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11 Major Building Materials That Kill Your Cell Phone Reception

on August 04, 2017

♫ It's a brick house. It's mighty mighty blocking all that signal out ♫

It's no secret. 

Building structure and material is generally the leading cause of poor cell phone signal in America.

Even if you live in the boonies where cell tower distance is a big problem, having a metal roof or brick wall is basically the final death nail of any hope for carrier service to work inside your home.

3G & 4G LTE signals are radio frequency waves. And like all radio waves (cellular, wifi, AM/FM, satellite, etc.), just a bit of interference or obstruction and you've got reliability as durable as a 3-year old's attention span. 

Today we look at the top building materials that utterly stop RF signals on their tracks.

But first a quick explainer.

How cell phone signal strength is really measured

The number of bars on your phone is really subjective.

How subjective?

It's not really tied to any standard. It's up to your carriers to decide how much is 1, 2, 3, 4 or full bars on their service.

So what's 1 bar on Verizon might be 2 on AT&T, 3 on Sprint or full bars on T-Mobile despite receiving the exact same signal and performing at the exact same speeds

But luckily, there's a way to find out your true signal strength. It's called decibel (dB) reading

Cell phone signal operates with a certain frequency:

-50 dBm to -120 dBm. 

-50 dBm is full bars. -120 dBm is basically a dead zone. The closer you are to - 50 dBm, the better your signal.

So what does this have to with building material?  

Well, building materials basically subtract dB from your signal when trying to enter your home. The more it subtracts, the closer you get to -120 dBm which is a dead zone. 

Let's look at which materials obstruct 3G & 4G LTE signals. 

The Top 11 Building Materials That KO Your Cell Phone Signal

11. Mother Nature (-3 to -20 dB)

Ok, so it's not technically building material, but nevertheless, a good starting point. Trees, mountains, hills, and even weather can affect your cell phone signal. Just how much though?

Rain: -3 to -5 dB 

Foliage: -7 to -20 dB 

Foliage is a very big problem since they're very capable of blocking cell signal, especially pine cones. Most homes and offices find their signal to be working much better in the autumn.

The reason?

Falling leaves means less aerial obstructions. Yup. 

10. Drywall /Sheetrock (-2 dB)

Your interior walls and ceilings are most likely made from drywall, and they are the first interior line of defense preventing signal from getting into the room.

9. Fiberglass Insulation (-2 dB)

Fiberglass insulation either in the walls or up in the attic also block cell signals. When tag-teaming with drywall, it's already at -4 dB which means signal outside is already cut by 50% by the time it enters your home. 

8. Clear Glass (-4 dB)

While windows are great for letting in the light, view, and heat, they're also capable to reflecting and refracting cellular signal up to -4 dB. 

7. Plywood (-4 to -6 dB)

Plywood is another sheet material that reduces 3G & 4G LTE signal. And if plywood gets wet and is not water resistance, it will act as a sponge capable of weakening signal up to -20 dB. Ouch. 

6. Solid wood (-5 to -12 dB)

That nice wooden door or furnishing? A cell signal killer. Any type of wood from beech, ash, oak, mahogany, maple, etc. is very capable of absorbing and blocking signals. The thicker the wood the worse the signal.

5. Plaster (-8 to -16 dB)

Plaster is building material made from gypsum, lime or cement used for protective coating on walls and ceilings. Who would have though such a thin layer of paste could do that much damage?

4. Brick (-8 to -28 dB)

Bricks made from clay, shale, or cement is great building material for aesthetics and design. But while preventing the big bad wolf from blowing it down, it also shuts out cellular signals.  

3. Concrete & cement: 6 inches (-10 to -20 dB)

No surprise here. Most modern buildings are made from concrete. Many architects depend on the industrial strength of concrete & cement to create robust structures, so many urban areas have challenges to get working signal indoors.

2. Tinted & Low-E Glass (-24 to -40 dB)

Newer building use energy-efficient material like low-e glass to keep heat out. Unfortunately, they're also good at reflecting cellular signal back.

1. Metal (-32 to -50 dB)

Aluminum, brass, copper, steel, iron, etc. Metal is the #1 cellular blocking material across all buildings in America. People with metal roofs find it difficult to get reception. Even having metal inside the home creates distortion for RF signals.

Conclusion

Literally almost anything under the sun can affect your cellular signal. When looking at the whole picture, a typical house with drywall, plaster, glass, and wood can lose up to -30 dB or more. 

In "bar speak," that's about a loss of 2-4 bars, the difference between having working service outside and having none inside. 

What other building material is affecting your home or office? Let us know in the comments below.

Building Material dB Loss
Foliage -3 to -20 
Drywall -2 
Fiberglass Insulation -2 
Clear Glass -4 
Plywood -4 to -6
Solid wood -5 to -12
Plaster -8 to -16
Brick -8 to -28
Concrete & cement (6 inches) -10 to -20
Tinted & Low-E Glass -24 to -40
Metal -32 to -50

Is there any solution to all this?

Absolutely. It's called a cell phone signal booster. Learn more with our definitive guide:


How We Can Help:

Wilson Amplifiers is here to help you get better signal.That's what we're made to do:

  • Free consultation (ask us anything) with our US-based customer support (sales@wilsonamplifiers.com).
  • In-house team of certified technicians and signal boosting experts.
  • Home, office, and vehicle solutions.
  • Multi-year warranty.
  • Better signal or money-back guaranteed.

We want everyone to be satisfied, so we provide lifetime technical support. 

And again, our US-based customer support is second to none. There's no one-size-fits-all strategy and we tailor each situation down to the room.

Our motto: "Provide solutions. Don't sell boxes."

We offer best and realistic outcomes from years of experience dealing with weak reception and serving over 36,000 satisfied customers.

Read real reviews from our customers. It's because of our goal to provide the best signal solutions that have led us to the Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies List multiple years.

Ask us anything. We'll always have the answers.


Need help? Email us today ( sales@wilsonamplifiers.com) or give us a call at 1-800-568-2723. A cell phone signal expert will gladly assist you in getting better signal instantly.

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