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How to Choose a Cable Tray for Your Needs: A Complete Guide to Types, Uses, and Benefits

Whether it be an industrial setting or a home, it hosts multiple wires and cables. You have to organize them properly to protect your space from fire hazards and make detecting and fixing problems easier. You can use cable trays to do so.

These trays primarily perform two functions in a building: cable management and wire protection. However, with so many options on the market, choosing the suitable cable tray for your needs can be daunting. 

Like many different products manufactured from metallic sheets, these handy organizers have many different types. You can get them in different materials, sizes, and configurations, depending on your intended use. And not only do these trays reduce the risk of damage and electrical fires, but they also simplify maintenance and repairs. 

Here is a complete guide that will help you learn about everything about these trays.

Why Cable Trays Are

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a moment to discuss why cable trays are essential. Proper routing is fundamental in industrial settings, where cables are subjected to harsh conditions such as extreme temperatures, corrosive substances, and physical stress. You can use these trays to protect your wires instead of conduits that require sheet metal ducts. The alternatives can be more difficult and time-consuming to install and maintain.

Cable trays in industrial buildings

Cable Tray Varieties

The ideal cable tray for you will depend on your intended use. Here are a few of your options:

1. Ladder 

The main structure of this consists of two side rails that run in parallel and are connected to each other by smaller metallic parts. This gives them the shape of a ladder. The metals used to manufacture ladder trays are steel or aluminum. They are available in various widths and depths. They are ideal for heavy-duty applications.

2. Solid Bottom 

The bottom part of this cable tray is not perforated or open. Instead, it is made out of an unbroken sheet of metal or fiberglass that supports the cables from below. They are often used in areas with a risk of cables falling or sagging due to the extra support they can provide, such as ceilings or raised floors. 

3. Wire Mesh 

Wire mesh cable trays have a unique design allowing maximum airflow and ventilation. They are often used in areas where heat dissipation is a concern, such as data centers. 

4. Channel Cable Trays

The defining characteristic of these trays is their U-shaped design and perforated bottom. This design means you can easily attach and support wires with them without needing any extra labor. They are mainly used in places where the cables need to be spread in a large network.  

Cable tray with supoprt

5. Trough Cable Trays

These organizers have a tray-like design with a flat bottom and raised sides. They are often used when protecting cables from moisture or corrosive substances. You can get them in various sizes and materials, including steel and fiberglass.

Material Choices for Your Cable Trays

You can manufacture cable trays out of a variety of materials. Four of the most widely used materials are steel, aluminum, fiberglass, and PVC.  

1. Steel 

They are strong, durable, and have a high load-bearing capacity. Steel cable trays are available in various finishes:

These trays are suitable for heavy-duty applications and withstand extreme temperatures and harsh environments.

2. Aluminum 

These trays are manufactured from aluminum metal sheets, so they benefit from the inherent properties of the aluminum metal – corrosion-resistance and small weight. 

They are ideal for use in areas where weight is a concern, such as suspended ceilings. Aluminum cable trays are easy to install and cut to fit specific lengths. They are also non-magnetic, which makes them suitable for use in sensitive areas such as hospitals and laboratories.

3. Fiberglass 

Fiberglass cable trays are lightweight, non-conductive, and corrosion-resistant, making them suitable for harsh environments. They are ideal for applications with high corrosion resistance levels, such as chemical plants, wastewater treatment plants, and offshore oil platforms. 

These trays are also easy to install, require minimal maintenance, and have a long lifespan.

4. PVC 

PVC cable trays are lightweight and highly resistant to chemicals and moisture, making them suitable for corrosive environments. They are easy to install and require minimal cable tray maintenance

PVC Cable trays are also non-conductive, which makes them ideal for use in areas where electrical interference may be a concern.

Where Are Cable Trays Used

These organizers are used in many different settings, including:

  • Commercial Buildings: In settings like offices and hospitals, these trays are often installed overhead to keep all wiring out of sight.
  • Industrial Settings: Wires need to be kept well-organized and protected in these settings. As the conditions here are harsher, the trays you choose must be sturdy against heavyweights, chemical conditions, and mechanical stress.
  • Data Centers: Cable trays are essential in data centers, providing a safe and efficient way to route cables. They are often installed under raised floors or overhead.
  • Healthcare Facilities: Cable trays are used in healthcare facilities to route electrical cables and wires throughout the building. They are vital in critical care areas, where a reliable power supply is crucial.

