Cable railing is one of our favorite types of railing to install. In the right setting, cable railing can emphasize a beautiful view with very little interruption. It is also an excellent low maintenance railing option for decks. This is because cable railing is not susceptible to rot or discoloration like wood railing. But this does not mean that cable railing has no maintenance at all. Taking proper care of cable railing will increase its longevity, aesthetic, and safety.
Proper tension is crucial to ensuring that the cable railing is functioning safely. If the cables slacken and lose tension the railing may not be safe. Tighten your cables annually and whenever they become loose. There are several easy ways to tighten the cables depending on the type of railing. The type of railing we use most frequently is the Invisible style. This can be tightened in two different ways depending on which specific product is used. It is important to talk to your contractor about what tightening method works for your type of railing system. The invisible cable rail systems we install can be tightened with a socket wrench and/or Allen wrench depending on the specific railing.
Allen Wrench: This tightening method requires, you guessed it, an Allen wrench. Check the post to find the end of the tensioner (metal piece terminating through the post) and match the correct size Allen wrench. Then, simple tighten the cable by rotating the Allen wrench in the tensioner end.
Socket Wrench: A special socket wrench can be used to tighten the cable from the inside of the post (where the cable enters the post). The socket wrench slides over the cable and can be pushed against the tensioner to be tightened. Often times the socket wrench and Allen wrench need to be used together on each end of the rail post. The specific socket wrench for your cable system can be ordered from the railing manufacturer.
Often cable railing is made of stainless steel, but there are some that are vinyl coated or galvanized. Since stainless steel cable is what we see most in our industry we will be addressing its required cleaning in the section. Although stainless steel is rust resistant it is not totally rust proof. Eventually stainless steel will show signs of oxidation, especially in high rust conditions such as coastal climates. Salt water, chemicals, contaminants from tooling, pollutants moss, and even pollen can contribute to cable deterioration.
Cleaning the cables annually or whenever they have a hefty buildup of contaminants will contribute to the longevity of the railing. But, it is especially important to remove any rust before it worsens. Rust and contaminants should be removed with care. It is important to avoid harsh cleaning products like bleach, acid, steel wool, scouring pads, or other abrasive brushes. Using chemicals and brushes that are too harsh can damage the railing hardware. Instead, use only water or very gentle soap, non abrasive sponges, and tooth brushes to clean tough areas. There are also lubricant products available that protect against rust and corrosion. Cable Bullet sells a waterproof lubricant for cable railing, Boeshield T-9, to be applied once the metal is cleaned and dried.
Tension cable really is a great low maintenance and beautiful option for deck railing. Although it is always important to pay attention to the condition of the railing, cleaning and tightening often only needs to be done annually. With a quick rinse and tightening your railing system will remain in top shape and safe to use.