Balustrade and Cable Railing – Aesthetic Solutions

Composite and Wood Deck Cable Railing System

Balustrade and Cable Railing: Aesthetic Solutions

 Technical Term Help – See our Cable Railing and Industry Terms Glossary  

Architects, contractors, and home and business owners often come across building regulations and codes that may diminish the aesthetic outcome of a construction or remodel project. For instance, the 4″ and 6″ Ball Rules limit what can be done with balustrades and patio/deck railing. These regulations state that a ball of 4″ or 6″ in diameter — depending on the adopted regulation — should not be able to pass between the balusters, the assumption being that if the ball will not fit through, neither will a child’s head or body.

Balusters of any width, stacked that closely, make it impossible to see behind the balustrade. While necessary for safety, a balustrade with balusters that fit that tightly together can ruin the aesthetics of a staircase, balcony, patio, deck, gallery, etc…

It is regulations like the 4-inch, 6-inch and in some cases, 8-inch Ball Rules that limit what can be done with balustrades and railings.

Cable Is the Aesthetic Solution

The aesthetic appeal of a cable railing and balustrades is visual unobtrusiveness. Cable hand and bottom rails, runners, and vertical and horizontal balusters do little to nothing to impede the view of home, office and building staircases, corridors and open spaces.

But economic and safety values of cable balustrades and cable railing systems are a consequence of the structural integrity of a cable system and the simplicity of installing one. Simply put, cable balustrades are unparalleled in strength and are more secure than almost any other balustrade or railing building material. What’s more, cable balustrade systems require virtually no laborious effort to install.

Time and Manpower Advantages of Cable Railing

Though the finished look of a cable balustrade or cable railing system is often the main appeal for the installation of a cable solution, it is their installation efficiency that makes cable handrail systems the ideal choice for many decks, patios and corridors during construction. Cable requires less time to install, requires less manpower and is more versatile than other materials used for balustrades and railings.

Cable systems can also be designed to meet almost all building code requirements, from home owner association and municipal mandates to state and federal requisites.

Anchoring Options

What makes cable railing so versatile? It is the number of anchoring options. Dozens of different anchoring systems are available, meaning a cable railing system can be anchored to metal, aluminum, wood, concrete, cinder block, rock or any structurally sound support.

Anchoring Systems

While there are more options, the recommended systems for anchoring cable rails are:

  • Embedded — The anchoring system is not visible as it is embedded in the wood. Only the cable shows.
  • Swager — A swag anchoring system that allows convenient adjustment of the tension on the cable. Adjustments are made with a special tool in order to prevent accidental manipulation. This makes anchoring your handrail to wood, concrete and rock simple and fast.
  • Swageless — A lag and coupler system requiring only crescent and hex head wrenches, this system is similar to the swager type, but is swageless. Comes in both adjustable and static models.
  • Clipped — A clip and ferrule system that can be used with fixed jaw and swager units. Compressing a clip prevents the washer body of the system from sliding off.

Tools Required for Installation of Anchoring Systems and Cable

The following tools are required for at least some, if not all, anchoring systems:

  • Tool for Pre-Tensioning
  • Cable Grip Pliers (Locking)
  • Wrenches
  • Drills and Bits
  • Open-end wrench
  • Cut-off Kit (Depending on Fittings)
  • Grommet installation tool and hammer (for Grommet systems only)
  • Air compressor and calipers (Only if using swagers)

View our Cable Rail Tools


  • My dad wants to make sure that the roof deck is safe from people falling. It was explained here that having cable railings will not only secure but give it an aesthetic look. Moreover, it’s advisable to hire professionals when considering cable railing installation.

  • My dad wants to install iron railings at home to make sure that everyone is safe when taking the stairs. It was explained here that balusters can still look aesthetically appealing while dealing with functionality. Furthermore, it’s recommended to hire professional contractors when planning to install iron railings.

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