A home network diagram is a schematic drawing of a home network layout. It helps you plan your home network, and figuring the best layout for it. But home network diagrams are also used as part of network documentation.
Most network layouts are a variation of a couple of common network designs. In this article, we are going to take a look at those common network diagrams. We are going to start with the most basic home network diagram and expand it until a full complex home network.
In this article
Under each layout you will find a description with tips, pros and cons of the layout.
Basic home network diagram
This is the most basic home network diagram that you can have. We have a router with a built-in modem and an access point that we got from our ISP (Internet Service Provider). These kinds of routers typically allow you to connect up to four devices using a network (UTP) cable.
If you live in a small house, and only have a limited amount of devices, then this basic network layout can work for you. You don’t have to buy any network equipment for this, so it’s really simple to setup.
If you look at this network diagram, you might think, this is all I need. I can connect my computer(s) and printer with a network cable and wirelessly connect my mobile phones and/or laptops.
But there is a big downside to this layout. You will have to place the router close to the point where the internet connection comes into your house. Most of the time this is hidden in a utility room or garage. The wireless network range is limited, so you probably won’t have a good wireless network connection with this setup.
You can only connect four wired devices. Keep in mind that a wired connection is the best connection that you can have. So ideally you want to connect your Smart TV, Game console, Printer, etc with a wired connection. Then 4 network connections aren’t a lot.
Another downside is that you don’t have full control of the router. So from a security perspective, you might want to use your own router instead of the router from the ISP.
If you are using this layout, make sure you change the default passwords for the router. The default password can easily be found on the internet, so to keep your network save, start with changing the passwords.
Also change the password, and network security key, from the wireless network, and disable WPS if it’s enabled in the router. Read more tips on securing your home network here.
Home network diagram with Modem and Router
Still has a pretty basic network layout, but as you can see in the network diagram, we have added our own router. If you have a fiber connection for example, you only get a modem from your ISP. The modem can only setup the internet connection and delivery it to one network device.
So in theory you could connect one computer to a modem with a UTP cable and you would have internet. But to use the internet connection with multiple devices, you will need a router. Most routers have a WAN port which you can use to connect a modem to it, still leaving four network ports free for your computers and printer.
This setup can also be used to replace the modem/router from the first diagram with your own router.
It’s always good to use your own router. They get more frequent security updates, you will have full control over who has access to it, port forwarding, vLAN, etc.
Again, this setup can work if you have a small house or if you can place your router close to the room where you use wireless devices the most.
Just like with the basic network diagram, you can only connect a limited amount of wired devices, and you will have poor wireless network coverage in your house.
Router Switch Network Diagram
If you have more then four wired network devices (computers, game console, tv, etc), then you will have to add a network switch to your network layout. As you can see in this network diagram, we have added a switch below the router.
Network switches come in different sizes, they start with from 4 network ports up to 48 ports. In your typical home network, you would use an 8-ports network switch. Keep in mind that you need one port to connect the switch to the router, so you can effectively only use 7 ports of the switch.
Different use cases for a switch
Using a switch isn’t only necessary when you want to connect more than 4 network devices, but also when you don’t want to pull all the cables to your router. For example, you have your router in the garage, but most of your network devices on the first floor.
Now instead of running multiple network cables from the first floor to the garage, you can also pull one cable to the garage and place a switch on the first floor.
It’s also possible to daisy chain network switches. Only do this when you can’t pull individual cables from a switch to a router. Daisy chaining will have a downside on the performance of switch 1 because it will also have to process the traffic from switch 2. Also, the connection between the router and switch 1 will have to process more data.
If you are adding a switch to your network, also choose a modal that also has one or more PoE (Power over Ethernet) ports. This way you can easily connect an access point to it. A good 8 ports switch with PoE ports is an Unifi US-8-60W.
Wireless Network Diagram
A full wireless network is also possible. In this wireless network diagram, all devices are connected wirelessly to the network. In this example, we are using a separate access point instead of the built-in access point of the router.
Access points can connect up to 20 or 30 devices at the same time. So one access point could connect every device in your house, as long as they are in range.
With a fully wireless network, you don’t have to pull network cables through your house. This can be a daunting task to do when you are not remodeling your house. Another advantage of this network layout is that you can use and place every device in a location that you want.
