Shop Sweet Shop #11: Wi-Fi through a Metal Building

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Blog entry by magaoitin posted 06-19-2017 03:40 PM 1930 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: Equipment and Material Hoist Part 11 of Shop Sweet Shop series no next part

Getting a Wi-Fi signal inside my shop has strangely turned into the second single most expensive piece of my shop TI to date. The most expensive piece being a dedicated 200 amp panel @ around $1500

My shop is a 30’ x 30’ metal building, about 35’ from my house, and of course, my home office with the computer and router is on the opposite end of the house another 30’ away. As a result I get horrible Wi-Fi reception. I have read countless articles on Wi-Fi repeaters vs installing a cable from my home router, and I ended up trying both.

Starting at the least expensive, and fastest option, a friend had recommended just getting a Wi-Fi Repeater/booster, so I bought the Securifi Almond Range Extender for $80.

I put it in a window pointing directly at the shop.It was easy to setup (about 2 minutes) however, unless the metal door to the shop is open, and I am standing in direct line of sight to the repeater, I get at best, one bar of intermittent strength, take two steps inside the shop and the signal is gone. I thought about buying a second repeater to put in the shop, and maybe between two of them they could bridge the metal building issue, but decided against it. With my luck, it would be a waste of another $80, and still not be able to repeat through my metal walls.

I should have been able to get away with just renting the trencher, drop the cable in, and dump a couple bags of sand for less than $300, but sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.

I rented a trencher/ditchwitch back in January. Even though January is not the greatest time to be digging up the backyard, I had a free weekend and figured why not. I was sick of not having tunes in the shop, plus I had a TV mounted to watch Wood Turning and Cat videos and was getting shut out.

The middle of my house lined up with the where I wanted to land the cable in the shop, but after trenching about 10’ off the edge of my house, I ran into something that the trencher couldn’t cut through about 8”-12” down. I figured it must have been a big rock so I moved to the corner of the house and tried again. Once again at 10’ off the house I hit something and couldn’t get the trencher to cut through it. Last attempt was at the other corner of my house, and again at 10’ I got stuck. Well there was $160 and a day wasted. At this point I wrote it off that there was a concrete slab (or something) buried in my backyard, there is no way I am so unlucky that I hit 3 giant rocks, all strategically placed at 10’ off the edge of the house in the three spots I tried to dig.

I had a couple of tree stumps I wanted to dig up so an Excavator was on the agenda. Through a series of unfortunate events, I could not get a smaller mini excavator, that I could tow with my truck, and ended up getting one that was too big for my half ton truck.

I had to pay to have the excavator delivered/picked up which was $75 I wasn’t planning on. The rental was in total $500, so I figured splitting the cost between the 2 projects.

Dreading what I would find, I got on the excavator to dig the trench and found…absolutely nothing. Which is on par with my luck when it comes to digging up the back yard of this house. All I can think is that the combination of some frozen ground and a couple of strategically placed 8” diameter rocks foiled me, or I really don’t know how to use a ditchwitch…which I am perfectly willing to accept.

So it gets the commercial install treatment; an 18” wide trench, bedding, conduit, pea gravel, ID tape…the works. Another unexpected cost was now I am digging 18” wide x 35’ long and putting 4”-6” of sand down, then pea gravel over the top. a half yard of sand and a half yard of pea gravel got used up fast. Way overkill.

I ordered a 100’ CAT 6E direct bury cable ($69.99) when I originally planned on just trenching and dropping a line in, a bag of CAT 6 female to female cable connectors ($5.00) off Amazon, along with a TP-Link AC1200 Gigabit Wireless Wi-Fi Router ($59.99)

Even though I bought direct bury cable, I had 4 sticks of 1” conduit and a couple bends in the shop, so all I had to buy was a couple of LB connectors. I’m not a fan of directly burying cables anyways.

Renting the trencher, then the rental on an excavator (even though it had another purpose during the rental), and all the materials put the total at $600 to get WiFi in the shop. I have $300 in parts, including the cost of the original Wi-Fi repeater that did not work for its intended purpose. I decided not to return it, I think is has some added, unexpected value as I can get a better Wi-Fi signal all around the house and in my yard.

