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  • 34 HANDY J U LY A U G U S T 2 0 0 8

    P H OTO S B Y S C OT T J A C O B S O N A N D S T E V E R H O D E SA N D C O U R T E S Y F E E N E Y A R C H I T E C T U R A L P R O D U C T S

    I L L U S T R A T I O N S B Y S T E P H E N H U T C H I N G S

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  • J U LY A U G U S T 2 0 0 8 HandymanClub.com 35J U LY A U G U S T 2 0 0 8 HandymanClub.com 35

    Enhance your view with a modern, low-maintenancealternative to traditional balusters

    B Y D A N C A R Y

    CABLE RAILING

    ailings affect the appearance of adeck more than just about anyother design element. But thetype of railing you select also

    affects your view from the deck, your pri-vacy when youre using the deck and themaintenance your deck will require.

    For my deck, I wanted a modern-looking railing that would not obstructthe view of my backyard and that wouldrequire very little maintenance. Cablerailing turned out to be the perfectchoice for me.

    This type of railing system usescables instead of balusters between theposts. It has been used for years in com-mercial settings, but the increasing inter-est in modern design and architectureduring the past 10 years has made it a

    more common choice in residentialapplications, both indoors and outside.

    The most obvious benefit of cablerailing is that it does not obstruct yourview. Most residential cable railings aremade with 1/8- or 3/16-in.-dia. stainlesssteel cables that essentially disappearwhen you look through them.

    The other major benefit of cable rail-ing is that it requires very little mainte-nance. Wood posts and rails may need tobe restained or painted every few years,but cables typically need only occasionalcleaning with a damp rag and a seasonaltension adjustment, depending on therigidity of the frame and temperatureextremes in your region.

    I chose the CableRail system manu-factured by Feeney (see SOURCES

    ONLINE) because it features cables withintegrated threaded terminal fittings aswell as QuickConnect-SS fittings thatmake the installation very simple. Thecost varies depending on the length of therun and the number of fittings you need.For example, a 20-ft. run of the CableRailsystem, consisting of 10 horizontalcables, costs about $22 a foot compa-rable to many composite deck-railingsystems. If youre interested in horizontalcable railing for your deck, check withyour local building authority to be surethat it is accepted by code in your area.

    MATERIALS Compared with popular rigid railingmaterials, cable poses a unique chal-lenge in that it can be moved or

    R

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  • 36 HANDY J U LY A U G U S T 2 0 0 8

    deflected to create larger or smalleropenings. The International ResidentialCode (IRC) requires that a 4-in.-dia.sphere cannot pass through any openingof the railing, so cables must be spacedno more than 3 in. apart and must beunder enough tension to keep themfrom creating larger openings. Usestainless steel cable fasteners and fit-tings specifically designated for railingapplications (see SOURCES ONLINE).

    Use exterior-rated lumber for thepost-and-rail framing components. Iused pressure-treated Southern yellowpine and stained it with a deckstain/sealer.

    All framing fasteners and bracketsmust be corrosion-resistant and com-patible with the lumber you plan to use.For example, when using ACQ pressure-treated lumber, use stainless steelfasteners, hot-dipped galvanized coatedfasteners or fasteners coated with anACQ-approved proprietary coating.

    DESIGNThe first decision you must makewhen designing your cable-railing lay-out is whether you will use separateterminating cables at the corners or asingle continuous run of cable (seeCorner Options, p. 38). The mainadvantage to using separate cable runsthat terminate at the corners is that you

    can use a single post in each corner,which means one fewer post andresults in a more open appearance.Separate cables can also be a little eas-ier to tighten because of their shorterlength. However, a continuous runwith a single longer cable costs lessthan several shorter cables andrequires fewer fittings.

    The strength of any railing systemdepends primarily on the strength of theposts and post connections. Use 4x6lumber for all corner and end posts, astheyll be supporting all of the cable-tension load. Use 4x4 lumber for all ofthe other structural intermediate postsand 2x4 posts between the larger posts.The 2x4 posts are not structural; they

    serve primarily as intermediate sup-ports for the cable. The cable must besupported a minimum of every 36 in. tocontrol deflection.

    The posts alone will not resist theseveral hundred pounds of potentialforce that is exerted by the tensionedcables, so in addition to a securely fas-tened 2x6 cap rail, 2x4 or 1x4 horizon-tal blocking is attached between theposts underneath the cap rail. Thisblocking provides additional lateralreinforcement so that the posts will not

    Cable railing can be installedoutdoors or indoors. Manu-factured metal post-and-railsystems are also available,but wood is the mosteconomical option and ismost often used for DIYinstallations. In both cases,the cables nearly disappear,creating an open appearanceand unobstructed view.

