Cable Railing DIY Success, Part 2
Cable Railing DIY Success, Part 1 discussed the basic rules of cable railing, pre-design considerations and material considerations.
In Part 2, we are going to discuss the selection of post and rail material and how they can be used to build the safest railing and match your budget. We will further discuss how to successfully build a cable railing frame using wood.
Cable Railing Post and Rail Material
In Cable Railing DIY Success, Part 1, we discussed the need to understand your budget and your desired aesthetic outcome. The material used to build you cable railing frame will be essential to both factors. This article will lay out the variables of cost, strength, maintenance and degree of difficulty in each potential material type.
Wood for Cable Railing Frame
Approximately 60% of cable railings are made with a wood frame. Wood is the most flexible, most available and most cost-efficient material available for building a cable railing frame. When using wood for a DIY Cable Railing project do not sacrifice cost for safety. You will need minimum 4 x 4 quality wood for end and corner posts. Do not use laminated wood products for the cable railing frames. You should count on about 2,000 pounds of pull from 10 cables on a 36” high residential railing. At 42”, you will encounter about 2,400 pounds of pull over a longer area, which will increase the chances that a post may slightly deflect or bow. A 6 x 6 post will provide a stronger mounting station under these circumstances. Pressure treated lumber is likely the least expensive wood available for use, but you should use only KDAT (Kiln Dried After Treatment) number 1 or better. Hardwoods, Cedar, and Douglas Fir are the best choice for material, but they are far more expensive. If you are going to sleeve the project with composite or vinyl, you may be able to go to a “standard” quality pressure treated. These material recommendations apply to the top and optional bottom rails as well.
Stainless Steel Posts for Cable Railing Frame
Stainless steel cable railing posts are always a good choice, but they can be expensive, particularly when compared to wood frames. Stainless steel cable railing posts are comparable in cost to many composite railing systems, so for cost comparing, you should include the wood and composite against the stainless steel. Making your own stainless steel posts and rails are not usually recommended, but several manufacturers make stainless steel cable rail posts specifically for viewrail creations. If you like the idea of a stainless steel cable railing, but post cost is a budget killer, try using a combination of wood posts sleeved with composite or vinyl combined with a stainless steel top rail. This look will give you the stainless steel look at a fraction of the price. It will also be a unique creation.
Aluminum for Cable Railing Frame
Aluminum has become a viable frame material for cable railing frames, but they are usually very standard and almost all are powder coated. Making your own aluminum posts and rails are not usually recommended, but several manufacturers make aluminum cable rail posts specifically for viewrail creations. Aluminum is very competitively priced and will be cost comparable to high end wood and lower than most composite railing systems. If you like the powder coated look, aluminum may be your answer. Aluminum cable railing systems generally come as a complete set with instructions for a DIY installation. Additionally, you can combine a stainless steel top and optional bottom rail with aluminum posts to provide a lower cost stainless steel railing option.