Cable Railings: What’s the Tension All About?

March 15, 2022

One choice for a very contemporary and uncluttered style which is streamlining designs would be the steel cable railing.  Initially, a popular outdoor deck and porch trend has over recent years shifted into a modern option for interior railings.  Residential homeowners or commercial designers might desire this look as it achieves nearly unobstructed views because the cable is much thinner than a traditional spindle.

I’ve observed that our customers who choose this look for their space just absolutely love it!  It is in my opinion non-negotiable: you love it or hate it. There is a striking balance of function and form by promoting safety with a sense of style to this choice. It is minimalistic and doesn’t dominate a room, which can be great for smaller areas when wanting to maximize the use of indoor space.

The cable railing infill (describing the system between vertical posts and horizontal handrails) can either be horizontal or vertical. The horizontal cable infill usually has the cables attached to the posts. The vertical cable infill is a rare choice due to the normally slightly higher cost although it creates a distinctive look. A third option is to integrate glass and cable railings for a hybrid infill.

When built to code, cable railing is a very safe option for railing.  However, building codes can be a challenge to navigate - that’s why we are educated in what specifications are needed in your area across Canada. In general, the cable flexibility once tensioned must be firm enough to prevent a 4-inch sphere from passing through it. Factors that influence this rigorous rigidity include: cable tension, the spacing of the intermediate posts or spacers, the material type of the rail as well as the spacing between one cable to the next.

Know that the railing code requirements differ for pitched versus level railings.

Due to the excessive load requirements, cable railing requires very rigid framing compared to other types of railing. The cable is very strong in tensile strength and it’s essential to follow cable railing code to ensure the stair system will perform optimally for years to come with proper tension installation. Care is needed, as in some instances, tensioning the cable railing too much can cause the handrail to bow over time.

A full stainless steel stair system is simple and elegant. It’s a one-piece kit composed of components. A round or flat handrail with welded end caps and base plates with holes for mounting (and fitting) hardware. This gorgeous system has different finish options: brushed, mirror or powder coat (a black cable railing or any other colour with a powder coat finish).

Different elements you can choose for a contrasting look are to combine stainless still cable railings with wood posts.  As wood is a renewable resource and stainless steel cables are 100% recyclable, this combination is excellent for the environment. Wooden handrails can be chosen to add warmth. It’s a beautiful aesthetic and design.

For others, the appeal to use this material is due to the general “low-key” cleaning requirements of every-now-and-again, wiping it down with a damp cloth. In comparison, the glass will typically require more care although it offers completely unobstructed views.

Other reasons why stainless steel would be the material of choice for your project and ideas would be because handrails and cable railings can be curved and used with straight posts for a streamlined look to bending architectural structures. Stainless steel is flexible enough to bend on its own or to desired shapes. Alternatively, corner post cable railings might need a spreader bar between runs with directional changes to meet building codes or improve the strength of the stair system.

As a licensed company, we have captured the market for cable railing installations as we know the specific building codes for your area. For example, we were recently contacted by a client, where we were asked to inspect a current cable railing system installed within a home. In this situation, this particular house had been listed and sold - our client is the buyer. In the closing of the sale there was one small caveat: they accepted that the current, installed cable railing stair system was not to code. Before moving in, the buyer now wants (and needs) to get the system to code - and that’s why they’ve chosen to contact and work with us, the leaders in cable railing systems! For us to completely accomplish this, the total estimation is $30,000! Provided, the home is valued at around $2million. Regardless, this is no small repair.

My advice is that if you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys - and there are LOTS of them out there! I can’t stress enough, to hire from the start an experienced team to accomplish your project, renovation or build.  Yes, the work might initially cost more in comparison to someone found on an online advertisement but you’ll save yourself the headache: time, money and frustration in the long run. It frustrates me that it’s under these circumstances that we’ve met this particular client; we are appreciative that we’re the maestro fixing their problem, correctly so that they can have peace of mind to embrace the excitement in moving into their new home meeting all building codes!

Certainly, the cable railing system is a contemporary and airy design.  Based on your priorities, the choice is yours: contact us anytime as we’re the specialists and can achieve this installation for you best (again, don’t choose a monkey!).

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