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How to Install Cable Railings:  A Do-It-Yourself Project for All Skill Levels

Courtesy Indital USA

So, you want cable railings, and you want to do it yourself. Can it be done? Absolutely! Cable railings give decks, stairs, and balconies an instant upgrade with a sleek and fresh look. Whether you are a do it yourselfer, professional handyman, or home improvement hobbyist, we will tell you how to perfectly install cable railings without fuss or frustration. Beyond the contemporary aesthetic, stainless steel cables are also long lasting and durable.

Select your cable railings

Stairway with cable railingsFirst things first, you'll need a cable railing set, like the Stainless Steel Cable Rail System 19'18" Section or Stainless Steel Square Post Cable Rail System 19'8" Section from Indital USA. These railing sets will make the process painless, providing all the nuts, bolts, mounts, railings, and anything else you'll need to complete a full rail system for stairways, balconies, and more. For stairways, the system includes sloping washers and other components to make it easy to finish the job.

Before you begin, make sure to mind your local building codes! Prior to starting any home improvement project, always reference municipal codes to make sure you are meeting all safety regulations.

Design and build the cable railing frame

You can't install cable railings without an existing frame. The details and steps of building your custom frame will be dependent on the space and type of railing you are aiming for. Whether your frame is wood, stainless steel, or aluminum, make sure the posts are no more than 42" apart. Having them further apart will give more room for bending and sagging, which is a big pain! Deflection is something we have to accept and be mindful of when working with cable wires. Once the standard framework is set, you're ready to start the fun part!

Installing the cable wires

As far as tools, you won't need much more than a pair of cable cutters (below), pliers, a drill, and a wrench. (Note from NH: Cable cutters can be very expensive.  Before you make a purchase, contact your local rental store to be sure you can rent them!  If you do decide to make the purchase, be consoled that if you are an avid do-it-yourselfer you will use them again of other projects, such as garage door cable repair/replacement)

Heavy duty cable cutter for stainless cable

You'll need to practice meticulous attention to detail when drilling the holes that will be running the wires. This is where all of your construction estimating tools including an accurate tape measure, level, and beam level will be of great help.

Example of cable railing installedFirst, decide the number of rows of railing you will need. Remember, cables need to be less than four-inches apart. Evenly map out the number of cables you will be using, and space them out accordingly. After careful planning, mark where the cables need to be drilled for precise spacing and installation. A great way to go about this is to drill the holes on a piece of plywood in the correct placement. This will give you a map, so to speak, or a reference point, that will ensure that you're evenly drilling right where you need to be!

Once the pre-planning and mapping is complete, you can start drilling! Simply drill holes all the way through the post to prepare for running the cables.

Next, is the simplest part of the entire process: running the cables. This is exactly as straightforward as it sounds. If all the holes are drilled through and through, running the cables should be smooth sailing.

Tighten & trim the cables

After you've run the cables through the holes, the final steps are tightening and trimming. Your cable railing system makes this process super simple, as well. You're given the bolts, mounts, railings, and everything else you need to complete the full system. Use the given materials like posts and fittings to carefully secure and tighten each railing at every hole to avoid sagging or deflection as much as possible.

Once you've tightened the cables, it's time to trim the ends of the cables using your cable cutters.

The best part... enjoy your masterpiece!

There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of a finished do-it-yourself project. Although installing your own cable railing system does require many detailed steps and accuracy, the final product is well worth it! The linear details of this installation will give any home or commercial property a modern touch.