Choosing the Right Cable for Your Cable Railing

Choosing the Right Cable for Your Cable Railing - Wagner Companies

The Wagner Companies offers cable in five different diameters for our Cable Railing System: 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 5/16″, and 3/8″.

For cable railings, you want to use a cable that is as rigid as possible and does not stretch. For most applications, we recommend 1 x 19 construction, type 316 stainless steel strand (cable). Other constructions can be used, such as 7 x 7 or 7 x 19, but they are rarely recommended because they are less rigid than 1 x 19, and have elevated levels of stretch. The breaking strengths for 1 x 19 construction are also higher than 7 x 7 and 7 x 19.

Cable Applications

Cable Diameter  Typical Applications
 1/8″ Can be used on horizontal railings where there is little or no pedestrian traffic or where railing does not need to meet code requirements (such as where there is little or no drop-off). Can be used in vertical railings which are not as susceptible to heavy shock loads as horizontal railings.*
 3/16″ Most commonly used diameter for pedestrian railings
 1/4″ Diameters larger than 3/16″ may be used where a larger diameter is desirable from a visual aesthetics standpoint.

* 1/8″ diameter cable can be vulnerable to failure under shock loads caused by abuse such as a heavy person applying an out of plan load on a properly tensioned cable. 3/16″ and larger cable diameters have significantly higher load ratings than 1/8″ cable and are therefore not as susceptible to failure.

Cable Minimum Breaking Strengths

Cable Diameter Minimum Breaking Strength (lbs) For Following Cable Constructions in Type 316 Stainless Steel
1 x 19 7 x 7 7 x 19
 1/8″ 1,780 1,360 1,360
 3/16″ 4,000 3,300 2,900
 1/4″ 6,900 5,500 4,900
5/16″ 10,600 7,600 7,600
3/8″ 14,800 11,700 11,000

Contact Wagner Companies for assistance with your cable railing project


  • You made a good point when you said that we should get rigid and unstretchable cables for protection in the outdoor scenery of the home like in the terrace. This should serve as a cover and protection in case somebody gets tripped or accidentally lean on the edge. My house is going to be remodeled soon, and I know I should consider getting one installed in the terrace. I will then look around and search for suppliers who can give me vast quality selections and professional installers with the right tools to get this done.

  • Hi Tony, I’d like to thank you for your explanation about getting the right cable for our railing installation. This is just so timely because we are planning for a major home renovation which might include cable railing. My husband needs to see this detailed information of yours. Cheers!

  • I have 3/8 cable but need fasteners. Would you have anything that I could purchase?

Comments are closed.


View All »


Straightforward installation and the ability to customize your look.


Lighted Railing Installation

Installation instructions for Lumenrail®


Cable Railing Installation

Learn about Ultra-tec® cable cutting, swaging measurements and how to install cable railing.