How To Reduce Traffic Noise In Your Backyard

Backyards or back gardens can be a great oasis in the middle of the suburbs.

A few well-placed pot-plants, shrubs and trees (Junipers are a great choice) can help deflect sound coming into your garden and provide you with a welcome break from the relentless visual assault of concrete, brickwork, tarmac and glass that fills our lives.

If, like me, you live near a busy road then traffic noise can make your oasis of green feel more like a patch of grass on the side of a busy motorway.

a small picturesque garden

The author of this article lives close to a famous sports stadium, at least once a fortnight (usually more) the road passing by my garden comes alive with the noise of vehicles and sports fans travelling to the match. So I know your pain!

If traffic noise is ruining your backyard experience then don’t worry we have some valuable tips for you.

First of all there are two principles that you need to be aware of to plan your backyard or garden in a way which will most effectively help reduce sound:

  • Sound Attenuation:

Sound attenuation works by dissipating sound into heat. Basically, attenuation works by absorbing sound waves and thereby reducing the volume of them.

Adding thick bushes helps with sound attenuation.

  • Sound Deflection:

Sound deflection does more or less what it says on the tin, sounds waves hit a barrier and are deflected back.

This requires hard solid surfaces such as a glass panel or a brick wall which allow soundwaves to ricochet back off away from your garden.

Sound deflection is much more effective than sound attenuation however it is usually far more expensive.

Below we have put together a selection of methods that can be used to significantly reduce road noise in your garden. We have attempted to put them in order of effectiveness with the most effective method first, be aware that the effectiveness of each method will vary depending on the acoustics of your backyard and the sort of environment that it is in.

Important Traffic Noise Barrier Factors

Barriers come in all shapes and sizes. Shape and size are both important factors which you should carefully consider when getting your barrier. Too small a barrier will be ineffective:

Barrier Height

We recommend that you aim to get barriers which are over 2 metres tall. This is important for two reasons:

  1. It is likely to be taller the source of most noises.
  2. It will help ensure that sound will travel over your head meaning you are therefore far less likely to hear it.

Barrier Density

Dense barriers are far better at keeping sound out that more flexible ones. Flexible barriers can be very noisy particularly if you lie by a busy road as vibrations can easily travel through them.

A thick wall is far better than a thin wooden fence or metal panelled fence which will easily transfer vibrations.

Barrier Placement

Where you place your fence is vital.

There are always boundary limitations which may prevent you from sticking your fence directly in front of the source of noise however you should use what space you have available to get your barrier as close to the source of noise as possible.

Don’t be tempted to use your fence to hide an ugly garden feature that you don’t like, put your fence as close to the road as possible, this will minimise the distance that the sound waves can travel before being deflected which will minimise the volume of sound waves that make it into your backyard or garden.

Barrier Coverage

It is no good erecting a solid fence if it has a giant gap at the bottom that sound can easily get through.

Ensure that your barrier covers all spaces. Make sure it goes all the way to the ground and has no unnecessary openings for sound to get through.

Types of Traffic Noise Barriers

There are a number of different road noise barrier options available below:

Brick Wall

There is nothing that ticks all the boxes better than a brick wall. Brick walls can be as tall as you want to build them (or as tall as you can get planning permission to build them).

a garden wall with flowers in front of it

They are very dense so don’t transfer vibrations through and they have no gaps at the bottom for sound to leak through.

They’re the perfect solution!

The only problem with brick walls is they are both costly and time-consuming to erect.

Noise Reducing Fences

Noise reduction fences are fences which are specifically designed with noise reduction in mind. They are dense and tall with great all round coverage and they transfer minimal vibrations.

Acoustic fences are typically made from either layered wood or some sort of plastic composite.

They are cheaper and quicker to put up than building a brick wall and they look very stylish too.

They are of course significantly more expensive than a standard fence though.

For most people who are serious about minimising road noise in their garden or backyard noise reducing fences or brick walls are the best two options.

Hedging

Hedges rely more on sound attenuation that sound deflection.

A good thick hedge can do a great job of muffling out the sound of a busy road.

green garden hedge

They are natural and add to the green ambience of your garden and they provide a great home for all kinds of creatures.

The obvious problem with hedges is that they take a long long time to grow to a level where they are sufficient to make any real impact when it comes to blocking sound.

A good idea is to pair a hedge with a solid soundproofing fence for around five years (this is how long a typical hedge will take to reach maturity) while your hedge matures, then when the hedge has filled out you can remove the fence for a more natural noise reduction solution.

Wooden Fencing

A tightly packed wooden fence can make a great cheap sound barrier providing you ensure that it is over 2 metres tall and provides full coverage all the way to the ground and doesn’t contain gaps that are common in fences.

Be aware though that wooden fences aren’t the most effective form of noise reduction so are only suitable for lower level noise.

If you have a serious road noise problem go for a brick wall of a purpose-built noise reduction fence.

Metallic Panels

Metallic fencing is great for reducing airborne noise such as neighbours talking and children shouting.

However it’s not so great at reducing thing like road noise simply because unless you invest in very very thick metallic fencing (which isn’t cheap) it will vibrate and can even amplify road noise to a certain extent if you are not careful!

Sheds

a grey garden shed with a brown wooden garden shed outside

A well-placed shed can do wonders for the acoustics of your garden.

If there is an acoustic corridor such as an opening in a wall or a passageway or alley leading to your garden this can create an echo chamber which will amplify the sound coming into your garden.

Placing a shed strategically at the end of the alleyway is a simple way to deflect sound away from your garden, this can significantly improve your garden acoustics.

Read Also: How To Soundproof A Shed

Alternative Road Noise Solutions

Road noise is loud, obtrusive and irritating. Using white noise to mask the sound of road noise is a strategy which can work well for some people.

