corner posts, the cable can run as long as 30 feet in one continuous length on two sides, dramatically dropping the cost of the cable and the amount of hardware needed. With this in mind, straight runs of cable should not exceed 70 feet, and with bends, the cable should not exceed 40 feet in continuous length. Interior cable railings do not usually run in such long lengths, requiring less cable footage and often few or no corner posts.


Benefits of Cable Railings vs Wood Railings

What are the benefits of exterior cable railings vs wood railings? For one, maintenance for cable railings is minimal. Usually created from galvanized carbon steel, a highly corrosion-resistant stainless steel that holds up well even in coastal areas, they require little maintenance. On the other hand, outdoor wood railings will require regular maintenance, as will wood decking. Homeowners must also periodically strip, sand, and stain or paint their wood railings.

Another benefit of cable railings is their aesthetic properties. The sleekness and sparse cable rail design allow for unobstructed views of your home’s interior or exterior landscape. The cables are much thinner than pickets on a wood railing and are ideal for terraces or decks, offering homeowners a panoramic view. In an interior space, cable railings fit perfectly with the modern and contemporary style. Cable railings lend themselves to large open floor plans found in most contemporary or modern style decor, keeping with the overall airy and spacious look. They can pair well with stainless steel frames, continuing the simple, minimalistic design, and are often chosen for small spaces in a home to blend nicely and look unobtrusive. Adding wood posts and or handrails with steel cables can be a great alternative to offer warmth to the look of a room or exterior space.

Cable Railing Safety and Codes

Cable deck railing code requirements are similar to regular railing codes. The major difference between cable vs wood railings lies in the flexible nature of cables, which aren’t rigid like other infills. This characteristic can create a challenge in meeting code requirements. Several factors that homeowners must consider when choosing cable railings are:

  • The tension of the cable.
  • The spacing of the cables and posts.
  • The diameter of the cable.

The tension must be proper to prevent any body parts from slipping through, and the posts must be carefully fixed to stay in place. Intermediate posts must be spaced correctly, and the general recommendation is that there should be no more than 5 feet between posts and no more than 3 inches between cables. Building code requirements state that the cables must be rigid enough to prevent a 4-inch sphere from passing through them. Most contractors understand these differences and will find the right system to build a strong, safe railing that meets the code.

exterior of home with beautiful landscape and cable deck railing

Homeowners on Houzz go big on landscaping projects, with nearly nine in 10 reporting major renovations or complete overhauls (48% and 37%, respectively), according to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscape Trends Study. This result is good news for the construction industry and outdoor living space design and construction. More homeowners consider keeping up with the trend of design-building with cable railings inside and outside the home. Also, check out our blog post regarding Cable Rails vs. Glass Rails.

chart showing outdoor project statistics