The advantage of using a separate/dedicated access point is that you can place it in the most optimal location. This will give you the best wireless network performance possible.
Wireless networks can suffer from interference from other devices in your household (like microwaves, dryers, etc). But also walls and floors will have an impact on the signal quality.
If you are going for a fully wireless network, then place an access point on each floor. This way you will have the best signal strength on each floor.
Also go for an access point that supports MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multi-Input, Multi-Output). This allows multiple devices to use the same access point at the same time. MIMO alone allows one device to use multiple connections at the same time to an access point. This way higher speeds can be reached between the device and the access point.
Advanced Network Diagram
What you see here is an extended home network diagram. We got multiple switches and access points, providing good wireless network coverage and efficient wired connections. This diagram could be used for a two-story house for example.
Always try to connect your switches directly to your router for the best performance. In this case, we used an Edge Router X SFP (one of the best value-for-money routers in the market), that comes with multiple PoE ports. This way we can connect access points to it and provide it with power and network connection with the use of only a single network cable.
Also the access points, Unifi US-8-60W, have PoE ports. This way we can easily connect an IP Camera or Access Point to it.
Mesh Network Layout
In a mesh network, you can connect multiple access point wireless together. Not to create one big wireless network, but to extend your network wireless (without pulling cables). If you are using more then 2 access points in a mesh network, then the network will find the best connection dynamically.
A mesh network can be used in-house, in case you are unable to pull cables through your house. Or it can also be used to extend your network to another building on your property (the garage for example).
If you are renting a house, for example, you can’t really drill holes to pull the cable to the first and/or second floor. With a mesh network, you can wirelessly extend your network through your house. As you can see in the diagram, you can connect a switch to a (receiving) access point. This allows you to connect multiple devices behind the access point.
A wireless signal is always prone to interference. One day your network can work fine, and the next it can be slow and disconnecting all the time. Interference from other devices, or neighboring wireless networks, can disturb your signal.
If you are planning to use 3 or more mesh access points, always go for a brand that supports self-forming and healing. With self-forming, the network will determine self what the best connections are.
Self-healing ensures that your network will always have backup connections ready. If an access point fails or is turned off, the network will switch over to another access point for the uplink.
The Unifi Amplifi is a really great mesh network. It’s fast and really easy to set-up.
Powerline Network Diagram
If you want to extend your network, but are unable to pull extra ethernet cables, then you could use your existing electrical wires. With Powerline Adapters you can extend your network through your electrical wires.
A Powerline adapter is plugged-in into a wall socket and needs to be connected to your network with a network cable. Other adapters can broadcast a wireless network and/or allows you to plug in a network cable for a switch or computer, for example.
Powerline adapters are really easy to use, they are simple plug-and-play devices that don’t need any configuration. There is also no limit on the number of powerline adapters that you can use in a single network. The ability to combine both wireless adapters and ethernet adapters makes it even easier to use.
Keep in mind that power lines are not designed to carry data. Any electrical device connected to the same powerline can cause issues with the signal. Especially devices with large motors like washing machines, refrigerators, etc, will cause problems.
Powerline adapters work best when you use them in the same electrical circuit. They often don’t work across breakers.
Powerline adapters are great to fix that one spot where you can’t get a network connection, or that is just out of range of your wireless network. Don’t use them as the main backbone of your network.
It’s better to use a mesh network then powerline adapters. Only use them if nothing else works, or if you don’t have the budget for them.
Tip on creating a home network diagram
As your networks grow it’s a good practice of documenting it. Writing down the IP Address of the network devices, how they are connected together, and maybe even naming them, can help you troubleshoot network issues later on.
Microsoft Visio or Lucidchart are both great tools for great network diagrams. The diagram should give an overview of your network. How devices are connected, the name and IP address (in case of a static IP address). It can also help to write down the brand/model of the device.
If you have a larger network to document, you can use different colors of the connection depending on the connection type. So orange maybe for a fiber connection, and blue of UTP for example. This way you can easily recognize the different types of connections.
As you can see the general structure of a home network is pretty much the same. You got your internet connection, a modem/router and then you extend it with switches and access points. I hope that this article gave you a couple of ideas on how to build your own network.
If you want more tips on setting up a good home network, then make sure you read this article with a lot of tips on creating your network.