Here are a few white noise ideas which you could utilise in your garden:

Running Water

There is nothing more natural sounding than running water. It contrasts sharply with the aggressive sound of road noise.

A carefully placed water feature can transform your gardens acoustics from sounding like a motorway layby to an oasis of calm.

A few water features to consider include:

  • A running stream.
  • A stand-alone water fountain.
  • A pond with a waterfall.

These may require professional help to install, but if you are good with DIY and aren’t scared of a spade and installing a water pump then there is no reasons why you couldn't have a water feature up and running within a weekend.

a stylish garden fountain

When thinking about where to place your water feature you should first consider where the sound is coming from and where you are when you are most commonly disturbed by the sound.

Position your water feature in between the sound and that place.

For example, if you often hear the road when you are in your kitchen then position your water feature between the road and your kitchen.

The water feature should be as close to your kitchen as possible so that the sound of it is louder and more noticeable than the road.

If you don't fancy a fountain you could even install a hot tub in your backyard as when the pump is running this makes a similar ambient noise to a waterfall.

Neutral sounds like running water are great for reducing stress and promoting feelings of calm, quite the opposite of traffic noise!

Wind Chimes

Wind chimes are very different from water fountains as they don’t provide a constant white background sound, but rather make noise when the wind blows.

For a lot of people a wind chime will be an inadequate solution, however if you live downwind of a road and you only get disturbed by road noise when the sound is picked up by the wind and blown forcefully into your ears then a wind chime could be a brilliant low-cost solution!

As road noise is gusted towards you the wind chime will chime helping road noise to fade into the background!

Trees

Trees are often thought of as being useful only for sound attenuation or sound deflection.

This works by having pts of dense trees planted so that when sound passes through dense trees it is either turned into heat or bounces off it and away from your home.

It is true that trees are good for creating white noise if you choose the right type of tree.

For example pine needles will create a whooshing noise when wind passes through them whereas oak leaves will create a rustling noise.

garden trees

Trees take a long time to grow (especially oak trees), so when looking for trees choose something which is relatively mature (but young enough to be uprooted and replanted) and fast growing. Pine trees typically grow around half a metre a year.

Another sound blocking advantage of having plenty of trees in your garden is that they attract plenty of wildlife which will create further natural white noise.

13 comments on “How To Reduce Traffic Noise In Your Backyard”

  1. Please don't suggest wind chimes as a method of sound proofing as their noise is even worse to some. I am reading this as I am looking for ways to soundproof against them!

    1. Hi Matthew,

      Fair comment, we added wind chimes because if you're trying to block out road noise they can be a useful distraction. Obviously in your situation that isn't the case!

      The best solution for blocking outdoor noise is to erect barriers between you and the source of the sound, be that a wall, shed, fence, hedge anything.

      Thanks for visiting & good luck with blocking out those wind chimes!

  2. Hello,

    any idea on how long it will take for junipers to grow to be thick enough to block out motorway noise (it's about 100m from where the junipers would be)?

    Thanks,

    1. Hi Aiden,

      it depends what size juniper you start with, supposing you start with a sapling you are looking at at least 3 or 4 years until it will grow and thicken out sufficiently to provide reasonable noise cover. If I were you I would install a high fence for a few years until they have matured.

      Thanks for visiting Soundproof Panda!

  3. Hello,

    Interesting article!
    Any ideas on the feasibility of using glass panels on a balcony to help deflect traffic sound without blocking the view? We have a great city skyline view but the traffic is so annoying!
    Thank you!

  4. I find this useful and I'm happy to know others have the same issue. I am so disappointed that a 4 way stop sign has just got up behind my home. Yes, the road noise was something I dealt with but to now have cars stopping and then accelerating constantly is something else. We just signed a contract last week to have a pool built in our backyard. My fear is our oasis, "pool" that we are paying will be less than because of the newly added road noise.

    1. Hi Diana,

      sorry to hear about the four way stop sign going up, that is an unwelcome nuisance!

      If you implement as many as these as you can most importantly a tall solid fence combined with a thick fast hedge, the sound should be imperceptible. Good luck with it!

  5. Hi Nisha,

    that depends on a lot of different factors such as what type of fence you use, how big it needs to be and where you are based.

    As a rough guide to cover a area of 36ft x 6ft you would be looking at around $400-$700 to buy the panels + the cost of installation on top.

    Hope that helps,

    Thanks

  6. We live on the top of a hill and traffic speeds by at 60mph on the road down below. If we built a wall at the bottom of the hill by the road would the sound just travel over the hill? Also is there anything to be said for changing road surfacing as there isn’t a huge amount of traffic, but even one car is very noisy?

    Thanks

  7. Hi Alison,

    That depends on how tall the wall is and how far up the hill you are, though it is more than likely that a highway noise barrier will not do a great deal for you as noise easily travels over the top of them. Typically noise barriers only make a difference to the people who live right next to the road.

    Changing the road surface is one of the most effective things that you can do to reduce road noise (combined with reducing speed), just most people don't have the power to make these things happen.

    If you can change the road surface go with a very fine asphalt surface for optimal noise reduction.

  8. I used to have an oasis, now I have noisy neighbors on 3 sides. I miss my quiet so much. Do you have any idea how well precast concrete fencing deflects noise? It is not dense, but it does go all the way to the ground, and it is solid without gaps. Also, any idea about cost? I appreciate all the info on your site!

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Welcome to Soundproof Panda!

My name is Dan and I live very close to an internationally famous stadium which generates an awful lot of noise that I'd rather block out!

This site is my place to share what I've been learning on my soundproofing journey.
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