How to Tension Guy Wires

Guy wires are popular methods for stabilizing large poles and towers in various industries. From power and telecommunications lines to railway signals and wind turbines, guy wires play a crucial role in holding up many tall structures. 

Guy wire installation and maintenance involves tensioning the lines for optimal performance. The amount of tension you need for your applications depends on many factors, including the structure you're stabilizing and the wire length and strength you want to use. The first step in proper guy line tensioning is understanding the materials you're working with and the parameters for safe and effective methods.

The Importance of Guy Wire Tension

Guy wires transfer some of a tall structure's weight to the ground off to the side through their stress. One end of the wire connects to a high point on the structure, while the other anchors into the ground. The entire wire setup creates a diagonal line that helps secure the structure from the foundation all the way up. 

Since guy wires stabilize structures and transfer their weight, installing them at the proper tension is crucial. Wires that are too tight may cause compression failure in a structure, causing it to buckle and even collapse from too much pressure. High tension can also make the wires vibrate during heavy wind or earthquakes, inducing excessive wear and tear on wire and structure components. 

Wires that are too loose can gallop, meaning they'll move with the wind and other weather events, which can become an issue if they contact nearby objects or if the excessive movement places stress on the structure's operating components. Loose guy wires also raise the risk of mechanical failure and fatigue damage and can even cause structural insecurities.

For best tension results, only use high-quality products, and always enlist the help of a professional. Routinely check on your guy wires' tensions to ensure your commercial structures are as stable as possible, and adjust the tension as needed.

Equipment Needed to Tension Guy Wires Safely

If you want to learn how to tension guy wire, your first step is to gather the correct equipment for safe maintenance. Once you have your guy wire, you'll need additional hardware to attach it to your structure with the correct tension.

Key guy wire tensioning equipment includes:

  • Guy assembly: The guy wire and all attachment hardware make up the general guy assembly. Big grip dead ends, for instance, are one-time use guy wire tensioners you can use during initial wire installation and reapply during new installations and re-tensioning. You'll also need wire rope clips, which are specialized fittings that clamp the loose ends of the guy wires to secure eye loops. 
  • End sleeves: When tensioning guy wire with big grip dead ends, end sleeves attach on the ends of the wires to prevent unraveling while the wires are at high tension. 
  • Wire-pulling grips: Wire-pulling grips create temporary tension on guy wires until the team tightens or loosens them to ideal levels. 
  • Come-along: A come-along is a hand-operated wire lifting device that helps adjust guy wire tension by pulling wire in or letting it out. 
  • Dynamometer: Dynamometers measure guy wire tension with built-in analog load cells or digital scales. Installers use them to determine when a guy wire reaches its target load. 

How to Measure Guy Wire Tension

When installing structures with guy wires, raising them at the proper tension is crucial for optimal operations. Once you've installed the guy wire, routine tensioning can also help keep your structure in good condition over time. You can measure guy wire tension either directly or indirectly.

Direct Methods

Direct measurement involves attaching a dynamometer to a come-along and wire-pulling grip combination. This method can be very accurate, as it places the load cell directly in line with the guy wire's load path. 

Indirect Methods

Standard indirect methods for measuring guy wire tension are:

  • Pulse method: After making the guy wire pulse, or oscillate, you can measure the time it takes for the pulse to move up and down the wire. Trained professionals can accurately perform this test and the appropriate calculations.
  • Tangent intercept method: The tangent intercept method is a useful test for structures with larger guy wires managed by crews with specialized training. By sighting up a guy wire and finding an intercept point at the sag of the wire, professionals can calculate the tension based on where the direct line of sight intercepts the point where the guy attaches to the tower.
  • Shunt dynamometer: The shunt dynamometer method uses a tool that attaches to the guy wire and applies force. This device measures the wire's deflection and converts this to a tension measurement.

Guy Wire Tensioning Procedure

As with any guy wire procedures, professionals should follow all proper steps and safety procedures. Find a professional you trust to follow these parameters:

  • Safety: Crew safety should be everyone's top priority in any situations involving tensioned guy wires. When working in the vicinity of any electrical wires, installers should always note any live wires that could pose a safety risk. They should also wear proper personal protection equipment, including hardhats, rubber-soled boots and protective sleeves. 
  • Weather: Only install guy wires on dry days without wind when there's no chance of rain or electrical storms. Harsh weather can make guy wire installation difficult and cause safety hazards.

When ready to begin the installation, first confirm all wires and hardware are secure on the structure the crew is lifting. A gin pole is a common tool professionals use to raise and lower guy wire structures. Guy wires secure the gin pole to the ground, and raising or lowering the gin pole raises and lowers the structure it carries.

As the team raises or lowers the structure, some of the gin pole's anchoring guy wires will tighten, while others will loosen. To keep each wire at optimal tension, check and adjust them as needed throughout the process until the structure is entirely in position.

To tighten guy wires on an erected structure, professionals should attach the come-along to a wire-pulling grip and use this mechanical combination to draw in slack. After the wire is tense enough, tightening the wire rope clamps will help ensure the structure stays at optimal tension levels.

The crew can follow their tightening methods in reverse to loosen guy wires, repeating these two procedures as necessary to achieve the best results.

Partner With Bekaert as Your Guy Wire Supplier

Proper guy wire tensioning lets your supported structures achieve ideal operating conditions. Whether you're considering a new structure or want to adjust existing guy wires, Bekaert can help.

We're the leading supplier and manufacturer of commercial guy wires and wire products. Our quality product range includes various guy wire design capabilities for the power and communication industries.

Request a quote today to see how we can supply you with the guy wires for all your utility applications!