Install your WiFi Router in the Attic
Most of us have WiFi Internet at home and use it for either work or personal related tasks. Sometimes depending on where we are in the home the signal can be low and it slows down our connection which can be frustrating. Over the years we have received several requests from people asking us what they can do to improve WiFi connectivity at home so we wanted to provide some DIY instructions on how to install your WiFi router in the attic. Why does it make sense to install the WiFi router in the attic? Basically the goal is to create an umbrella of signal over the layout of your home so all of your Internet the devices (TV’s, game consoles, camera system, and Amazon echo for example) can obtain a better connection.
The purpose of our article is to provide steps on how to install your WiFi router in the attic to position the device in the most centralized spot in the home to get the best overall coverage. It is possible that the square footage of your home requires more than one WiFi router so we will outline some additional advice on how to create a mesh network to extend your signal.
This project requires a set of tools to get the job done. These tools can be purchased online. Or you can borrow them from a friend or your I.T. vendor. If you work with Digux let us know if you want to take on this DIY project and we can arrange to lend you our tools for a weekend. Also, if you plan on ‘wiring’ your house for data then you may want to invest in the tools as they can be handy to add new connections overtime. None the less, here is what equipment and tools we used for this project:
- Unifi AP AC Pro wireless router
- A box of Cat5 cable
- Eye protection
- Dust mask
- Tool belt
- Drill & Drill Bits (Fully charged battery)
- Screw Driver
- Sheet rock saw
- Stud finder
- Tape measure
- Gorilla tape (Most tape will work)
- 12” straight peace of metal coat hanger
- Cat5 crimper
- Cat5 cable stripper
- Wall box (1-Gang)
- RJ45 Keystone End
- RJ45 End
- RJ45 Face plate
- RJ45 Punch tool
- Step latter
- Fiberglass rod set
- Wood putty & ceiling paint.
- Step latter
To get started lets identify the best path to the attic. If your Internet modem or network closet is down-stairs this project can be a little more challenging but is not a show stopper by any means. You can typically find a way upstairs through the walls or you can go under the house and bring the cable outside and up the exterior using conduit (Conduit and caulking can be purchased from your local home improvement retailer) which typically is the fastest way but will require additional tools and supplies. None the less, you will want to keep the cable run less than 300ft which is the category 5 (Cat5) cable limit. When extending the cable more than 300ft problems can start to occur with data loss as a result which degrades the network experience.
In our example, our network closet is upstairs so we will be going up into the attic inside the wall from an upstairs office. To mark our starting point please use your drill and the 12” straight piece of metal coat hanger and drill it up into the attic as close as possible to the wall and leave it poking up into the ceiling. The reason for this is so when we go up into the attic we can identify this location by finding the coat hanger sticking up via the attic floor. Example:
Before you go up into the attic please make sure to wear eye protection and the dust mask. If you don’t have a dust mask you can use a handkerchief to wrap around your mouth and nose. The goal is to avoid inhaling insulation or getting it in your eyes. Once you are prepared to go into the attic find the small coat hanger poking up from the floor. This should be really close to the 2×4 header that is structured at the top of the wall. Use your drill and a ½” wood drill bit and drill down into the wall. This process may take 5-10 minutes as the distance potentially is the thickness of (2) 2×4’s. Your drill bit may smoke due to heat so be careful not to create a spark of any sort with the insulation nearby. Make sure to use both hands holding the drill and keep the positioning of the drill straight to avoid kickback.
