Excessive noise levels are unpleasant, to say the least, especially in your backyard. Your outside space should be a peaceful oasis where you and your family can unwind and enjoy the outdoors. However, whether it’s traffic noise, construction, lawn mowers, or neighborhood kids playing in the street, bothersome sounds can find their way into your home.
As well as being irritating, research suggests that excessive noise pollution can also affect a person’s wellbeing. Noise pollution is linked to a number of health issues including stress, poor concentration, hearing loss, and irregular sleeping patterns. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to reduce outside noise and enjoy your backyard space with a renewed sense of calm.
Minimize Traffic Noise with Walls and Fencing
Building a wall or a tall fence is one of the most effective ways to stop sound from making its way into your backyard. If you live in a particularly loud area, near a highway in downtown Chicago for example, you may consider a masonry wall, modular wall, or an acoustic fence. However, if the sound levels in your neighborhood are minimal, you can instead opt for a sturdy wooden fence.
When determining what type of obstruction is best for your outdoor space, be sure to consider the following characteristics that shape the sound-blocking quality of these noise barriers:
- Density: The denser the barrier, the more sound will be deflected and the quieter it will be. Additionally, if your wall or fence is too flexible, it may also cause vibrations, creating another bothersome sound.
- Height: It’s essential for the overall height of the wall or fence to be taller than the noise source. To block traffic noise, the barrier should be at least two meters high.
- Adequate Coverage: Ensuring that your sound barrier doesn’t have any gaps is crucial, as even the smallest space will allow sound waves to sneak through.
- Placement: For maximum impact, the sound barrier should be built as close to the source of the noise as possible.
Add Vegetation to Absorb Sound
Hedges, shrubs, trees, and plants can go a long way in both absorbing and deflecting incoming sound. They are also the more aesthetically pleasing and affordable option. Of course, combining vegetation with a tall fence or wall is the most effective method for maximum noise reduction.
If you decide to opt for only vegetation, choosing evergreen hedges that are planted densely is a great option. Broad-leaf evergreens will block sound waves in a way that narrower-leaved plants simply cannot. They will also be green all year round. Plants such as junipers that have thick branches all the way to ground level are ideal as they have excellent noise-reducing qualities. Additionally, plants set in motion by the wind can create their own pleasing sounds and can help mask unwanted outside clamor.
Vegetation also adds a lovely ambiance to your yard and can provide a home for all kinds of wildlife. The only real downside is the time they take to grow to a size where their impact is noticeable.
Design Your Landscape for Noise Abatement
It’s not always possible to build a fence or wall. If you’re unable to consider these as options, perhaps you can think about digging downwards. Hiring a landscaper to sink your outdoor spaces lower than the rest of your property can be just as effective in blocking traffic noise as building a wall. While creating height, a sunken area has the additional benefit of sound-abating soil.
If space is not an issue but creating a sunken garden isn’t an option, consider creating a raised hill. A hill deflects the sound waves just as a wall would, but it’s a lot easier on the eye and can be adorned with plants.
Create Desirable Sounds
Keep in mind that not all noise is bad. If your sound barrier isn’t doing enough, consider adding in desirable sounds. While this doesn’t reduce the noise levels in your yard, it does help to drown out the less appealing ones.
Carefully placed water features can help transform your space into your own personal haven. The sound of water creates a pleasing white noise that is also soothing and peaceful. The water feature doesn’t need to be large to be effective. However, consider placing a fountain in an outdoor seating area, as it needs to be close to the listener for maximum impact.
You can also use music to divert attention away from traffic noise. Installing outdoor rock speakers is a great option. They camouflage into your garden and are also fantastic for entertaining. If having the speakers blend into your space isn’t a priority, there are a wide variety of other backyard speaker options on the market.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
A sound barrier doesn’t just physically reduce traffic noise, it also tricks the mind into thinking your backyard is quieter. Blocking the road from your line of sight helps to reduce perceived noise levels and make for a more inviting backyard refuge.