How to Use Cables as Wood Stair Rails

If you have regular wood stair rails and want to change them out for something more creative, consider replacing the wooden rails with steel cables. Steel cables are safe, secure and much more interesting. This simple step-by-step how-to guide will show you everything you need to know.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Steel cabling
  • Steel crimping tool
  • Crimping sleeves
  • 4 by 4 lumber posts
  • Drill with drill bits
  • Large screw in eye hooks
  • Pair of pliers
  • Decorative L-brackets
  • Wood screws
  • Wood stain or paint
  • Paint and painting tools
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Saw
  • Pencil
  • Speed square
  • Wood putty
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Putty Knife
  • Sandpaper

Step 1 - Remove Old Wood Railing and Spindles

Take a hammer and pry bar and carefully remove the old wood railing and spindles from your stairwell. When removing the spindles, you can either saw them off at the base or attempt to twist them out. In order to remove the wooden hand rail, you'll need to remove the screws that hold it in place at the newel posts.

Step 2- Fill Holes

Take wood putty and fill any holes that you created when removing the hand railing and spindles.

Step 3 - Pre-Drill Holes in Posts

Look at the thickness of the steel cable you will be using for your stairway. Then, take an appropriate size drill bit and drill a hole in the post. Make the holes slightly larger than the cabling and drill them all the way through the post. Drill 1 hole about 8 to 10 inches up from the bottom of the posts and another hole about 8 to 10 inches from the top of the posts. (Note: Your posts should be pre-cut to the desired height you want for your new steel cable handrail.)

Step 4 - Install New Posts on Stairs

Take the post and install them so they are spaced evenly along the stairwell. Place them every 2 or 3 steps or as you see fit. Then take the decorative L-brackets and attach them to the posts and the stair treads. Make sure to use at least 2 L-brackets on each post. However, 4 brackets are recommended for much stronger and secure posts.

Step 5 - Install Eye Hooks

Take the heavy-duty eye hooks and install them into the top of the newel posts as well as the tops of the posts you just installed the stairwell. Also, measure down about 8 to 10 inches from the top of the newel posts and install eye hooks that are facing the support posts. Install additional eye hooks to face inward about 8 to 10 inches up from the bottom of the newel posts.

Step 6 -install Steel Cable

Take the steel cable and have someone help you thread it through all of the eye hooks on the top of the newel posts and support posts. Once you have threaded the cable all the way through, let out an extra 2 to 3 inches and cut the cable on both ends. Then, loop the cable over so that it still inside the eye hook and use the crimping tool to lock the cable to the first eye hook. Then, go to the top of the stairs and pull the cable tight. Crimp the other end of the cable so that the top handrail will now be secure.

Do the same for the second and third cable runs and thread the cable through the holes you drilled in the posts. Crimp the cables at both ends.

Step 7 - Finish Up

Finish up by sanding all of the new posts as well as the areas where you applied wood putty. Then, paint or stain with the finish of your choice.