Furniture blocking wifi signal?
February 23, 2013 4:40 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible for furniture to block a wifi signal? Or at least make it drop regularly..

My parents have recently acquired a rather large (wooden) entertainment unit in the living room, and I'm finding the wifi signal is weak (in that specific room) at the best of times, other times dropping entirely. There were no problems before the unit was put in, and signal improves right when you step out of the room.

Is there any way to mitigate this? The router and modem are in the basement. Is moving them to the first floor the only option? It doesn't seem like the issue is distance, since the signal is excellent 2 floors up from the router.
posted by cozenedindigo to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say there's likely something else going on here. It is possible that a specific piece of furniture is blocking your signal, but even if it were, it would only be line-of-sight interference, not some kind of area of effect. So you shouldn't have to go out of the room, you should just be able to move elsewhere in the room. Further, if there really was some kind of area of effect, it should affect a roughly equal distance in every direction, i.e., through the walls/floors/ceilings, not just in a particular room as such.

Where's the router in relation to this room? If it's on the other end of the house, that may just be your problem. Many consumer-grade wi-fi routers are kind of crappy, particularly the ones that ISPs tend to fob off with their services. Range can be a real problem. I don't even know what brand some of the ones I've gotten were. Which is why I stick to my now relatively old, HyperWRT-upgraded Linksys model. So if the router is in the basement at one end of the house and the living room is on the first floor at the other end, you may actually be close to the end of your effective range.
posted by valkyryn at 5:10 AM on February 23, 2013

Everything degrades the radio signal from wifi, but wood shouldn't be one of more problematic materials (i.e., metal, stone, and water will block wifi a lot more than wood, plaster, etc.). Perhaps there's something metal in that piece of furniture? If it's an entertainment unit, is there a bunch of metal sitting in it that would degrade the signal?

Take a look at this list of recommendations by This Old House for some things that might help. The article looks a little old; you can also try a different router, if the current one is older. Newer ones may handle multi-path radio signals better, etc.
posted by chengjih at 5:14 AM on February 23, 2013

It really helps to think of the router as a directional lightbulb with a pattern kind of like a dish, not like a spotlight. Generally, lamps work better in the room than in the closet, unless you are in the closet.

The strongest signal you have is in the basement. If that's where you like to use it, great, but it makes sense to put a small amount of effort to bring the emitter of the signal into proximity to where you use it.

As to the second floor above phenom, radio (including wifi) is subject to constructive and destructive interference, where you have nodes of reflected signal that can increase signal, and not far away you can have a "null" where 0 signal exists. Antenna orientation is a factor, since the router is not isotropic. To get rid of multipath effects, a number of strategies are used by designers, like diversity antennas (the two on your router), complex digital signal processing, etc. Your laptop doesn't have a diversity antenna, so if it's in a null, that's where it is.

In short, there are a lot of variables. You could be seeing something specific in shading of the signal, but if I were troubleshooting this (and didn't want to deal with extending the network), I'd play with moving the router. It's easier to just do the common sense thing than to get a handle on the physics.
posted by FauxScot at 6:44 AM on February 23, 2013

If you can't move the router, you could set up another in the living room as a range extender, e.g., an Airport Express.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:40 AM on February 23, 2013

There are also WiFi Repeaters you can get for around $20.
posted by elmay at 9:03 AM on February 23, 2013

I think that is what my TV is doing
posted by spacefire at 1:11 PM on February 23, 2013

The furniture isn't going to create variable interference, but it could cause a sustained drop in signal. If you put your wifi AP inside a wooden box, you are going to get less signal. But it is going to be all the time, not just regular drops.

But since you are getting variable interference, I'd blame it on some electronic thing. I had a CFL lightbulb that failed in a weird way that completely ruined my cell phone reception. For example. So the entertainment center might have a new cable that's not shielded, or relocated the wifi ap to a location that is too close to some other device. (These things don't like to be too near other electronic things.)
posted by gjc at 5:33 PM on February 23, 2013

Well I changed the channel on my router to a higher setting, and it seems to have improved the signal. I'll look into moving the router/modem though. Thanks everyone!
posted by cozenedindigo at 6:09 AM on February 24, 2013

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