New Project, New Challenges
I’m not a hardcore, full-time wireless engineer. I do small and medium-size installations as needed for my customers. However, like larger WLAN environments, even smaller customers sometimes have some new challenges to think through.
One of the projects I’m doing right now is actually installing a remote-office type network at the residence of my client’s CEO. This means a full-blown network including managed switches, a business-grade firewall, and excellent wireless coverage. Being that this is a private residence, however, I can’t just plunk an AP everywhere that one should go, instead I have to see where I can put one without impacting the aesthetics of the home or putting blinking lights on the ceiling of the dining room.
One of the mounting spots I chose is in a utility closet on the main level of the home, which does not have a finished ceiling, only the wooden floor-joists of the floor above. I needed to mount an AP to the bottom of a 2×6 floor joist, and wasn’t quite sure how to go about it as the current mounting brackets for the 1142N don’t have holes that close. Drilling new holes would be a bit tricky as the AP mounts very close to the plate and any screws that aren’t counter-sunk into chamfered holes will block the AP from sliding on. I was also trying to avoid something clumsy-looking, like screwing a wooden board to the joist and the AP plate to the board.
I’m sure some wireless equipment vendor out there sells a purpose-specific mounting plate for hundreds of dollars per unit to do this, but I decided to get creative and stop by the local big-box hardware store. In a little while, I came up with an elegant solution.
(I apologize for the US-orientation of the rest of this article with regard to dimensions, but this is how everything is marked here.)
I’d seen some references in the AP1142N mounting guide about mounting to an electrical box but I couldn’t find any details. It turns out a 3.5″ octagonal fixture box lines up on the “C” holes of the mounting bracket pretty nicely. Add in some #8 x 1/2″ counter-sunk machine screws, and the AP mounts quite nicely.
So that’s solved for about $3 per unit.
The other challenge I had was that in another part of the home I have to mount the APs in the basement, firing up through the floor to cover other areas of the first floor and floors above (due to thick stone walls but thin floors in this historic home). This requires mounting them between the joists, pointing up, above the drop ceiling that is in the finished basement. I found another item at the hardware store, intended for mounting lighting fixtures to a ceiling when there is no joist directly above. A simple modification of bending some tabs flat with pliers (see the circled area of the photos) and this one is solved too, for an additional $5 or so.
Moral of the Story
Perhaps these photos and descriptions will help someone out, or maybe not, but as I was thinking about my simple, locally-sourced, inexpensive solution versus some special order, reassuringly-expensive WLAN-specific mount, I came to a more universal realization: sometimes the solution is right in front of us if we take the time to look up from our product catalogs and install guides. I think we sometimes start to expect that every problem in the IT world has a solution that can be found in the vendor midway of a technical conference, specially blessed for use in the high-tech industry. Rather, we may find a simple solution at minimal cost just by widening our field of vision and remembering that sometimes there’s nothing so special about what we need to do for our customers.