Installing horizontal cable deck railing systems is one of the best ways to maximize the space on your deck while giving it a contemporary look. With its modern, minimalistic aesthetic, you can boost the curb appeal of your deck and, at the same time, provide an unimpeded view of the beach, the mountains, or your garden. 

But while horizontal cable systems can undoubtedly upgrade your deck’s design, it can also be a potential safety hazard if the tension on the cable loosens. Our easy maintenance procedures will ensure proper cable tension is maintained, keeping your guardrail safe.

It is crucial that the cables in your deck railing system are up to code in terms of the tension in the cables to keep your family safe from falling hazards. If you’re unsure how to tighten cable deck railing, you can look through our guide below to learn tips that help you avoid problems with cable railing and how to tighten cable railing properly.

Common Problems with Cable Railing

When installing horizontal cables in your deck railing, paying attention to cable tension is important. The tension in the cables needs to be just right to ensure your cable system’s safety and durability. 

When Tension is Too High

Too much tension in the cables can damage your deck posts and rails. Overtightening your lines creates too much pull, which can cause your posts and rails to bend. When you see your posts start to bend, you should back off slightly and readjust the cable to relieve some of that tension.

When Tension is Not Enough

On the other hand, your cables will start to sag when the tension is insufficient. Sagging cables can look sloppy and unappealing and are safety risks. As a general rule, the tension on the cables should be high enough not to allow a 4” sphere to pass through. When there is slack in one of the cables, there will likely be a space that exceeds the maximum allowable spacing, creating a safety risk, especially for children. When you see some slack on the cables, make sure you check your hardware for loose connections and follow the proper tensioning sequence to tighten the cable. Once that’s done, perform one last check to see if the tension on all the other cables is adequate.

How Tight Should The Tension on the Cable Be?

According to the building code, the tension on cables should be 200 lb. This level of tension is high enough to meet the space requirements between runs while keeping it loose enough to avoid bending deck rails and posts. If you’re unsure whether you’re meeting the tension requirement, you can use a cable tension gauge to measure the level of tension in the cables or contact a professional to inspect your railing. Our rule of thumb for cable tightness is to shoot for a guitar string level of tautness with no loose or sagging cables.

How to Tighten Cable Deck Railing

The proper tensioning procedure should be followed to ensure that your deck cable railing complies with building codes and avoid problems later on. 

Materials You’ll Need

  • Stainless Steel Cable Railing
  • Cable Railing Kit
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Protective Lenses
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Steel Measuring Tape
  • Gloves

How to Tighten Cable Railing: Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. TENSION THE CABLES Apply a small amount of the supplied anti-seize lubricant to the threads and tighten with a wrench until taut. Use Vise-Grips™ and a piece of leather to protect the cable/fitting and to keep it from spinning. Start with tightening the middle cable first, then tighten cables above and below in an alternating sequence until all cables have been tensioned. This process is the same for our Stainless Cable & Railing Cable Railing Kits.
  2. REMOVE EXCESS THREADS After tensioning, excess threads must be removed. If using the Washer/Hex Nut/Acorn Nut combination, to protect the fitting during the cut, screw another sacrificial hex nut right after the installed tensioned hex nut, from which you may saw or grind up against. Use a reciprocating saw, grinder or hacksaw to make the cut. When completed you should have no exposed threads. Now remove the sacrificial grinding nut exposing the ¼” threads that the acorn nut is threaded onto, then screw on the acorn nut. If using the Cable Quick Nut/Cover combination, the sacrificial hex nut is not required, just cut or grind excess thread and screw on the cover.
  3. CLEAN and PASSIVATE Spray and wipe down all cables and exposed end fittings with CitriSurf® Passivator to make sure all stainless steel is passivated and will properly resist corrosion. Read the “Marine Grade Stainless Steel Maintenance and Cleaning Procedures” that follow for additional information and instructions.

Proper Cable Tension Support Courtesy of Stainless Cable & Railing

The installation process of stainless steel cable deck railing systems is straightforward and easy to follow when purchasing kits from Stainless Cable & Railing. All our easy-to-install railing kits come with complete instructions to provide a seamless DIY installation experience and help you avoid problems with your cable railing system. Take a look at our catalog of affordable and versatile railing installation kits to find one that’s right for your next deck project.

Can’t find what you’re looking for or have a specific project in mind? Send us an email with your project details to or give us a call at 8886867245, and we’ll be happy to connect you with custom solutions that meet your requirements.