Backyards or back gardens can be a great oasis in the middle of the suburbs.
A few well-placed sound-absorbing plants, shrubs and trees (Junipers *amazon link* 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.
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 traveling 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 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 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 that 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.
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:
We recommend that you aim to get barriers which are over 2 meters tall. This is important for two reasons:
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-paneled fence which will easily transfer vibrations.
Where you place your fence is vital.
There are always boundary limitations that 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 minimize the volume of sound waves that make it into your backyard or garden.
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.
There are a number of different road noise barrier options available below:
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).
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 reduction fences or soundproof fences are fences that 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 minimizing road noise in their garden or backyard noise-reducing fences or brick walls are the best two options.
Hedges rely more on sound attenuation than sound deflection.
A good thick hedge can do a great job of muffling out the sound of a busy road.
They are natural and add to the green ambiance 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.
A tightly packed wooden fence can make a great cheap sound barrier providing you ensure that it is over 2 meters 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 fencing is great for reducing airborne noise such as neighbors talking and children shouting.
However, it’s not so great at reducing things 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!
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 that 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
Road noise is loud, obtrusive, and irritating. Using white noise to mask the sound of road noise is a strategy that can work well for some people.
Here are a few white noise ideas which you could utilize in your garden:
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 garden's acoustics from sounding like a motorway layby to an oasis of calm.
A few water features to consider include:
These may require professional help to install (get a quote here), 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.
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 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, yet 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 are often thought of as being useful only for sound attenuation or sound deflection.
This works by having plots of dense trees planted so that when sound passes through them 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.
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 meter 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.