Cable Barriers: When and How to Use Them

by Tendon, on Aug 31, 2021 7:45:00 AM

Call it a guard cable, wire rope safety barrier or whatever you like — no matter what you call cable barriers, these systems will serve an incredibly important purpose. Barrier cable systems are meant to keep vehicles and pedestrians safe.

These post-tensioned steel-stranded restraints can withstand enormous force, which is why they make a perfect safety solution for parking garages and similar structures where you really don’t want anyone going over the edge.

For more than 30 years, Tendon Systems has designed, fabricated, installed and serviced high-quality barrier cable systems. For this post, we are putting that hard-earned expertise to good use: we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about barrier cable systems and when and how to use them.

To learn more, keep reading. And to speak with a cable barrier expert, contact Tendon Systems.  

How Are Barrier Cables Used?

We have already mentioned that cable barrier systems are commonly used in parking garages. That is their most common use, but it’s not their only use. These systems may be the perfect solution for a large number of projects, including the following:

These ideas are only a starting point. If you don’t see your project type listed above, the project might still benefit from a cable barrier. Speak with our team to learn more. 

Types of Barrier Cables

From a distance, cable barriers look relatively simple. They’re just steel bands anchored to a concrete or metal post. But there is a little more nuance to sift through when deciding which type of barrier cable is right for your project.

There are three main types of barrier cables:

  • Galvanized barrier cables. This is the most common type of cable barrier. The galvanization process adds a coating of zinc to the steel strands. While the zinc doesn’t make the cable stronger, it does prevent corrosion.
  • Epoxy coated barrier cables. For epoxy coated cable barriers, you typically have to pay a higher price. The primary reason people sometimes choose this type of coating is for its aesthetic appeal. The epoxy resin gives the cables a sheen that’s pleasing to the eye.
  • Plastic coated barrier cables. Plastic sheathing placed around barrier cables helps to prevent rust. This option allows you to control the colors and is similar to the types of tendons used in post-tensioning concrete (with the notable exception that plastic coated cable barriers don’t include the post-tensioning coating grease between the steel and plastic).

Each of these cable types can come in different thicknesses, although the most common is a half inch in diameter. Tendon Systems can engineer many other sizes to accommodate the unique needs of your project.

Which type is right for your project will depend on your unique use case. Our team can help you determine which option will work best for your intended use.

Parts of a Cable Barrier System

Cable barriers are incredibly strong and can be used in a wide variety of applications, but these systems are relatively simple. You have four main parts: the cables, the posts, the anchorages and the end fittings.


We have already discussed the cables at length, but it’s important to consider the amount of force you need the barrier to be able to withstand when deciding how many rows of cables the barrier should have. Also keep in mind any aesthetic concerns, such as color.


Barrier cable posts can be either steel or concrete. Our world-class engineers have perfected the formulas to help you calculate the distance between posts and determine the type you need.

Intermediate Supports

Intermediate supports or spacers are the interim units that help control deflection and self-weight sagging of the barrier cables over continuous runs. Intermediate supports are an important structural component for a barrier cable system and keep the cable spacing consistent from endpoint to endpoint.

Anchorages and End Fittings

You have a lot more options when it comes to anchorages and end fittings. These implements are what keep the cables attached to the intermediate support and termination locations. Anchorages “anchor” the cables to posts in the middle of the barrier, and end fittings attach the ends of the cables to a sturdy post or wall at both ends of the barrier.

The type and style of anchorages and end fittings for your barrier system can determine the system’s overall performance. Our barrier cable system engineers meet and exceed all of the guidelines and requirements set by the Post-Tensioning Institute to ensure your barrier system is safe, sturdy and exactly how you want it.

Get the Best in Barrier Cable Services

World-class cable barrier systems are just one component of a large-scale concrete construction project. Fortunately, Tendon Systems is a full-service concrete construction contractor that can handle every aspect of your project from start to finish. 

To discuss your cable barrier system or concrete construction project with the expert team at Tendon Systems, reach out to us. Give us a call at 678-835-1100 or contact us online today.