11 Major Building Materials That Kill Your Cell Phone Reception (2023)

What Can Interfere with Cell Signal?

It’s no secret.

Building material is generally the leading cause of poor cell phone signal indoors.

4G, LTE, and 5G signals are radio frequency waves. Like all radio waves (cellular, WiFi, AM/FM radio, satellite, etc.), obstructions can weaken and obliterate cell signal. This is especially true for 5G's high frequencies.

Today, we’re looking at the top building materials that block RF signals and by how much.

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First, A Quick Rundown on How Cell Phone Signal Strength is Measured

Cell towers, small cells, and cellular devices use radiofrequency waves to communicate with each other.

The amount of signal you get from nearby cell towers or small cells is expressed as bars. Yet, the number of bars on your phone don’t accurately show how strong your cell signal is. Bars are subjective across carriers and devices.

How subjective, you ask?

Despite receiving the same signal and performing at the same speed, 2 bars on AT&T could be 3 on T-Mobile or 4 on Verizon. It's up to your carriers to decide how much 1, 2, 3, 4, or full bars on their service is.

The best way to find your true signal strength is by measuring in dBm (decibel-milliwatts). dBm is an exact power level expressed in decibels with respect to one milliwatt. Signal strength ranges from -50 dBm (great signal) to -120 dBm (dead zone). The closer you are to -50 dBm, the better your signal.

The increase (gain) or decrease (loss) of signal strength is measured in dB (decibels). dB is a logarithmic unit used to quantify the ratio between two power levels. We won’t get into all the nitty-gritty details about dB. All you need to know is that every ± 3 dB means gaining or losing double the power.

So, what does this have to do with building material?

Well, building materials subtract dB from the signal trying to enter your home or office. The more loss, the closer you get to -120 dBm, resulting in a dead zone.

Finally, a quick word about 5G. 5G signals broadcast at a higher wavelength than 4G and LTE. Thus, for each number provided in the following section, assume an even worse effect on 5G signal of all types.

Top Building Materials that K.O. Your Cell Phone Signal

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

11 Major Building Materials That Kill Your Cell Phone Reception (5)

Ok, so it’s not building material, but nevertheless, a good starting point.

People often wonder: Do trees block cell phone signals?

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The answer is a RESOUNDING yes.

Trees, mountains, hills, and even weather affect your 4G, LTE, and 5G signals. By how much?

Rain -3 to -5 dB
Foliage -7 to -20 dB

This chart is for LTE – 5G signals are affected even more. Foliage is a big problem as it absorbs and reflects cell signals, especially pine. Most homes and offices receive better signal during autumn and winter. Fewer leaves mean less aerial obstructions. While rain doesn’t affect cell reception as much, when coupled with foliage or in weak signal areas, it can make a big difference.

10. Drywall/Sheetrock (-2 dB)

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Your interior walls and ceilings are most likely made from drywall. While they are among the lower-grade signal blocking agents, they can cause some damage if your outside signal is already weak.

9. Fiberglass Insulation (-2 dB)

11 Major Building Materials That Kill Your Cell Phone Reception (7)

Fiberglass insulation in the walls or in the attic also block cell signals. When paired with drywall, loss is -4 dB for LTE. This means your outside signal is cut by over 50% by the time it enters your home.

8. Clear Glass (-4 dB)

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Instinctively, when cell reception is poor inside a home or office, most people move close to a window. However, while it might not seem like it, windows reflect and refract cellular signal. Average signal loss is about -4 dB for LTE. Double-pane and triple-pane windows affect cell signal even more. So, if standing by a closed window doesn’t improve your signal quality, open it if you can for best results.

7. Plywood (-4 to -6 dB)

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Plywood is another sheet material that reduces 4G and LTE signal by up to -6 dB. Reduction is about -9dB for 5G networks. The thicker the plywood, the more it’ll affect cell phone signal strength. If the plywood gets wet and it’s not water-resistant, it’ll act like a sponge capable of weakening signal up to -20 dB. Ouch.

