What Are The Top Cable Railing Building Codes and Considerations?

Cable railings are the go-to option for any home or business owner looking to update the look of their property’s decks, staircases, and terraces. They give any building a minimalist and sleek style by replacing the rather bulky, obstructive picket railings that are commonly seen.

The benefits of using cable railings extend beyond the appearance of your home or business. They make your decks appear larger and more spacious, allowing for a greater view of the outside, and providing better security.

However, before investing in cable railing for your property, you need to be aware of the applicable rules and criteria. Each aspect of the railing system is subject to a set of codes for proper installation and safety.

In this post, we’ll discuss the cable railing construction code standards and requirements that you must be aware of before investing in a system.

Senmit cable railing post

1. Is Cable Railing Safe for Children & Toddlers?

If you have traditional picket railings, you may be forced to baby-proof them to protect your little ones. One approach would be to install extra netting across the rail to close the large gaps. However, this would add to the already bulky rails, and it would further obstruct the view. Worse, it may create additional hazards if the netting becomes loose and exposes gaps for your children to stick their heads into.

Cable railing, in contrast, offer the greatest safety for children & toddlers. The cables are close together, which means your kids won’t be able to stick their heads through.

If you're worried that the horizontal wires will serve as a ladder for your children to climb on, then rest assured. Research by The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and The National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association (NOMMA) revealed that the risk is low to non-existent. In fact, windows, doors, and fences pose a greater risk than cable railing. Additionally, today’s cable railing come with added strength and durability to ensure the safety of everyone.

2. How far apart should cable railing be?

The spacing rules of cables in a cable railing system are plain and simple:

If you've been around the cable railing industry for a bit, you've probably heard of the 4-Inch (or 6-Inch in the case of stairs) Sphere Rule. These guidelines can be found in practically every cable railing code guide. But what  do they mean precisely?

4 Inch Sphere Rule

The 4-Inch Sphere Rule refers to the spacing between cables that occurs after installing the system. Basically, no matter how hard you try, a 4” sphere should not be able to pass through the cables. To achieve a spacing of no more than 4”, technicians drill holes 3⅛” apart, center to center.

6 Inch Sphere Rule

The 6-Inch Sphere Rule, which is specific to stairs, is an exception to the 4-Inch Sphere Rule. Essentially, a 6" sphere should not be able to pass between the bottom rail and the stair treads.

3. Cable Railing Posts Height & Spacing

The minimum height for cable railing posts varies between building codes, areas, and usage case (residential or commercial). You should follow your local city codes first because they take precedence over state, national, and international codes.

Most states have a residential code that demands a height limit of 36 inches. There are some exceptions, however, such as California, where the required height for residential railing is 42 inches. The commercial International Building Code, in contrast, sets the minimum railing height at 42 inches. Note that railing height is measured from the floor to the top of the railing and can be floor or side mounted.

4. Force & Load Requirements

Load requirements, which refer to the concentrated load applied to a specific point on the railing system or distributed linearly throughout the system, also apply to cable railing systems. The posts must be strong enough to withstand the pulling power of the steel cables. And the top rails are subject to frequent mild impacts and pressure from objects or people resting on the structure.

The international Residential Code requires a railing system's handrails, guardrails, and other elements relating to the structure to withstand 200 pounds of force horizontally or vertically. Local construction rules may also require lighter loads of 20 lb per square foot for cable in-fill.

We manufacture our cable railing hardware to the highest standards so that you can have a fashionable-looking and safe home or business.

5. Cables And Tensioning

Cable tensioning is another critical part to the success and safety of your cable railing system. When upwards of ten or more cables are fitted to the posts, each of them generates roughly 300 Ibs in tension. With the incredible amount of tension that the cables create, poorly designed end posts can cause major safety hazards. At Senmit, we manufacture quality-proven and reliable posts that withstand the highest of tensions.

Cable end fittings should also be considered. There are two types of cable ends (tensioning and non-tensioning) and which one to use is determined by the manufacturer's requirements, local building codes, and ICC standards. To decide the type of cable end fittings necessary for your specific cable railing, you'll need to know the length of cable required to run from end to end and the degree of their tensioning capability.

6. Steel Cable Diameter And Properties

Strand Stainless-Steel Cables are strong with minimal flex and stretch capabilities.  They are available in galvanized carbon steel, type 304 stainless steel, or the corrosion resistant type 316 stainless steel. They are an excellent choice for railing applications, with the 19×1 (19 strands twisted in a single bundle) type being the recommended. Senmit has some of the safest and strongest Stainless-Steel Cable Kits to help you complete your modern and fancy railing system.