5. Educational Institutions

Cable trays are commonly used in educational institutions, such as universities and schools, to route electrical cables and wires throughout buildings. They are often installed overhead or under raised floors to keep all wiring organized and out of the way.

The Pros of Using Cable Trays

Some industrial and financial advantages of these trays include:  

1. Cable Protection

Cable trays protect cables from environmental factors such as moisture, dust, and other contaminants. Cable protection is particularly important in harsh environments such as factories, mines, and chemical plants. 

Cable trays with solid bottoms protect cables from moisture. And similarly, the ones with perforated bottoms trays provide ventilation, prevent heat buildup, and protect cables from debris.

2. Easy Installation and Maintenance

Cable tray installation is straightforward and can be quickly adjusted to accommodate changes in the cable layout. They can save time and money during construction or renovation projects by providing access to maintenance and repairs of wires. They are designed to be easily accessed, making identifying and repairing damaged cables simple. 

Cable trays also reduce the time and effort required for maintenance, as cables are organized and separated, making it easier to identify and access the ones that need attention. They also require less maintenance than other cable management systems, saving you time, effort, and money.

3. Enhanced Safety

Cable trays can help improve safety in the workplace by reducing the risk of electrical hazards. Cable trays also make identifying and tracing cables easier, reducing the risk of accidental damage during maintenance or repair work.

4. Increased Capacity

Cable trays can support many cables, making them a more efficient use of space than other cable management systems.

5. Flexibility

Cable trays can be adapted to various applications. They are available in different sizes and materials, making selecting the appropriate cable tray for your needs easy. Depending on the available space, you can install cable trays in different configurations, even under the floor!

Drawbacks of Using Cable Trays

Initially, you must pay more for a cable tray than other cable management solutions. So, cable trays are not an option if you do not have the necessary funds for a more considerable initial investment. However, due to the reduced maintenance costs, you’ll find them cost-effective in the longer run. 

Another disadvantage of using cable trays is the required space. Cable trays are installed above or below the ceilings. This means that they take precious real estate in tight spaces. For smaller establishments and tight spaces, it is a better idea to invest in other alternatives like conduits.

What to Consider While Choosing a Cable Tray

What to Consider While Choosing a Cable Tray

When you finally decide to invest in a cable tray for your cable management, there are a number of factors to consider before moving on. These factors include:

1. Cable Tray Sizing

Your tray must fit all cables you need to route cables. So, the size you choose will depend on the specific application and the anticipated load on the cables. If you have to route many cables and hang your tray, make sure you opt for one which is sturdy against sagging. 

2. Environment and Location

Consider the environment in which you will install the cable tray. Will it be exposed to extreme temperatures or corrosive substances? Will it be installed indoors or outdoors? The location of the cable tray will also impact the choice of material and cable tray installation method. For instance, it is ideal to use wire-mesh cable trays for hotter environments and through cable trays if the environment contains a lot of dirt and dust.

3. Material Considerations

There are ups and downs with every material used in making these trays, so you must always consider your environment before making a decision.  For instance, steel is a good option for industrial setups since it can give you protection and rust prevention. Similarly, aluminum reduces weight and minimizes interference in suspended ceilings, hospitals, and laboratories. 

4. Cost

Cable trays vary in price depending on the material and cable tray sizes. Consider your budget when buying a cable tray, but remember that quality is vital to ensure long-term reliability.

Installation and Maintenance Tips

Proper installation and maintenance are crucial to the performance and longevity of the cable tray system. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Installation Tips For Cable Tray

  • Make sure you read the instructions manual carefully when installing the cable tray.
  • You have to ground your cable tray properly to prevent the risk of an electric shock.
  • Use the appropriate hardware and mounting equipment for the specific installation location.

Cable Tray Maintenance Tips

  • Make sure your system is adequately supported to prevent sagging or other structural issues.
  • Inspect your trays for signs of damage or wear. It’s best to use cable tray covers to further guard your system against rust and debris. 
  • Keep the tray clean and free of debris.


Choosing the suitable cable tray for your needs ensures a safe and reliable electrical infrastructure. Consider the factors discussed in this article, including cable size and quantity, environment, and location, material considerations, and cost. 

Remember to follow installation and maintenance best practices to keep your cable tray system operating at peak performance. You can enjoy a safe and efficient electrical infrastructure for years with the correct cable tray and proper maintenance. For cable trays manufacturers contact KDMFAB.

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