Balustrade Comparison: Railings vs Stainless Steel Cable

When it comes to balustrades, there are many differences between materials in terms of longevity, strength, maintenance needs and even fire-resistance. This means when planning a balustrade, you should consider materials carefully, with a focus on performance and how long you want the balustrade to last.

Another factor to consider is the style or look of your balustrade – such as whether you prefer railings or stainless steel wire cables.

Here’s a brief comparison of these types of balustrades and the typical materials involved.

Railing balustrades

Compared to wire rope or cables, railings produce a style of balustrade that is often more ‘closed in’ and less transparent, depending on the materials. Railing examples include those made from timber, steel or glass, with each material performing differently.

One of the risks of railing balustrades is that furniture must be placed at least 1m away to prevent climbing. This may mean the space cannot be fully utilised.


Timber railings generally provide an affordable and largely low-maintenance balustrade option that can offer good security, excellent modularity and reasonable durability and longevity (lasting up to five years). They can also be visually pleasing and can be replaced fairly easily when required.

However, they may not have the desired strength, fire-resistance and capacity for customisation.


Steel railings have greater longevity and strength than those made from timber. Steel balustrades can also be excellent when it comes to security, fire-resistance and modularity, and they are generally very low in maintenance requirements.

On the other hand, steel can be a very harsh material, offering little in the way of visual softness or transparency.


Glass offers excellent transparency and good longevity. However, while it’s relatively low-maintenance, it does require regular cleaning. it can also be costly to achieve high levels of safety and fire resistance.

Wire cable balustrades

Stainless steel cable balustrades are usually made from marine-grade 7×7 or 1×19 wire rope and can be configured either horizontally or vertically. Wire cable of this type has a light appearance but is extremely robust, requiring very little in the way of maintenance.

Wire cables bring an elegance and sleekness to balustrades while not compromising on strength and safety standards. Their light-weight appearance makes them nearly transparent, which means views are not obstructed by thick posts and rails. Other features include excellent airflow and longevity (up to 25 years) as well as fire-resistance.

Vertical balustrades in particular are very versatile in that they can provide continuous non-climbable fall protection over several storeys where required. They can also allow for greater utilisation of space, enabling furniture to be placed right to the edge of the void.

These types of installations have been utilised in several projects we were involved in. These include:

Monash University Learning and Teaching Building, Melbourne

Our brief in this project was to design, engineer and install a vertical barrier to the main large open central area or atrium.

Over 1,500 cables made from 5mm stainless steel wire were used to create the balustrade, which extends over three levels. It was also important for the look of this installation that all fittings and fixing details were as invisible as possible.

The result is a vertical wire balustrade that is minimal in appearance and that allows for natural-light entry and good airflow.

Balustrade Comparison: Railings vs Stainless Steel Cable / Tensile Design & Construct

Stonnington City Council Office, Melbourne

The three-level balustrade in this installation has a two-fold purpose in that it also doubles as an internal green facade support structure for climbing plants.

We precision-engineered the cables to ensure they will continue to support the plants as they grow, while remaining light and sleek in appearance.

Find out more

We believe wire cables offer the best of all worlds – strength and robustness combined with great looks and better utilisation of space. If you would like to discuss options for wire cable balustrades, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Balustrade Comparison: Railings vs Stainless Steel Cable / Tensile Design & Construct

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