The short answer: Usually not! It’s pretty unlikely that getting a metal roof on your home will drastically change your cell phone signal.
Read on to find out why, and what you can do if you are struggling to get a cell phone signal in your home.
Metal Roofs and Cell Phones
It’s a fair question! Cell phones are a necessary part of daily life for most of us. Bad connections, poor voice quality, dropped calls, texts and emails that won’t go through – not to mention trying to share the cute cat video you found on YouTube – is extremely frustrating and not something you want to be dealing with every time you’re at home.
Let’s be real here: not getting cell signal renders your phone practically useless. However, people tend to forget that they regularly use their cell phones under metal roofs without even noticing it. Many of the restaurants you eat at, the malls you shop at, and other businesses you regularly visit have metal roofs, and you don’t lose cell reception the moment you step into one. Your home environment, with a metal roof, should be the same.
What Causes a Poor Cell Phone Signal?
There are various factors that can affect the strength of a cell signal in your home, such as where your home is located, its distance from a utility tower, weather conditions, and which cell service carrier you use.
Bad cell phone reception generally falls into two categories:
- Localized poor coverage, where you can get better signal by moving to another room or going outside. This kind of bad reception is due to building materials or some other local destructive interference, and can often be fixed.
- Geographical poor coverage, where the whole area has a poor signal. This kind of bad reception is because you’re just too far away from a tower, and in this case, you’ll have cell phone issues with or without a metal roof. Geographical reception barriers are often insurmountable, unless you can get a cell tower built closer to your home!
With such strong networks today, if you’re near a city or in suburbia, the cause of a bad cell signal is far more likely to be localized rather than geographical.
There are two main culprits for localized poor coverage:
- Interference from the buildings or landscape around your home. If there’s something blocking a direct line of sight to the closest tower – trees, buildings, hills and so on — the signal will need to bounce off something before it can be received by the tower. In this case, you’ll typically experience erratic signal that fluctuates up and down.
- The construction materials used in your home. Common building materials like brick, metal, wood, and energy saving window coatings can impede signal coming in, causing weak signal or dead spots in your home. The tell-tale sign of this is when you have perfect signal outside your home and lose signal once you’re inside.
A metal roof is just one of many building materials that may weaken cell phone reception. Generally, if you do have poor cell phone service in your home, it will be due to the cumulative effect of the materials used. No one material will be the sole perpetrator.
How to Improve Cell Phone Signal in Your Home
1. Give your signal a boost with a Cell Phone Signal Booster
A cell phone signal booster, also known as a cellular repeater, does exactly what it says on the box: it boosts your cell phone signal.
It’s a system that takes an existing outside signal, brings it inside the house, boosts up the power of the signal, and then broadcasts it to parts of or your whole home.
It’s worth remembering that a cell phone signal booster can’t create a signal, only boost a weaker one. For maximum effectiveness, put the unit in an area of your home where you have good reception, such as near a window sill.
You can buy boosters from your cell phone carrier, but that booster will only work on your carrier’s network. If friends and family on a different network visit you, the booster won’t help them. However, you can generally find third party boosters that will work for multiple carrier networks. Prices range from the $100 to $200 all the way to nearly $1,000. Some of the new, more expensive boosters are plug and play: you plug them in and they work right away without having to install an outdoor antenna.
2. FEMTOCELL: The lifesaver if you have no signal at home
Femtocells are similar to boosters, but they have to be plugged into your router so they can use your internet connection. Essentially, it’s a small cellular tower that provides a signal in and near your home, connecting to the larger mobile network over your internet connection.
This means that you can use them in areas where you have absolutely no signal what so ever. Most of the major carriers have their own Femtocells: you may have heard names like Verizon Network Extender, Sprint Airave and T-Mobile Personal CellSpot. Interestingly, AT&T dropped their Microcell product as of December 2018, shifting their focus to Wi-Fi calling.
Similar to boosters, if you get one from a carrier, it will only work for phones using that provider. On the plus side, if you live in an area your carrier knows has poor service, give them a call. You may be able to get a femtocell for free or at a steep discount.
You can also buy femtocells that work for multiple carries from Amazon or at a tech store. These devices cost more than cell phone signal boosters and it can be hard to source ones that cater for all the specific carriers you need. You should also be aware that a femtocell may affect your monthly broadband internet bill, so be sure to factor this into your decision.
Furthermore, almost anyone can use the signal your femtocell is providing so long as they have the same carrier as you, which means that someone who is nearby or passing through can use your internet connection. If you’re in an urban area, multiple devices may connect to your femtocell, taking up your precious bandwidth and using up data. To combat this, some carriers allow you to create a whitelist so only your devices can connect, or you can have priority numbers.
3. Take Advantage of your Wi-Fi Network
In all likelihood you have Wi-Fi already set up in your home and you are aware of the fact you can send texts and make calls using apps such as Skype, Google Hangouts, iMessage and Facetime. We won’t preach to the choir here.
However, you may not know that T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, MetroPCS and Verizon have developed Wi-Fi calling. When this feature is enabled due to weak signal, your phone will automatically switch to a nearby open Wi-Fi network without you even noticing!
Consult Apple’s list of carriers that support iPhone features and check if your carrier offers the “Wi-Fi calling” feature on an iPhone. To enable Wi-Fi calling on an iPhone, head to Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling.
There’s no big list of carriers and devices that work with Wi-Fi calling on Android, so consult your carrier or search the web for more information if you’re using Android. To enable Wi-Fi calling on an Android phone, head to Settings > Wireless and Networks > More > Wi-Fi Calling. Phone manufacturers can customize Android, so this setting may also be located in a different location or called something else on your Android phone. Again, your carrier will likely have instructions for you.
Over the 25 years we have been in business, none of our clients have reported a loss of cell signal when a metal roof has been installed on their home. So, while it is possible for a metal roof to affect your cell phone reception at your home, it’s extremely unlikely – and there are a number of good solutions that can boost your signal if needed!