Five things which can block WiFi around the home

Any list of things which can block WiFi will include unexpected barriers including water, wood and wireless baby monitors

Wednesday, 16 August, 2023

WiFi has liberated us from the tyranny of hardwiring desktop computers to phone sockets via modems, but even the latest WiFi 6 technology is far from flawless.

Broadband routers are manufactured down to strict budgets, supplied free of charge and expected to distribute digital data across the same frequencies used by many other devices.

We’ve recently discussed the range of household objects which use the 2.4GHz frequency alongside broadband routers, necessitating the use of the alternate 5GHz band.

Unfortunately, higher frequencies result in lower range, which can aggravate existing problems of WiFi signals not reaching every corner of your home.

Matters are made worse when you start to consider how many things can block WiFi signals around the home…

Five things which can block WiFi

1. Fish tanks.

As wireless signals emanate from your broadband router and other wireless devices, they have to travel through the air.

If they additionally have to travel through water, these wireless signals will be refracted in every conceivable direction, weakening signal strength and reducing connection speeds.

2. Mirrors.

Most mirrors contain a thin coat of metal which absorbs the electromagnetic waves in wireless data.

Those shiny reflective surfaces (and the layers of silver or aluminium beneath) can halve the strength of WiFi signals through a combination of reflection, redirection and refraction.

3. Microwave ovens.

It’s a little-known fact that microwaves emit frequencies across the 2.4GHz band that can directly interfere with wireless data’s journeys between a router and connected devices.

Virgin Media recently described how “signal-emitting electronics like microwaves” make kitchens “a particularly inhospitable environment for your router.” Find it a home elsewhere.

4. Cordless communication devices.

Several things which can block WiFi do so inadvertently by using similar methods of transmitting wireless data, such as cordless landline phones and baby monitors.

Again, the culprit is the 2.4GHz frequency band, which was approved for wireless usage decades ago and now finds itself overburdened by competing hardware systems.

5. Wooden furniture.

Debate rages about whether flat-pack laminate furniture is better than pre-built solid wooden alternatives, but the latter undoubtedly has a detrimental effect on wireless signals.

Avoid putting your broadband router in (or on) wooden furniture wherever possible, since the density of timber diminishes the spherical data distribution offered by most routers.

Isn’t WiFi evolving to resolve these issues?

To a point, yes. But the pace of progress is slow, with international agreement needed on each iteration of wireless data transfers before it can be rolled out to consumers.

A dual-band router will resolve some of the issues highlighted above, but as we mentioned earlier, the short-range 5GHz frequency may not reach every corner of a family home.

Until WiFi 7 minimises interference and latency, judicious positioning of your broadband router away from the objects listed above remains the best way to achieve whole home coverage

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!