Why Vertical Cable Should Be Your Next Railing

The Case for Vertical Cable Railing

Horizontal cable railing is ubiquitous - we see it on HGTV, in restaurants and all over Houzz. Most consumers looking for a cable railing system aren’t aware that another option is available – vertical cable railing. Our Key-Link vertical and horizontal cable railing systems both feature the same color selection, rail and post styling, and unobstructed views. They do, however, have many differences beyond cable direction. Today, we are going to highlight some reasons why you should consider vertical cable railing for your next railing.


Key-link vertical cable railing installation is simple for contractors and DIY enthusiasts alike. This is because Key-Link preinstalls the cable and fittings into the top and bottom rail. Before the section is hung, the installer cuts the railing to length and inserts the stainless-steel support balusters into the top and bottom railing. This baluster serves as a ridged support that allows you to tension the cables properly. Both horizontal and vertical cable systems require specific tensioning. Regardless of which cable system you chose, we suggest purchasing a tension gauge to ensure your cable isn’t over or under tensioned.

Once the balusters are in place, simply hang the railing sections, and tension the cable according to the instructions or your local municipality. For more information, check out Key-Link’s installation videos below.


Railing has one utilitarian purpose: to serve as a safety guardrail for decks, balconies, and stairs. Most local building authorities follow a combination of guidelines of the International Residential Code (IRC 2003) and the International Building Code (IBC 2003). In general, any residential surface raised more than 30” requires a guardrail to have a minimum height of 36”. Any opening in the guardrail must prevent a 4” sphere from passing through. This 4” sphere requirement is why it is extremely important that you tension your vertical cable railing properly. Key-Link’s installation instructions require a specific tensioning pattern (shown below) throughout cable infill.

cable guardrail tensioning

Key-link’s cable guardrail is engineered and tested according to ICC standards; this ensures that their product is structurally safe. Be cautious with DIY alternatives. Some installers may seek out cheaper materials to create a DIY guardrail in an effort save money, but what they fail to realize is that they may be prioritizing frugalness over safety. For example: Key-link uses a high quality 1x19 stainless steel cable, as opposed to cheaper alternatives which use 7x7 cable. This 1x19 strand pattern is stiffer and is suitable for cable railing at lower tension. A 7x7 pattern will be flexible and require more tension to compensate for the lack of the cable’s stiffness.

7x7 vs 1x19 strand cable
Let’s discuss the ever-controversial Ladder Effect. Some local municipalities may still follow the IRC 2000, which states that no guardrail is permitted to have horizontal infill. At one time, it was thought that children couldn’t resist climbing anything shaped like a ladder. In practice, however, studies have shown that horizontal cable hasn’t presented itself as a climbing hazard and is no longer a part of IRC 2003. Some municipalities still might not allow horizontal infill and it is important that you check with your local authority before installation.


Cost Benefit

The cost of materials and labor for vertical cable railing are typically cheaper than its horizontal counterpart. We already covered that our Key-Link vertical cable railing has preinstalled cable and fittings. This simplifies and makes the installation process quicker. Also, the posts for vertical cable railing share the same 2-1/2” post option as our budget friendly Outlook Series with square baluster, which is both smaller and more affordable.



The benefits of installation, price and safety make vertical cable railing an excellent alternative to horizontal cable railing.


Interested in our Key-Link Vertical Cable Railing? Let one of our experts help!

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