    For details on railing-post connectionsand more deck-railing ideas, go to

    www.HandymanClub.com/FromHandyand click on the Web Extras box.

    08-07-Cable Railing:Template H-1a 6/4/08 11:48 AM Page 36

  • J U LY A U G U S T 2 0 0 8 HandymanClub.com 37

    be pulled out of plumb when the cablesare tensioned.

    Foot rails can also be included inyour design to provide additional lat-eral resistance and to act as a footrest.These rails are optional, however. Tocreate an open appearance, I chose touse them only on the stairs.

    Stair railings are designed usingthe same components and spacingguidelines as the horizontal rails. The

    only two differences with stair railingsare that you must drill the guide holesat an angle to match the stair-treadpitch and you must install a handrailthat meets the building code standardfor grippable or graspable. My cityrequires that the cross-sectional dimen-sion of the handrail must not be lessthan 1-1/4 in. or more than 2-5/8 in.The handrail must also be at least1-1/2 in. away from the wall or posts.

    INSTALLATIONThe most important aspects of the instal-lation are properly securing the posts anddrilling the cable-guide holes. Installingthe cable itself is as simple as lacing itthrough the guide holes and tighteningthe nuts.

    Fasten the posts directly to the deckframing using 1/2-in.-dia. bolts and man-ufactured brackets (see Web Extras).Securely attach the horizontal blocking

    Use a drill guide to bore 1/4-in.-dia.cable-guide pilot holes. These pilotholes will act as guides when you use alonger drill bit to bore through the post.

    Set the drill guide angle to match thepitch of the stairs. Use the drillingtemplate to bore the angled pilotholes in the stair posts.

    Use an extra-long 1/4-in.-dia. bit to borethrough the rest of the post. Be carefulnot to push too hard as the long bit exitsthe post to eliminate the risk of blowout.

    Feed the threaded terminal end of thecable through the corner post and fas-ten it with a washer and nut. Tightenthe nut until about 1/4 in. of thethreads is exposed.

    Feed the loose cable ends throughthe posts. Secure each cable with awasher and end fitting. Note: Dontforget the washer. This fitting will notslide off once it is on.

    Use a beveled washer fitting at the endsof the angled guide holes. Use protectorsleeves where the cable will change direc-tion to prevent cables from compress-ing the wood around the guide hole.

    CABLE-RAILING INSTALLATION

    1 2 3

    4 5 6

    Wood edgeattached 1-3/4 in.from the center ofthe drilling holes

    3"

    3"

    Threadedterminal fitting

    Washerand nut

    Beveledwasherfitting

    Protectorsleeve

    QuickConnect-SSfitting

    Fitting

    Pull cable tight

    Drill guide

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  • 38 HANDY J U LY A U G U S T 2 0 0 8

    Feeney Architectural Products (CableRail)800-888-2418

    OTHER MANUFACTURERSAtlantis Rail Systems, 800-541-6829

    Ultra-Tec Cable Railing, 800-851-2961

    SOURCES ONLINEFor online information, go to

    www.HandymanClub.com/FromHandyand click on SOURCES ONLINE.

    CABLE-RAILING INSTALLATION

    CORNER OPTIONS

    7 8 9

    and cap rails with deck screws. Posts mustbe spaced at least 3 to 4 in. away fromadjacent house siding to provide room forfitting access.

    The cable guide holes must bedrilled at the same heights and spacedequally. The easiest way to ensure thatyour guide holes are consistent is to usea template. I made my drilling templateusing commonly available pegboard. Imarked every third peg hole to estab-lish the 3-in. hole spacing and thenattached a wood edge to center theholes across a 3-1/2-in.-wide post side.

    Use a drill guide to bore the 1/4-in.-dia. pilot holes into the post (photos 1and 2, p. 37). Then use a longer 1/4-in.-

    dia. bit to drill through the post (photo3). Enlarge each hole as specified by themanufacturer to allow clearance for thecables and fittings youre using.

    If you are installing multiple cablesat the corners, you must offset thecable-guide holes by 1/4 to 1/2 in. Thismakes one section of cables slightlyhigher or lower than the adjacent sec-tion, but I didnt think the differencewas very noticeable or distracting.

    Do your best to keep the holesaligned and straight. Dont worry if theholes are slightly off track becauseonce all of the cables are in place, theirunified appearance will overshadowmin