When we bought our house back in 2013, one of the biggest disasters was the back patio.
There was a moldy, mildew-y vinyl fence hiding a cracked & sunk concrete pad and perhaps the world’s ugliest & most unsafe basement staircase railing.
The pictures are actually doing the house justice. The old, faded, baby blue siding had holes & cracks everywhere, the lava rock “garden” was overgrown with weeds, and that hand rail was something else.
I still can’t believe that old railing passed inspection when we bought the place. It was made out of thin-walled square metal tubing with vinyl lattice ZIP-TIED to it! It wobbled like crazy in the slightest amount of wind, and it was “secured” to the baby blue siding with screws which had already torn themselves free years ago.
Well, we kept that railing up until the point where we finally were able to renovate the exterior of the house with metal siding in late fall of 2014.
Get this. I was able to simply grab on to the middle of the rail and pull it right out of those 3 little holes that you can see in the concrete stairwell wall above. I’m pretty sure whoever built it tried to secure it to the concrete holes with caulk. lol
By the time the siding was finished, it was rapidly turning into winter and we didn’t want to deal with working in the snow, so we held off for several months until the weather got better.
So what you see above is how we lived with it for quite a while until we got around to putting up a new cable railing.
You could call it a “Pit of Doom!” … and that’s basically what it was. There were so many times when I almost fell off that thing while working on different furniture projects out there. We even heard a cat fall off one time when it was trying to cross the gap on the little satellite/TV cable you can see dangling along the metal trim.
Not safe! So, it was time to finally design and install a simple, low budget, aircraft cable railing.
I made a little YouTube video series that shows exactly how I built them:
As you just saw, it was a fairly basic project. I kept the railing design simple, and I saved TONS of money by building my own DIY cable system instead of buying one of those (surprisingly) expensive cable kits that you can find online or at the big box stores.
I used your run of the mill treated 4″x4″ wood posts and 2″x4″s to build the railing structure, stained it with homemade wood stain to match the wood siding on the front porch of our house, and then I used off the shelf stainless and aluminum hardware from Menards to secure the super affordable stainless aircraft cable I found on eBay.
One thing I’d like to point out… is that I spaced my cables 4″ apart, but I’ve had several YouTube comments mention that I should have spaced them at 3″ instead, because the cable has some flex unlike your standard wooden spindles. So I would definitely recommend asking a local builder/inspector what they recommend and/or go with the 3″ spacing to play it safe.
I should have done that myself before building our railing, so I guess we’ll find out if ours passes inspection when we eventually sell the house. If it doesn’t, I have a plan to convert it to a simple hog pen wire panel railing if needed.
Materials & Supplies List:
I’ve had a few people ask about what hardware I used and how much it cost, so here’s a parts list with prices (at the time of the writing of this blog post):
– EssentialHardware.com –
Pylex 10830 44 Post Connector Plates ~ $1.79 each (I used 6)
Pylex 13048 Black Steel Post Bases ~ $7.96 each (I used 6)
– eBay seller: “wilsonbuildingproducts” –
1/8″ 1×19 T316 stainless steel aircraft cable ~ I paid $115 +free shipping for a 250ft roll (They have different sizes of rolls available, so choose whatever length works for your project. I think they sell on Amazon as well.)
– Menards –
2″x4″ x 12′ long AC2 Pressure Treated Lumber (Rails/Cross Supports) ~ $6.47 each (I used 4)
4″x4″ x 6′ long AC2 Pressure Treated Timbers (Upright Posts) ~ $5.87 each (I needed 3, but I actually used a 6′ and a 12′ that I cut down, because they only had the one 6ft’er in stock when I bought them)
1/4″ x 6″ Drill Bit ~ $4.49 (To drill all the way through the center posts with wiggle room for the cable)
3″ Deck Screws for Treated Lumber ~$6.71 / 1lb box (I bought 1 box for the rails)
1-5/8″ Deck Screws for Treated Lumber ~ $6.71 / 1lb box (I bought 1 box for the post bases)
1 Gallon Exterior Wood Clear Coat Sealant ~ $32.98 (I actually used some left over from my front porch deck project, but I thought I’d share what I used anyway)
1/4″ x 6″ Masonry Rotary/Hammer Drill Bit ~$2.19 (Worked great with my little Ryobi hammer drill)
1/4″ x 3-1/4″ Concrete Wedge Anchor Bolts ~ $5.68 / 15ct bag (I used 4 bags… they’re shiny zinc coated & will eventually rust, so I coated them with a bit of black Rust-o-leum paint to protect & hide them)
1/4″ x 3-3/4″ Stainless Steel Lag Screw Eyes ~ $1.49 each (I used 28)
1/4″ x 7-1/2″ Stainless Steel / Aluminum Turnbuckles ~ $5.29 each (I used 14)
1/8″ Aluminum Cable Ferrules ~ $4.74 / 15ct box (I used 2 boxes)
18″ Ferrule Crimping Tool ~ $19.99 (Basically a glorified bolt cutter… Maybe rent or borrow one if possible?)
8″ Cable Cutters ~ $9.99 (Probably the best $10 I spent on the whole project! The curved cutting blades snipped right through the cable, no problem)
– Made Myself –
DIY Wood Stain (Iron Acetate) ~ $Ultra Cheap… Practically FREE with household items!
Project TOTAL: ~ approximately $448.03 for our cable railings
(This price includes the $33 gallon of exterior wood clear coat that I had left over from a previous project and the $20 crimping tool that maybe could have been borrowed for free if I knew someone that had one. The one I bought really just looked like a bolt cutter with a different sticker on it, so I wonder if a dulled down regular bolt cutter could work?)
At the end of the video, I mentioned if there was one thing I might’ve changed about the design, it would have been to add a rail across the bottom to balance out the heaviness of the wood compared to the “barely there” cables.
If you’re curious what that would look like, I actually had someone on Facebook (Christian Jordan) share a picture of the one he built to replace his old droopy railing after watching the videos. Looks great!
And just a few of days ago, I had another person (Sandra G) contact me on YouTube to mention this:
Wow! She built hers for less than $1500 after getting a $9000 quote! Pretty sweet deal, huh?
So there you go.
We love how ours turned out, and I was surprised by how simple & affordable it was to build. It fits in great with the rest of the house’s modern style, plus it’s MUCH safer than that old wobbly junker we had.