Cable management systems – What installers need to know

Barry Roberts, National Specification Manager at Marshall-Tufflex explains what should be considered when selecting cable management systems for different applications.

There are many different options for cable management systems manufactured from various materials including PVC-U, steel, aluminium and glass reinforced polyester (GRP). Due to their differing properties, these are suitable for different applications and therefore the choice of product will depend on the requirements of the client or occupants. The right product will also vary depending on the area of the building and a project may require several different solutions.


PVC-U cable management systems are lightweight, easy to install and cost-effective. In the event of a fire, PVC-U is also resistant to ignition and self-extinguishing, so it does not contribute to the spread of fire – something that is especially important with the ongoing focus on fire safety in buildings. These factors make PVC-U cable management products the go-to for many applications from offices to schools to hospitality.

However, there are also PVC-U products available with antimicrobial properties. These should be considered for not only healthcare buildings but also other high-traffic environments, such as educational and leisure facilities, to provide a more hygienic environment.

While there are different options available, silver ion-based agents are among the most effective for continual protection. The presence of silver ions, which disrupts the key cell functions of bacteria and prevents them from reproducing on surfaces, has been proven to reduce the bacteria surviving on the surface by 99.9%. This includes potentially dangerous bacteria such as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Klebsiella pneumoniae. To ensure lasting protection, it is recommended that a product is selected that has the silver ions incorporated into the material during manufacture, rather than being applied to the surface post-production. This is because integrating it into the material, which is only possible with PVC-U and ABS products, means that any scratches to the surface will not leave areas without protection where bacteria can grow and thrive.

Steel and aluminium

While the initial cost is often higher, metal cable management systems may be suitable where greater cable protection or durability is required. In addition, from a fire safety perspective, steel and aluminium products are non-combustible and classified as low smoke zero halogen (LS0H) materials.

It may be worth considering steel or aluminium products in areas where the cable management systems are at risk from heavy impacts, such as where equipment or materials are moved frequently. This is especially important for dado trunking because its position makes it more vulnerable to accidental impacts. The increased mechanical strength of metal systems can minimise the need for additional maintenance and the replacement of damaged sections – offsetting the typically higher cost.

Metal systems are also suitable where the cables, in particular data cables, need to be protected from radiated electromagnetic interference (EMI) from nearby equipment and the cables installed alongside. This can be a particular issue in buildings such as large offices, where a significant number of power, data and other service cables need to be contained within a system. In these situations, the different cables need to be separated and screened from each other to prevent EMI. Steel or aluminium trunking systems, with compartment dividers made from the same material, can provide comprehensive EMI protection from other cables as well as external sources. Where cable separation is the only EMI consideration, it is possible to fit metal dividers inside PVC-U systems. This approach can be useful where a PVC-U system is required for antimicrobial protection.

Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP)

The environmental conditions are an important factor for certain applications. Moisture, humidity and temperature as well as exposure to chemicals and UV are all important considerations. When used in areas with high levels of moisture or limited weather protection, steel products will corrode. Aluminium, despite its naturally occurring protective oxide coating, is vulnerable to ‘galvanic corrosion’ when in contact with other metals and can corrode in acidic or alkaline environments that strip away the natural protective layer. PVC-U can react adversely if it comes into contact with certain chemicals.

In contrast, GRP does not corrode, is UV and temperature resistant and withstands contact with many common chemicals, including acidic compounds. Also, like steel and aluminium, GRP is a low smoke zero halogen (LS0H) material. These properties mean that GRP tray, ladder and trough systems are commonly used on rail, road, marine, industrial and

petrochemical projects. GRP cable management products are also ideal for cable management in exterior spaces and outdoor storage areas. GRP products are also highly suitable for use in places such as swimming pools where the systems must withstand continually high humidity levels and long term exposure to airborne compounds.

With a range of cable management systems available, manufactured from different materials, it is important to consider which is the most appropriate for a given project based on the needs of the occupants and how the building will be used. Working with a leading supplier that offers a full range of systems, and can also provide guidance on product selection, will help ensure the best possible solution is chosen.

For more information about the Marshall-Tufflex range of cable management systems visit