My backyard slopes about 14” down from the house to the shop. The side of my shop has been buried down about 6” below grade. So I decided to build a little retaining wall and level the backyard. Once I level everything I will have 24”-30” of cover over the conduit

-- Jeff ~ Tacoma Wa.

9 comments so far

View FreddieMac's profile


151 posts in 1148 days

#1 posted 06-19-2017 08:57 PM

Great work and that looks like a fine shop. I like the TV, I am going to have to talk to my wife about that… :-)

View Holbs's profile


2349 posts in 2830 days

#2 posted 06-19-2017 09:32 PM

This is my main gig during the day time: telecommunications & phone systems. I could of told you a much cheaper route :) Outside plant CAT6 cable, or as you call it direct burial, (weather proof, water proof, super strong … same stuff you see on telephone poles), trenched via 2-3” (some folk do not even bother trenching). “Low voltage” wiring such as communication cable, has much easier and flexible code. No mandatory requirement for conduit or how deep it has to be nor how it penetrates through walls…unless you live in Las Vegas where phone/computer cable is only in code if it’s in conduit or metal flex due to the casino’s.
And said CAT6 (category 6) has a distance of a little over 300’ range. But as you stated, you do not like direct burial cable as it can be cut or damage by machinery later down the road. Still…. that’s alot of money for WIFI :)
We install Umbiquiti’s (?) which have the power & range (even outdoor access points). More spendy than TPLINK but cheaper than Cisco.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View Madmark2's profile


1451 posts in 1389 days

#3 posted 06-19-2017 09:49 PM

Optical fiber in an aerial tube . . .


-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View magaoitin's profile


249 posts in 1750 days

#4 posted 06-19-2017 11:02 PM

I will be the first to admit this was an excessive and blatant misuse of resources, but it just seemed to grow and grow, to ludicrous proportions, and it is funny in hindsight.

If the trencher had worked as I intended back in January I could have just direct buried the cable and been into it for only $300 ($180 for the trencher rental, $70 for the cable, and $60 for the router, and assuming I returned the range extender for $80). Adding the conduit (free except for (2) LB fittings) and then bedding/backfilling wasn’t that big of a deal. I had ordered a few yards of sand and pea gravel for my retaining wall and other landscaping projects anyways.

If I had read a good review on an outdoor repeater I might have gone that route, but I dont trust most online reviews of computer equipment.

Mark – This was just CAT 6 Ethernet cable, not fiber. But hey, I have a 1” conduit buried now, so could always pull fiber in the future!

-- Jeff ~ Tacoma Wa.

View builtinbkyn's profile


3009 posts in 1741 days

#5 posted 06-19-2017 11:33 PM

Well it certainly looks pretty and professional. Did you ever consider going overhead?

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View Notw's profile


779 posts in 2554 days

#6 posted 06-20-2017 06:08 PM

completely understandable, you really can’t put a price tag on adorable cat videos

View Mean_Dean's profile


7047 posts in 3948 days

#7 posted 06-20-2017 07:26 PM

Sounds like it was quite an ordeal, but now that you’re hooked up, you’ll get to enjoy the benefits!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View bburch's profile


2 posts in 3621 days

#8 posted 06-21-2017 02:14 AM

Did you look into using a power-line adapter such as the TP-Link AV500 Nano Powerline Adapter ? There are other types/manufactures.
I had the same issue in my shop and this easily fixed the problem with my shop being powered from the same main electrical disconnect as my house. This system uses your home/shop electrical wiring to transfer the internet signal. The complete setup was less then $40 at Amazon.
I know this want help you now and i would rather have your hard wired system, but for the cost and easy of installation this might be a good choice for others facing the same issue.


View magaoitin's profile


249 posts in 1750 days

#9 posted 06-21-2017 03:50 PM

Did you look into using a power-line adapter


- bburch

That’ s a great idea, and the reviews on Amazon are positive. Unfortunately I installed a new dedicated 200 amp service for my shop, so it is not run off from my main service at the house.

-- Jeff ~ Tacoma Wa.

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