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My House is Cursed to Never Have Ethernet or Good Wi-Fi

Apologies this is a bit of an “old man yells at cloud” post. I’m sure many people on here have got ethernet around old houses before, but I feel like this house was designed with the express purpose of being awkward to wire.

I live in an area of England that has mainly old terraced housing. Our area was developed in 1885 and were built to hold in as much heat as possible. But how was this done without insulation?

Every single wall is made of thick stone. Every. Single. Wall. Yes even interior walls.

This alone makes it a nightmare to run ethernet. Now sure, you can run ethernet externally but this doesn’t help much since it’s a mid-terrace (houses on both sides). So to get a cable to the other side of the house externally would result in me running ethernet all the way down the street across my neighbours properties.

My next step was to try and figure out how they wired the house for electricity since surely I could follow where they went? Unfortunately that wasn’t much use either since it’s a spaghetti mess that branches out from my unconverted cellar (designed to hold coal and our well). Each floor is on it’s own ring.

Unfortunately, powerline sucks with old electrical wiring. Especially when turning on the kettle drops the access point.

At this point I conceded and just ran a single patch cable along the skirting board which goes to an 8-port switch on my desk. It’s stupid but it works.

I’ve pretty much given up on Wi-Fi except for two rooms. I’m in close proximity to my neighbours by nature of it being a terraced house. There are about 2 access points on every 2.4GHz channel depending on the time of day. This causes frequent drop-outs even on a UniFi AC Lite.

5GHz would be the answer in this case if it wasn’t for the stupid stone walls. Repeaters kind of work but still suffer with the inteference problem.

It’s not all bad though. I do actually have near-gigabit (900) FTTP. It’s delivered by an overhead fibre cable so I do at least have that blessing.

Has anyone else had a similar struggle for ethernet? It seems to be the edgiest of edge cases. I’d be interested to hear any suggestions that could beat my current patch cable solution. It certainly seems a lot easier to do across the pond.

Sucks, especially if one rents, and so can’t drill/run in wall cables.
If I owned a house such as yours, I might consider running a cable along one wall up through the ceiling, to a POE injecting switch in the roof space, then run a couple of wires down through ceiling holes to a couple of the rooms to make a mesh/cover the place.
But I don’t.
I just tack Ethernet along the skirting boards to distributed access points, and fill in the small holes before end of tenancy.
Only problem is the occasional landlord who actually fits the door fully to the doorframe, without a gap in the base, but I only ran into one fella who actually did that. And he added vents above the lintels to avoid damp, with holes large enough for an rj45…

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How is the tv areal/sky wiring distributed around the place? Can you run Ethernet alongside that/pull one wire to replace it with the other?

Can you go up? What I mean is say out a window or corner of a window frame that can be sealed up again once the cable is through and go over the roof to a rear window or vent or something?

If you ever need more cables or what not, might help if you are looking to add more access points on their own ethernet lines.

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[In before OP mentions his Cornish terrace has a thatched roof and can’t be scaled…]

But I hear the issue with thick walls

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Wireless backhaul mesh is bae. Strategic placement of such a mesh would likely help you too.

Replace your mains power ring circuit with this and put an Ethernet switch next to the powerpoint.

Neat, an all in one code violation.

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@Copious my terraced house is slightly older / half thick stone half stick framing.

Most importantly, do you own or rent? A lot depends on it.

E.g. It’s technically easy and cheap to drill through a 40cm wall in a few strategic places with a cheap drill and drill bit and make it look neat and professional, or change skirting boards for hollow ones and give it a fresh coat of paint, or remove a smoke alarm or a switch temporarily to have a peek at how that was wired and what’s inside the wall, but unlikely to be allowed by your landlord - in which case I’d consider flat cat6 cables going under the doors and around door frames.

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I’ve been really happy with my Netgear Orbi mesh setup (which is wifi 6 - an RBK752 kit). It isn’t cheap, but it works well.

Dedicated back-channel (so end device wifi doesn’t impact backhaul), can also do backhaul over wired ethernet.

Also, if you aren’t using wifi 6 devices (802.11AD I think), definitely consider upgrading (particularly those in locations with poor signal), they get way better bandwidth in like for like situations vs. prior generation gear.

I own my own place, it’s internal brick walls, 4 bedroom and I get 1200 megabit everywhere now assuming the end device is capable of that speed. :smiley:

I’m too lazy to run cable. In your case with thicker stone walls you could need to hard-wire one or more satellites or simply use more of them.

This would be my suggestion - surface mount the cat6 through your skirting board using something like this:

Then route through a floor board and ceiling joist where you need to go up or down stairs to the cellar. The hardest part is finding somewhere to go from the ground floor to first floor (or 2nd floor for our American friends). when I did this in my 1930’s house i used the old chimney breast and came out through the side of the wall in a discrete patch panel.

