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:
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 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.
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:
We recommend that you aim to get barriers which are over 2 meters tall. This is important for two reasons:
- It is likely to be taller the source of most noises.
- It will help ensure that sound will travel over your head meaning you are therefore far less likely to hear it.
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.
Types of Traffic Noise Barriers
There are a number of different road noise barrier options available below:
1. 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).
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.
2. Noise Reducing Fences
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.
4. Wooden Fencing
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.
5. Metallic Panels
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
Alternative Road Noise Solutions
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:
- A running stream.
- A stand-alone water fountain.
- A pond with a waterfall.
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.
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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!
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!
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)?
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!
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!
glad you found it useful,
Yes glass is great for deflecting sound – see this video for proof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzNhxl-v5HE
Thanks for visiting my site!
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.
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!
Any ideas about the cost element? How much does it cost to put an acoustic wall?
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,
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?
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.
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!
I live about 200 to 300 ft. away from a highway. The highway is about 30′ lower than the top of the berm in my back yard. I have some trees but have large gaps and it’s very loud. I want to know if I surround my patio with a wood wall panels with foam board inside and put green giant trees between the panels would this reduce my noise. The top of the berm is not on my property so I cannot put anything there.
Hi Ben, yes that would definitely make a difference, in an ideal world you would put your panels or trees as close to the road as possible however in your case that is not an option. Fitting panels and planting trees around your patio will help deflect noise away.
White noise such as a water fountain can also make a big difference when dealing with road noise.
Hope this helps!