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Glass Railings Vs. Cable Railings: Which Suits You?

September 29th, 2023 | 3 min. read

By Phil Parsons

You’re excited about building a new deck, you know the basic materials you want to use, and now you’re wondering: how do I make sure my new space is safe and beautiful?

Glass railings and cable railings both provide an attractive, understated appearance to a new deck. If you’ve got a beautiful view you want to show off, either type of railing creates a graceful transition from your deck to the rest of your space. If you’re looking to sell, attractive details like glass or cable railings help make the difference in a fiercely competitive Maryland housing market where the median listing time is only six days.

At KP Contracting, we love making outdoor dreams come to life. Whether that dream has cable or glass railings, we can help make it a reality. In this piece, we’ll cover the basic facts about glass railings vs. cable railings, so you have the information necessary to make an informed decision. 

In this piece, we’ll divide the glass railings vs. cable railings debate into the following categories:

> Cost

> Maintenance

> Look

> Safety 

Cost of glass railings and cable railings

Most cable railings are in the $150-$250 per linear foot range for materials and labor, while installing most glass railings land you in the $225-$240 range. However, glass railings cost more than cable railings in most cases. The glass that makes railings is tempered or laminated, both expensive, time-consuming processes. If you want stainless steel posts to go with your stainless steel cable railings, however, cable becomes more expensive. 

Courtesy of viewrail.com

Maintenance of deck railings 

Cable railings require little maintenance. They only require cleaning with mild soap and water once or twice a year, and occasional tightening of the cables at the ends.

Glass panels may crack, in which case you’ll need to replace the panel. This becomes more of a problem when you consider that glass railings are more susceptible to bird collisions. Thankfully, there are bird-safe patterns and decals available, like the below, to reduce the likelihood of bird collisions:

Thanks to John Carley of flap.org

There’s also the inevitable need to clean glass panels whenever they get dirty. If you live in a pollen-rich area, have the glass cleaner ready.

Look of glass and cable railings

Both glass and cable railings can provide clean, elegant appearances. The difference is in what kind of elegance you’re going for. The thin look of cable railings works well for minimalist or modernist design schemes. Another plus for cable railings is the comparison your mind makes between cable railings, and bulkier wooden or vinyl railings. Since cable railings are still comparatively novel, most buyers can’t look at them without comparing them to wooden railings. If you like that sensation, you’ll want to go with cable, rather than glass.

Glass railings work well in modern design, too, but the presence of a panel loses some of the minimal look you get from thin cable railings. One pro for glass, however, is the unobstructed view you’ll get, so long as it’s clean. If your property’s beauty is part of your design scheme, glass railings might be a better choice.


Safety of deck railings

The International Building Code requires that all railings be able to withstand 200 pounds of pressure at any point on the railing. That goes for both cable and glass railings. 

Some parents will be worried about whether kids might stick their heads between cable railings. So long as you stick to the International Residential Code’s rules (a four-inch sphere should not be able to pass between two railings), most kids old enough to move around should be safe. Charles County, Maryland actually uses the International Residential Code’s rules for all parts of deck building. 

Image courtesy of viewrail.com 


Most manufacturers of cable railings will take this into account. The four-inch sphere rule is a non-starter if you’re using glass railings. At the same time, providing a glass surface to a toddler with a ball tends to have predictable results. 

Glass railings are available in tempered and laminated glass. Tempered glass is stronger and more durable. One-quarter inch thick tempered glass is also the most common type of glass used for railings. Laminated glass’s benefits are its greater sound insulation, UV protection, and the fact that it’s easier to repair. 

Glass vs. cable comes down to your needs

The real winner of glass vs. cable railings comes down to the impression you want to create. Both are safe and attractive, but the overall design of your deck may make one option better. For instance, if your backyard has a gorgeous view you don’t want to compromise, glass is a better option. If your home’s design scheme has clean, modern lines, however, cable railing may be a better complement to the overall look.

Whichever type of railing you choose, we'd love to help make it happen. However, we realize we're not the best fit for everyone. If you're interested in how to find the best contractor for your needs, check out this post with six tips for finding the right contractor. If you're interested in learning more about us, give us a call at 240-266-5900, or reach out to us here

Phil Parsons

Phil Parsons is an owner at KP Contracting with 20-years’ experience in custom remodeling and the development of outdoor living spaces that bring friends and family together. He is a degreed engineer, and his work has been featured on HGTV.