Installing DIY cable railing to a home’s exteriors has been gaining in popularity over the past few years. It’s a great way to add an updated touch to decks and porches while saving money at the same time.
The front exterior of my house has a modern look with ornate double front doors and angled roof lines. With all the affordable updates we have made to the exterior, we have kept this modern vibe in mind.
We also stained the slat wall to match the front doors and garage door that I Painted Both to Look Like Wood Grain. The other modern touch that was added was a Corten Steel Planter, placed on the far side of the garage door.
We knew that cable railing was the way to go to stay with the modern vibe when we removed the shrubs in front of the porch a few years ago. We not only needed a railing for a modern, minimalist look, but more importantly for safety.
I didn’t want to have anyone fall off the porch, especially the delivery people who run up the steps, drop off a package and quickly turn around to leave with nothing for them to grab in their haste. My goal was to provide a safe and secure barrier.
We also had to figure out a way to install the railing since we were not putting the railing on a wood deck, but onto an entry porch made of brick. With a wood deck you can easily secure the posts with mounting plates and screws.
With a brick floor, drilling the holes needed to mount any ready-made cable kit posts would have damaged the brick and loosened the mortar, which we want to keep in good shape.
How We Attached the Posts to The Brick
The posts are not attached at all to the brick. What we did was install four – 2 x 4’s along the porch right up against the side of the porch. The holes in the ground for these was 24 ” so they would be solid and secure.
Next we added a shorter 2 x 4 to the inside of each post with wood screws that we counter-sinked and covered with wood filler. Then we filled the joints between the 2 x 4’s so the posts would look like more substantial 4 x 4’s.
With so many cable railing kits, systems and types of cable railing I had to do a lot of research to figure out what type would be best for our needs.
If you are not familiar with cable railing, the openness of the cables, allows you to see straight through with nothing to block a view. For my home’s contemporary design and large glass sidelights on each side of the front door, this was important.
After watching a lot of YouTube cable railing videos and drawing sketches of railings with metal posts as well as wooden posts, we decided to go with the Deck Man Cable Railing System components bought on Amazon. The system allows you to pick and choose just the components in the amounts you need.
Going with this railing installation system saved us money vs. buying a costly kit from the bigger brand name cable railing companies.
AFTER: Front Porch With Cable Railing
On the front porch, we created a wood railing with wood that we stained to coordinate with the other exterior elements.
I stained the wood using Behr Semi-Transparent stain in the color Chestnut.
We added a copper cap to the two bottom posts and spaced the cables 3″ apart.
We also added the cable to the upper existing deck posts and railing that only had one cross bar on the lake side of the house. We spaced the cables at 3-1/2″ apart on this deck to keep the spacing even with the wood cross bar.
DIY Cable Railing Step-By-Step Tutorial
With the Deck Man cable railing system, we opted to treat each section on the railing as a whole. We completed one section between wood posts at a time and then moved to another section.
We did it this way to keep each section of cable tension taut and not loosen over time. Installation would have been faster if we ran one one long piece of cable to thread through all the middle posts of the railing using the protective sleeves that are part of the Deck Man cable deck railing system.
Time needed: 12 hours
How to Cable Deck Railing DIY Installation
- Cable Railing Spacing – Make a Cable Spacing Template
Figure out how many cables you want on your railing. Make sure you know the deck railing spacing code requirements in your town or municipality. Most are between 3″ – 4″. We placed the cables on the deck 3-1/2″ apart. On the front porch, we went with 3″ spacing as it fit the gap better.
Note: To get equal spacing for your railing, you may have to make one of the spaces larger or smaller. This will be least obvious on the top or bottom section. We needed to do this on the deck railing and made the bottom cable to the deck slightly larger than 3-1/2″ so all the other cables could be equally apart.
- Drill Holes in Posts
To use the template, clamp it or hold it in line with a a deck post, then use the drill in the template holes to make the holes in the post. The template will help but focus on keeping the drill perpendicular so the swag screws will also be perpendicular.
Repeat this step on all posts.
- Place Cables Into Lag Screws
Working one section at a time, measure the distance between the posts to determine how long the cables for that section between posts needs to be. Reduce the distance measured between the posts by 1-1/2″ to accommodate the swag screws, which are not fully inserted into the wood.
- Cut the Cable
Using the heavy-duty wire cutter that comes with the cable, cut the first cable to the length needed.
Crimp and install the first cable for each section to make sure the length is right. Then cut and crimp the rest of the cables needed for the section.
We found the crimping the hardest part of installing the cable system. Either we had a defective crimper or our hand strength is not what any of the videos and blog posts we viewed showed. They made it look like a simple squeeze of the crimper was all it took. We did find one video with two contractors who had the same problem.
This is the reason we didn’t place all the lag screw in the holes and crimp the wire in place.
- Tighten Each Cable
Using the screw turning tool that comes with the lag screws or a pair of locking pliers. For each length of cable, you will have a right hand and left hand screw. That means that the screws have to be turn in opposite direction.
If you remember the catch phrase, “Righty, tighty and Lefty, loosey”, it won’t work. Some what coincidentally, you will turn the tool towards you on both sides but that leans you’re turning the right side clockwise and the left side counter clockwise.
This may sound confusing but will make sense as soon as you get started, especially if you do it wrong and the cable gets all twisted.
- Repeat the Process
For each section between deck or porch railing posts, repeat the step-by-step process until you have all the sections filled with the cables.
- Installing Cable on a Stair Railing
When installing the cables for a railing that is on the side of stairs, the installation process is the same, except when you drill the holes at a 30 degree angle so the lag screws will go in on an angle. The angle may vary depending on your steps so just ensure you are parallel with the railing cap.
To make it easy, create a cable spacing template and when you drill the holes into it, make sure you angle the drill bit at a 30 degree angle (or whatever your steps require).
We are very happy with how the railing came out and looks with the rest of the house.
The upper deck railing also came out just as nice.
If you are a homeowner considering adding a cable railing to an area around your home or even inside your home and want to save money consider DIY’ing to save money and getting the look you want.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment section of this post.
DIY Cable Railing FAQ’s
This will depend on the style of cable rail you want as well as your budget. Cable railing fittings can vary in cost and style. Do you want metal or wood posts? Do you want to use a cable railing kit or go the DIY route to save money?
Cable railing systems can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. It is important to set a budget before you start shopping.
The cost to complete the porch railing for the wood, cable and hardware needed was about $500. The cost of doing the deck was about the same as we didn’t need to buy wood, but needed more cable wire and hardware for the length of the deck.
Pros: Open view and clean-lined look.
Cons: Problems with cable railing is that over time the wire cabling can lose its tension and become slack or loose. It may need tightening.
Most cable railing kits or systems like we used come with a tool to tighten the screws when needed. You can also use a pair of locking pliers. When tightening remember you need to turn the right and left sides in different directions.