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

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While nice, hardwood floors, walls, doors, and furnishing are cell signal killers. Any type of wood – from beech, ash, oak, mahogany, maple, etc. – can absorb and block cellular signals. The thicker the wood, the worse the signal.

5. Plaster (-8 to -16 dB)

11 Major Building Materials That Kill Your Cell Phone Reception (11)

Plaster, commonly used in homes and office buildings, is a mixture of lime or gypsum, sand or cement, and water that hardens when dry. It’s used for coating, protecting, and decorating internal walls and ceilings. A layer of plaster can reduce signal strength by -8 dB to -16 dB. Who knew it could do that much damage?

4. Brick and Stone (-8 to -28 dB)

11 Major Building Materials That Kill Your Cell Phone Reception (12)

Brick and stone are great building materials for aesthetics and design. While preventing the big bad wolf from blowing your house down, they also significantly weaken cellular signals by up to -28 dB. For this reason, you may experience better reception in rooms that aren't lined with brick or stone.

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

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No surprise here. Most modern buildings are made from concrete. Many architects depend on the industrial strength of concrete and cement to create robust structures. This is why many urban areas have challenges getting working signal indoors. Signal loss ranges from -10 dB to -20 dB per 6 inches of concrete and cement.

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

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Newer buildings use tinted and Low-E glass to keep heat out and reduce glare. You would think they would have the same effects on cell signal as clear glass since it’s "just" glass, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. They do a better job at reflecting signal and often consist of metal additives. This causes tinted and Low-E glass to reduce cell signal by 8 to 10 times more than clear glass.

1. Metal (-32 to -50 dB)

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Metal is the #1 cellular blocking material across all buildings in America. Aluminum, aluminum foil, lead, brass, copper, steel, iron, etc., can absorb and reflect cellular frequency waves. Average signal loss ranges from -32 dB to -50 dB, enough to make your building a dead zone.

H2: In Conclusion: Building Materials that Block Cell Signal and By How Much

Almost anything under the sun affects 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. Remember: these numbers are for LTE, and are even more dramatic for 5G.

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 & Stone -8 to -28
Concrete & cement (6 inches) -10 to -20
Tinted & Low-E Glass -24 to -40
Metal -32 to -50

Here is a handy infographic to illustrate all we've discussed.

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FAQs

Can Aluminum Foil Block Cell Phone Radiation?

Since aluminum foil is made from metal, it can block cellular signals from entering your home. Many people use it to make a Faraday cage. Depending on the type of aluminum foil and how strong your cellular signal is, many layers may be needed to completely block out radio waves.

Is Concrete the Worst Material to Block Wireless Signal?

While in the top three of worst signal blocking materials, metal has 6" of concrete beat.

Metal -35 to -50 dB Loss
6" Concrete -10 to -20 dB Loss

If you were to double or triple the thickness, concrete can become the worst material to block wireless signals.

Will Metal Roofs Affect Cell Service?

Sadly, yes, a great deal.

People with metal roofs and metal walls find it difficult to get reliable reception indoors. Even having metal inside the home distorts RF signals.

If you suffer from this problem, visit our guide to learn how to get better cell signal inside a metal building.

What Metal Blocks Cell Signal?

Literally all metal. Aluminum, aluminum foil, lead, brass, tin, copper, steel, iron, etc. The degree to which each type of metal affects cell signal will vary.

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Does Carbon Fiber Block Cell Signal?

Carbon fiber is a strong, thin, lightweight material composed of bonded carbon atoms. It’s used in creating building materials, phone cases, car parts, and more. Because carbon fiber is conductive, it can reduce the energy of radiofrequency waves. Thus, weakening or completely blocking 4G, LTE, and 5G signals.

Do Trees Block Cell Phone Signal?

