Create modern and open spaces with this baluster alternative.

These days, more and more homeowners are looking to merge the indoors with the outdoors for an open, cohesive ambiance. Large windows and doors can accomplish this look, but using similar design touches inside and outside are another way to merge the two areas.

For example, matching the interior railing infill with the outdoors’ can create a unified look and feel. This technique can be especially effective when using a versatile railing infill material such as cable railing. And just as cable rail can update the look of an outdated deck while preserving views, it can also update and open interior spaces.

“It really brings out the house without drawing attention to itself,” says Tim Quigley founder and owner of Quigley Decks.

Here are three ways Quigley says remodelers can use cable rail inside homes — and how to install them like a pro:

1. Staircases. Replacing old wood or metal balusters with cable rail can dramatically open up a home and provide a new focal point. Cable rail works particularly well with hardwood since the top rail can match the stairs. When replacing old balusters, Quigley says remodelers first need to cover any holes left behind by the old balusters. He does this by simply running a strip of the original stair tread’s wood to cover old holes. However, depending on the installation, remodelers may also need to install extra blocking under the stair treads where cable rail posts attach to support the loads of properly tensioned cables. For knee walls, remodelers will need to cut the posts at the angle of the knee wall. And make sure the knee wall is strong enough to support the posts. Either way, take care to ensure that cable properly clears the nose of the stairs. Quigley recommends doing a “dry fit” with a few posts to ensure proper spacing of cables.

2. Balconies. Replacing bulky balcony balusters with cable rail is another dramatic way to create an interior feeling of openness and drama. This application is also easier than staircases because balconies are horizontal surfaces. Quigley prefers top or base mount post installations on balconies, rather than side mount, which use the sidewall of the balcony to hold posts. But doing a top mount often means remodelers will need to reinforce the floor for proper support. Quigley cuts out a foot of floorboard and adds 4x6 inch supports between the floor joists before replacing the original floorboard and flooring. He then secures posts to the supports using 5/16-inch lag bolts.

3. Landings and small openings. Split-level ranches often have an opening between the upper and lower levels that are divided with wrought iron or wood balusters. Replacing these with cable rail visually joins the two levels together and expands the space. The same is true for the sometimes-awkward landing leading down to a basement. In both cases, the installation technique is the same as it for balconies.
No matter how remodelers use cable rail, they should always consult the International Residential Code as well as talk with the cable railing manufacturer for railing frame strength and cable rail spacing requirements.