By carefully planning the physical layout of your WLAN, you will get the best performance and spend the least amount of money on equipment. Start with a rough sketch of the floor plan of your home or office where you are going to install your network and determine the area you want your WLAN to cover. Many manufacturers give an estimate for the range of the wireless signal, often over 300 ft. In reality, the effective range is shorter than that, often less than half as far in some environments.
Many things can hamper or block the radio signal from an AP. These include construction materials, furniture, and in the case of a signal between buildings, naturally occurring objects such as trees and the topography of the surrounding area. Some materials that weaken or block radio signals include
- Solid concrete walls, floors, and ceilings. Most homes are frame constructed, but some homes built on concrete pads may have concrete load-bearing walls in them that support the floors above. Contractors build many commercial buildings with concrete or concrete block.
- Stucco exterior walls: The metal mesh used as a base for many stucco exteriors can block or reduce the power of a radio signal. This works to your advantage when you are trying to keep the signal from extending outdoors too far, but if you want coverage by your pool you'll have to plan accordingly.
- Heavy furniture, Heavy bookcases, or steel lockers and shelving can impede signal strength.
- Ducting for heating and air conditioning can weaken the signal.
- Heavy stone or brick fireplaces, particularly those built between rooms on an interior wall, can block radio signals.
Position APs and client computers so that the environment poses as few obstacles as possible. Open thresholds between rooms and hollow interior walls allow the network signal to pass with minimum interference. Mounting an AP as high as possible also extends its signal a little further and prevents furniture and large appliances from blocking the signal.
If you are planning to cover more than one floor in a multi-level house and you notice a significant drop in signal strength on different floors, you may want to consider a new antenna for your AP, if that is an option with your model.