Absolutely. The combination of leaves, thick trunks, branches, and the water tress hold leads to the reflection and absorption of radio waves. Pine trees affect cell signal the most.

Does Rain Weaken Signal?

Yes. Rain reflects, refracts, and absorbs cellular signals. On average, you can expect a loss of -3 to -5 dB. The heavier the rain, the weaker the signal becomes.

How to Block Cell Phone Signals?

If you want to block or reduce cellular signals, you can:

  • Line your home with aluminum foil or Mylar
  • Install a metal roof
  • Add wood furnishing
  • Upgrade to Low-E windows
  • Plant pine trees
  • Or implement other materials mentioned in this article.

How to Bypass Building Material to Improve Cell Signal?

If you’re tired of building material preventing you from enjoying reliable calls and data, a cell signal booster for homes and offices can help.

Cellular boosters boost your existing outside signal and broadcast it indoors. They use an outdoor antenna, an amplifier, and an indoor antenna to do so. All components are connected via low-loss coaxial cable. This allows the unit to bypass all signal blocking material.

11 Major Building Materials That Kill Your Cell Phone Reception (17)

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Wilson Amplifiers is the leading provider of cell phone signal boosters. Regardless of what materials were used to build your home or office, our signal boosters ensure reliable talk, text, and data wherever you need it. Please call us at 1-800-568-2723 or email us at sales@wilsonamplifiers.com if you have any questions.

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FAQs

What building materials block cell phone signals? ›

Metal is the #1 cellular blocking material across all buildings in America. Aluminum, aluminum foil, lead, brass, copper, steel, iron, etc., can absorb and reflect cellular frequency waves. Average signal loss ranges from -32 dB to -50 dB, enough to make your building a dead zone.

How do you block cell service in a building? ›

That means using things like wallpaper or building materials embedded with metal fragments to prevent cell-phone signals from reaching inside or outside the room. Some buildings have designs that block radio signals by accident due to thick concrete walls or a steel skeleton.

Does aluminum block cell phone signals? ›

Materials such as tin, copper, silver, aluminum and others can completely block the signal.

Does concrete block cell signal? ›

Additionally, the industrial-strength concrete found in most modern buildings not only blocks cellular signal but absorbs and reflects many of the radio frequency (RF) waves trying to get inside.

What materials can block a WIFI signal? ›

The following list is ranked from worst to least.
  1. 1 - Metal. The ultimate signal blocking material. ...
  2. 2 - Concrete Walls. ...
  3. 3 - Plaster and Metal Lath. ...
  4. 4 - Ceramic Tile. ...
  5. 5 - Windows and Tinted Glass. ...
  6. 6 - Mirrors. ...
  7. 7 - Drywall. ...
  8. 8 - Devices Operating on the 2.4 GHz Frequency.

Does a metal building interfere with cell phone reception? ›

Radio signals can bounce around and go through wood, sheetrock walls, and windows; however, buildings with a lot of metal can interfere with cellphone signals. Steel causes the signal to bounce around - sometimes missing your phone.

What can knock out cell service? ›

Hills, mountains, bluffs, heavy vegetation, and even weather can kill your cell signal.

Can you detect a cell phone jammer? ›

A Jammer is a blocking device for cell phones, which sends the blocking signals to towers from the same frequency range of the cell phones, the interference cause the cell phone to lose the signals from the station. But the main problem is a Jammer cannot be detected.

Does wrapping a phone in tin foil work? ›

The most likely effect of wrapping the phone in foil is that you will burn through the battery more quickly, as the phone struggles to latch onto a signal and can't dissipate heat.

Why should you wrap your doorknob in aluminum foil when you re alone? ›

All it says is aluminum foil can be used as an alternative to tape to cover doorknobs and hardware while painting. It has nothing to do with safety and the inclusion of the phrase "when you're home alone" was only used as clickbait to make the ad seem more important. Copyright 2022 Scripps Media, Inc.