At some point you will need to surface mount some cables. But as @risk says, you can make it look smart.

@Trooper_ish The property is not rented (freehold). Didn’t think about the TV aerial (terrestrial). It just comes out of a wall box, not sure how the cabling is routed but that would give me a straight route to the attic where I could drop another UniFi AC Lite. Normal roof.

@Zibob I could go up but I’m hesitant to start drilling into stone without much experience on a ladder. Also there’s the issue of getting to the other side of the house which would make it easier to just trail a patch cable along the interior walls. This is a “through terrace”. Basically that means that whilst some terraces are back-to-back mine goes through to both streets. Trying to make a floorplan currently.

@Adubs @thro I’ll have a look at mesh setups now. Could I mesh together just dumb access points? I really like my pfSense thin-client setup. My only concern is whether the backhaul would be able to cope with the amount of interfering 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks in my area. The 5GHz DFS channels are very clear though so maybe time to just ditch any 2.4GHz-only devices altogether.

@NZSNIPER I didn’t know they did that. I thought the objective was usually to separate the electrical and data lines in an ideal situation. I’m guessing they’re shielded? It would be a nightmare to re-cable this house though.

@risk @Airstripone The skirting board plan might work actually. Hadn’t though of that. At the moment they are solid wood but I could feasibly replace them and run ethernet. I think I’d had to get a more fixed location for my “cabinet” though (currently on wheels). I could trace the direction of the light switches to run ethernet through them. I think they all go into the cellar where everything runs along the ceiling. If I could get down there I could trunk it up through the floorboards. The smoke alarms are all non-wired Li-ion so they’re just as likely to detect a fire as they are to cause one :laughing:.

The biggest thing I could do to improve things would be to get a second UniFi AC Lite in the attic to at least get Wi-Fi coverage. It’s not like a normal loft attic though, it’s converted into two rooms. Getting a wire up there is tricky internally with the door there. Might need to trace how the electrical cabling reaches there. Or maybe partially run it through skirting and then drill through the wall. Or if I’m feeling brave maybe externally run it and try not to fall to my death off a ladder.

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The Orbi uses dedicated 5Ghz channel for backhaul (and your clients will be on 2.4 or 5Ghz as appropriate). In your case maybe wired backhaul (which it also supports between APs) might be better (depending on how well the 5ghz signal can bounce off your walls), but it will limit the number of cables you need to run (vs. hard-wiring the whole property).

Certainly worth a look, i’ve been impressed by WIFI 6 in general and the Orbi gear in particular. Its a decent step up from 802.11AC and light years ahead of N.

It won’t backhaul/extend some other AP’s network though so you’d be all in on Orbi (or at least netgear) stuff.

Like i said, it aint cheap, but the wifi performance is excellent. It gets prompt firmware updates by the looks of it too.

Can act as a router, but also works in dedicated (dumb?) AP mode. I’m using mine as a router at the moment, but its just because i’ve got my VDSL piped into the living room and the GF wants less boxes and simplier diagnostics (just hit power switch on the VDSL modem and Orbi).

The only resets i’ve had to do have been on my modem so far, not the orbi itself outside of firmware. Pretty sure due to telco shenanigans and loss of sync, etc.

@thro The Orbi’s look great (except for the price, holy shit). You can put them in a dumb AP mode by the looks of things. Then have them talk to each other wirelessly.

However, if I want to hardwire them in the future I have to daisy-chain them from the main unit which might get a little tricky since my end-game aim was to have socketed ethernet ports all going to a central switch.

The higher frequency, the worse the signal penetrates through objects.
Another option could be this as it operates at 900MHz.

Or if you have a phone line, you could use a VDSL extender

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Things to look for, vents and plumbing. Things like waste stacks are great because they are great whacking sizes which means there’s generally good space around them as they go through the structure. Running a cable is possible beside the pipe through the floor. Another is the vent which will get you to the attic. Zip tieing Cat 6 to the pipes means it’s easy to keep it in place. You might have to go raw cable and terminate once it’s run to remove the need for having space needed for the connector. What a pain!

@thro I bit the bullet on the Orbi’s, they’re really struggling with the 5GHz backhaul.

No joke I have two satellites in opposing rooms (same floor) and it still falls back to a 2.4GHz backhaul. I’m going to have to be creative and try to find some weak spots where 5GHz can get through. Or get more satellites, but at this rate I’m going to need one for each room.

Put an Access Point in the garden shining on the house. Then put clients/repeaters in the windows against the glass.

If you use Ubiquiti gear then you can create effectively one huge Access Point

The access point would need to be in line-of-sight for all of the windows. Depending on the distance of the windows the access point might need to be on the other side of the street. Good idea if you can rig some solar up to it.

Finding a way to run cable is the best solution, if you can do it. Probably least expensive as well.

Mesh routers are superior to trying to add extra access points, in my experience. Cost is the only downside.