Perfect Top Rail for Your Cable Railing Feature

5 factors to consider when selecting a top rail for your cable railing system. Get tips will help you chose a rail that compliments your home.

Whether you are installing a new railing or replacing an older wooden or metal one, a new cable railing system can update your home’s appearance. Adding cable railing also gives your deck or stairway a cleaner, less obstructed appearance. Let’s look at selecting the perfect top rail to complement your cable railing system.

Cable railing systems provide a low-maintenance and robust border and handrail construction. It employs thin horizontal cables instead of spindles, mesh, glass, and other materials to fill the space between the vertical posts. The result is an almost unobstructed view from your deck or balcony, offering a greater sense of space and openness. 

When selecting a horizontal top rail, you should keep your surroundings and personal taste in mind.

Factors to Consider When Selecting the Perfect Top Rail

While an essential part of your railing system, your deck railing’s top rail does not have to be graspable like a stairway handrail does. However if the deck rail and stairway are close together, you may want to consider having the top rails match in color or material.


Wooden Top Rail on a Cable Railing system on deck overlooking a green forest.

Wood and metal are the primary options for top rails. Wood offers a more natural or rustic feel and look, while metal top railings can impart a sleeker, contemporary, and somewhat industrial impression.

As a leader in cable railing systems, Atlantis Rail offers several connecting options to integrate wooden or metal top rails seamlessly into their many cable railing designs. 

Wood tends to be easier to shape and install since the material is easier to drill, cut and mitre for adjustment. Metal requires much less maintenance, but it can also get very hot and cold to the touch during certain seasons. Overall, wood can be softer, more comfortable and much easier to manipulate over metal.


Top rail options for perimeter cable railings on decks and balconies can be either wood or metal. Both of these can also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some may be cross-sectionally rounded, squared, or rectangular, depending on your preference. 

Additionally, for a truly creative design, some companies can custom mill your wooden top railing to your specifications. Just keep in mind that the top rail must have a minimum diameter for structural integrity. Check your local building code for more details.

Metal top rails can be created from tubing, flat pieces, piping, or various extrusions. 


You may want your top rail to be wide enough that guests can place drinks and other items on top. Or you may want the thinnest possible top rail to maximize the breathtaking view. As long as the top rail meets the structural requirements, you can customize the dimensions for any of your needs.

Color and Finish

The color and finish of your wood and metal top railing depend on the surroundings and view. 

For example, if the view is an important consideration, select a shade that will blend, rather than contrast with the panorama. If you have an ocean or lake view, a light color will enhance the vista. If forests or dark mountains surround you, a darker top railing will offer less “interference.” You should first test each shade against the background to identify what color works best. 

In an indoor setting like a balcony or stairway, matching the surrounding style and ambiance can help the cable railing blend in seamlessly. 

Alternatively, you may choose to highlight the space by installing an accenting or contrasting color or texture.

Passive colors like white, silver, or stainless steel tend to have a calming impact, while colors like gray, brown, tan, and greens usually fit nicely in most outdoor and backyard settings. 

The freedom and possibilities for the top rail of your cable railing are limitless. Get creative and choose a rail that complements your home and surroundings.