Can a potato chip bag block cell phone signal? ›

But then we had the idea of making multilayered protection out of two chip bags. It turned out that the double-shielding did indeed prevent the phone from receiving and transmitting signals! To be sure, we tested several bags made by different producers.

Does RFID block cell phone signal? ›

Regulators carefully apportion the radio frequency spectrum to avoid having one RF device interfere with another. So radio frequency identification generally is given a piece of the spectrum that will not interfere with cell phones.

What can disrupt cell signal? ›

Hills, mountains, bluffs, heavy vegetation, and even weather can kill your cell signal. Glass/windows. When cell phone users lose signal or drop a call inside of a building, it can seem instinctive to move near a window.

What device can block signals? ›

Known as cell jammers, signal blockers, GPS jammers, or text stoppers, a cell phone signal jammer holds up the radio frequency in a given area, creating a sort of signal traffic jam that blocks all communication.

Can mobile signals pass through walls? ›

Materials such as drywall, plywood, other kinds of wood and glass can be easily penetrated by wireless signals.

What walls block WiFi? ›

Concrete, with and without metal reinforcement, is one of the worst building materials for wireless signals to pass through, but masonry block and bricks can also be serious barriers for Wi-Fi. Plywood and drywall come close to zero signal loss in tests.

Can a magnet block WiFi? ›

Magnets do not produce time varying energy (magnetic field and waves), therefore they do not interfere with time varying signals such as those emitted from WiFi radios or similar devices.

Does aluminum foil block WiFi signal? ›

Wi-Fi signals operate over radio waves, which are highly sensitive to interference from metallic objects. A strategically placed metal barrier -- such as one made out of tin foil -- will completely reflect all the Wi-Fi signals it encounters in the opposite direction.

How can I get better cell phone service in a metal building? ›

The easiest way to improve the cell phone signal inside a metal building is to use a building cellular signal booster system. These systems can boost the signal indoors for one or several cell phones. They will also improve the cell signal to a hotspot or cellular router to improve your data speeds.

How can I boost my cell signal in my building? ›

Boosting A Bad Signal
  1. Reset the phone to force it to try to reconnect.
  2. Try to take calls in other rooms or near a window, where signal may be better.
  3. Use a Bluetooth headset and take calls by leaving the phone in a spot with good signal, freeing the user to walk around.
  4. Enable Wi-Fi calling (provided the phone supports it)
Oct 26, 2020

Why do I suddenly have poor cell service? ›

Averse weather, interference from building materials or terrain, distance from your nearest cell tower, or network overload can all contribute to poor signal.

Can you block a signal jammer? ›

Can you block a jammer? Purchase a smartphone that functions on several frequencies. High-tech cell phone jammers will block many frequencies, but others only block a single frequency. If your phone can function on several frequencies, you can protect against the jammer simply by using a different frequency.

How much does a jammer cost? ›

The avg. market price of Mobile Jammer in India is Rs 14,500/ Piece.

How do I block my phone from being monitored? ›

The best way to block phone tracking is to use a VPN. But you can also change a few settings on your phone or switch to a different browser to stop tracking. You can hide your location via settings, block ad tracking with a dedicated private browser, and encrypt all of your internet traffic with a VPN.

How far does a cell phone jammer reach? ›

Low-powered jammers block calls in a range of about 30 feet (9 m). Higher-powered units create a cell-free zone as large as a football field. Units used by law enforcement can shut down service up to 1 mile (1.6 km) from the device.

How do I block phone detection? ›

How to Prevent Cell Phones From Being Tracked
  1. Turn off the cellular and Wi-Fi radios on your phone. The easiest way to accomplish this task is to turn on the “Airplane Mode” feature. ...
  2. Disable your GPS radio. ...
  3. Shut the phone down completely and remove the battery.

Can foil block GPS? ›

“Offenders have learned that wrapping the GPS device in aluminum foil can make the GPS tracking points untraceable and disappear.” School science demonstrations show how foil can block radio waves and silence radios.

