Why Wireless Signals Won’t Work in Some Homes

Wireless router and cell phone

I just bought an old house, and I can’t seem to get a wireless Internet signal to transmit from one room to another. What could be causing this? -Pete

If wireless signals won’t transmit inside your home, chances are your walls contain something that’s blocking the signal. Wireless Internet, cell phone signals, and even over air radio and TV connections won’t pass through metal, including both solid metal and metal mesh.

Signal Blocking Materials

Depending on your home’s floor plan, you may have trouble transmitting signals from room to room, or receiving signals from outside. In homes and apartments, the most common culprits are:

  • Metal Plaster Lath: In older homes with plaster walls, metal mesh lathing or even chicken wire was attached to the wall studs and ceiling joists as the base for the plaster. The imbedded metal wire can blocks signals – such as Wi-Fi or cell phone reception – from getting through.
  • Metal Stucco Lath: If your home’s exterior is stucco, it may also be imbedded with metal mesh. While your wireless signal should work between rooms, you may find it difficult to receive cell phone or over air TV reception from outside your home.
  • Foil Insulation: In more modern houses, the problem may be with foil backed insulation board or housewrap. While these products are most often used on the exterior walls, sometimes they’re also used to insulate kitchens and baths, or between apartments.
  • Other Signal Blocking Obstacles: If the signal is getting disrupted or is weak, there may be wave bouncing obstacles in its path – such as metal ductwork, steel girders, steel reinforced concrete, or water (such as a pool).

How to Increase Wireless Signals

To improve wireless signals in your home, try these tips:

  • Put your wireless router in the basement and see if the signal will transmit through the wood framed floors.
  • Find and remove whatever is blocking the signal. This may involve removing plaster or stucco, or opening up your home’s floor plan.
  • Consider multiple routers or signal enhancing devices to help your network broadcast from room to room.
  • Alternatively, you can forego wireless, and outfit your home with a hard wired network.

Blocking Electromagnetic Signals

While poor wireless reception can be frustrating if you’re trying to install a computer network or send a text message, some homeowners intentionally shield their houses from electromagnetic signals and radiation by imbedding metal mesh inside walls, ceilings, and floors to create an enclosed metal space – known as a Faraday cage – that’s immune to outside radiation.

Further Information