Once you complete drilling the attic hole go back down into your office and trace out the location with your pencil where you want to install your 1-gang plastic work box. Now use your sheet rock saw to cut out the square hole. Validate the location is not in the middle of a stud by using the stud finder tool. Also, use the newspaper to put below to collect the majority of the sheet-rock dust. To get the cut started you can bang the saw straight into the wall using your hammer. Examples:
Now we want to run the cat5 cable from the attic down into the wall then out the square hole we cut in the downstairs room. Essentially, bring the box of cat5, tape, and fiberglass rods up into the attic. Connect two of the fiberglass rods together so you have a 12-14’ rod (Enough distance to get it down the wall all the way). Then use the gorilla tape to fasten the end of the Cat5 cable to the end of the fiberglass rod. Then you can push the cable down into the wall. It especially helps if you have someone below identifying and communicating if they can see the fiberglass rod appear with the cable. If not, that is ok you will just need to go downstairs and check until you can grab the cable and pull it out of the wall. Example:
Find your 1-gang wall box and bend in one of the tabs in the back. Then pull the end of the cable through so it’s coming out of the front of the box. Push the wall box into the wall and use your screwdriver to tighten clamps. This will tighten the clamps on the box against the wall to hold it into place. Examples:
Use your cable stripper to take the sheathing off of the Cat5 cable to access the 8 copper cables inside. After you take the sheathing off the cable cut the ends with the scissors to make them all the same length. Now our goal is to punch them down into the RJ45 jack using the 568B Standard. 4 of the copper cables will be punched down on either side of the RJ45 jack. To make it easy to punch them down — organize the orange, orange white, blue, and blue white to one side and the green white, green, brown white, and brown cables to the other side. Examples:
Snap the RJ45 jack into the faceplate, attach the faceplate to the wall box, and then connect a cable from your network jack into your Power over Ethernet (POE) adapter. Examples:
This completes one end of the cable run. Our next step is to go back up into the attic and pull as much wire as needed to a centralized spot. Use the instructions that came in the box with the Unifi AP AC Pro WiFi device to attach the ceiling mount. We ended up fastening a small piece of 2×4 to create a flat level surface between two joists. Then we attached the ceiling mount. Examples:
Next we want to crimp the cat5 end onto the cable so we can finish our run and plug the cable it into the WiFi router. Use your cable stripper to take the sheathing off of the Cat5 cable to access the 8 copper cables inside. After you take the sheathing off cut the ends with the scissors to make them all the same length. This end is done slightly different than our RJ45 Keystone end. Rather than punching the cables we want to put the 8 copper cables into the RJ45 end and crimp them down.
Connect the Cat5 cable into the network port labeled as ‘Main’ on the back of the device and a light on the unit should turn orange. This indicates the device is receiving power and is ready to be configured.
From a computer on your network please do the following to configure the device:
WiFi Router Setup Instructions:
- Open a web-browser (Google Chrome typically works the best) and go to https://www.ubnt.com/download/unifi/
- Via the left pane, click UniFi AP AC Pro
- Via the middle pane, under the documentation section, download and read the UniFi AC Pro AP Quick Start Guide.
- Via the middle pane, under the documentation section, download and read the UniFi Controller v5 User Guide.
- Via the middle pane, under the software section, click the file download icon for the Controller. This can be done on either a Mac or Windows. For example, if you are using Windows download the UniFi 5.4.11 Controller for Windows.
- Run the installation file and follow the on-screen instructions to perform the step-by-step installation. This will help you setup your login credentials and WiFi network.
- After you have installed the software and run the UniFi Installation Wizard, a login screen with appear. Login with the credentials set in step 6.
- If you need help setting up and or changing the configuration of your WiFi router please refer to the UniFi Controller v5 User Guide.
Adding a Secondary WiFi Router:
If you are wanting to add coverage to your home by adding another WiFi router the UniFi AP AC Pro units have an additional port on the back labeled ‘Secondary’. This can be used to daisy chain another WiFi router via a wire. Alternatively, these devices can be configured in a mesh type environment where the devices can connect to each other via wireless. We are going to write a Part II series and explain how to extend the coverage with two or more UniFi AP AC Pro devices. Stay tuned.
- If you have an existing Power over Ethernet switch or port on a firewall and want to use it rather than the power over Ethernet adapter that comes with the device make sure it is compatible and supports 48 volts.
- If you decide to run the cat5 cable under the house and then outside up into the attic choose the 2” size. This will enable the ability to add additional Coax or Ethernet cables if you decide to add a security system or more cables in the future.
- If you are planning to use 10GB equipment in the future as this may become affordable at some in the future do research into the proper Cat6 cable that is supported. Not all Cat6 is 10GB compatible so do your homework.