Does tin foil block security tags? ›

Yes, aluminum foil will block security tags. Therefore, it is often used to block sensors from catching signals sent by anti-theft devices. The primary reason is that several layers of aluminum foil can block radio signals. It gets creative with special bags lined with aluminum foil to avoid detection at the cashier.

Should I wrap my credit card in foil? ›

The aluminum will disrupt most electronic signals. You can also wrap each credit card in aluminum foil and place the wrapped cards in your wallet. The foil shields the card from scanners.

What is the best material to protect a cell phone? ›

Plastic is the most common material used for phone cases, usually polycarbonate, TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), or a mixture of the two.

Can a bag of chip block cell phone signal? ›

But then we had the idea of making multilayered protection out of two chip bags. It turned out that the double-shielding did indeed prevent the phone from receiving and transmitting signals! To be sure, we tested several bags made by different producers.

Why do cell phones not work in some buildings? ›

Thick building materials, especially concrete and steel, can stop a cell signal from penetrating a building. Even insulated glass can be enough to impair signal strength. Obstructions such as trees, mountains and other buildings can impact the quality of the signal your tenants receive.

Do trees interfere with cell phone reception? ›

Trees and mountains may block your phone's signal from reaching a distant cell tower. Building materials such as concrete, metal and even energy efficient windows can block cellular signals from entering your home.

What are some harmful materials inside a phone? ›

There are many toxic materials within our electronic devices, take a cell phone as an example which has over 500 components. Many of these contain toxic metals such as mercury, lead, beryllium, and cadmium. Touchscreen cell phones contain indium oxide and tin oxide which is used in a clear film on the screen.

What is the most secure phone system? ›

Most Secure Phones in 2022
  1. Bittium Tough Mobile 2C. ...
  2. K-iPhone – The one of the most secure Phones. ...
  3. Most secure Phones – Solarin From Sirin Labs. ...
  4. Among the most secure Phones – Purism Librem 5. ...
  5. Sirin Labs Finney U1.
Apr 29, 2022

What materials used in the phone are toxic hazardous and why should the phone not be disposed of in landfill? ›

Cell phones contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and brominated flame retardants. When cell phones are thrown away and are burnt, these toxic metals are released into the environment polluting it.

How far does a cell phone jammer work? ›

Low-powered jammers block calls in a range of about 30 feet (9 m). Higher-powered units create a cell-free zone as large as a football field. Units used by law enforcement can shut down service up to 1 mile (1.6 km) from the device.

What is a ghost chip for a phone? ›

The Ghost Cell Phone Data Service uses eSIM technology that allows data connections on a smartphone without a physical SIM card. Users of supported phones connect to a special network for data services.

How does a cell phone jammer work? ›

Cell phone jammers work by emitting a Radio Frequency (RF) signal that is stronger than the power from the nearest cell phone base station or cell phone tower. The frequency of the RF signal is similar to the signal employed by cellular phone carriers and renders the phone unstable.

What interferes with cell phone towers? ›

Hills, mountains, bluffs, heavy vegetation, and even weather can kill your cell signal. Glass/windows. When cell phone users lose signal or drop a call inside of a building, it can seem instinctive to move near a window.

Where should you not use a cell phone? ›

10 places where you shouldn't use your phone
  • At the Hospital. The “No Cellphone” sign you see in the waiting room is there for a reason:Radio-frequency energy from cellphones can still interfere with pacemakers and defibrillators. ...
  • On the Train. ...
  • In the Locker Room. ...
  • At Dinner. ...
  • In the Car. ...
  • In Bed. ...
  • In the Restroom. ...
  • At the Checkout.
Jan 17, 2013

Why is my phone signal worse? ›

Averse weather, interference from building materials or terrain, distance from your nearest cell tower, or network overload can all contribute to poor signal.

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