Cable Tray vs Cable Ladder: Pros and Cons for Your Electrical System

If you’re in the process of designing or renovating a building’s electrical system, you may have come across the terms “cable tray” and “cable ladder”.

These two components are commonly used to support and protect cables, but they have some key differences that can affect their suitability for your project.

In this article, we’ll compare cable trays and cable ladders in detail, so you can make an informed decision for your electrical system.

What is a Cable Tray?

A cable tray is a structural component that is used to support and protect electrical cables. It’s essentially a tray made of metal or plastic, with raised edges to keep the cables in place.

Cable trays are available in different shapes and sizes, depending on the application. They can be straight, curved, or angled, and can be suspended from the ceiling or mounted on the wall.

Cable trays are used in a variety of settings, from industrial plants to office buildings. They are preferred in situations where there are many cables to be managed, as they provide a convenient and flexible way to route and support the cables.

Cable trays are also suitable for environments where there may be exposure to moisture, chemicals, or extreme temperatures. Read my comprehensive article Do you really need a cable tray.

What is a Cable Ladder?

A cable ladder is another type of support system for electrical cables. It consists of a series of metal or plastic rungs, connected by side rails to form a ladder-like structure.

The cables are laid on the rungs and secured with cable ties or clamps. Cable ladders are available in different widths and depths, and can be customized to fit the specific requirements of the project.

Cable ladders are commonly used in industrial and commercial settings, where there is a need to support heavy-duty cables.

They are especially useful in applications where the cables need to be routed horizontally over long distances.

Cable ladders are also preferred in situations where there is a risk of damage to the cables from environmental factors or physical hazards.

Comparison Table: Cable Tray vs Cable Ladder

To help you understand the differences between cable trays and cable ladders, we’ve put together a comparison table:

CriteriaCable TrayCable Ladder
StructureTray made of metal or plastic with raised edgesLadder-like structure with rungs and side rails
Cable SupportCables sit inside the tray and are held in placeCables lay on top of the rungs and are secured
InstallationEasy to install, can be suspended or mounted on wallsRequires more space for installation, usually mounted
FlexibilityFlexible, can be customized to fit various shapesLess flexible, difficult to modify once installed
CapacityLimited by the size of the trayCan support heavier cables over longer distances
MaintenanceEasy to access and cleanDifficult to access, requires disassembly
CostLower cost per foot compared to cable ladderHigher cost per foot compared to cable tray

As you can see, both cable trays and cable ladders have their strengths and weaknesses, and their suitability will depend on the specific requirements of your project.


Choosing between cable trays and cable ladders requires careful consideration of your project’s requirements.

While cable trays are more flexible and easier to install and maintain, cable ladders can support heavier cables over longer distances.

Ultimately, your decision should be based on factors such as cable capacity, space availability, and budget.

Read my article about cable tray failure causes and preventions.

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