Designing Your Fence/wall To Effectively Block Road Noise
When it comes to designing any kind of fence, wall or barrier, you MUST check with your local council for any specific rules or regulations you need to be aware of.
You may need to stick to specific material combinations.
Or you may have fenceheight restrictions.
Or maybe you have easements on your property.
All of these will be constraints you need to work within, before you design your wall to reduce road noise.
That aside, what do you need to focus on when designing your wall?
A Good Wall Even If It’s Made Of Plants Can Reduce Highway Noise
A reader’s good question was the impetus for this week’s column. The problem she writes about is not only tough to control, but is becoming steadily worse and widely shared. If you live near the Beltway or any other major thoroughfare in this area, you too might have noticed how the decibel levels have increased in recent years.
A buffer of mixed plants can absorb and deflect sound waves. The mix of plants is important because different types of leaves reduce different types of noises. How much noise control they provide depends on the intensity, frequency and direction of the sound, and the location, height, width and density of the planting.
Mixed broadleaf plantings at least 25 feet thick and conifers 50 to 100 feet thick can drop noise levels by up to 10 decibels. For year-round noise reduction, plant a mix of evergreens such as arborvitaes, spruces, pines and hollies. To be effective sound barriers, these trees must have foliage that reaches to the ground.
Include lawn or some other ground cover in shady areas. Turf grass or other low vegetation has a muffling effect on sound, compared with surface areas of bare soil or various paving materials, which are more likely to bounce sounds off their surfaces.
Flowing water can be a wonderful foil for noise, especially if it has a cascading flow and makes a splashing sound. There are free-standing, tiered water features that offer some degree of noise screening.
Can I Build An Earth Berm To Use As A Sound Barrier Wall
Answer: Earth berms can be an effective way to help lower sound levels from a neighboring property line. Clients that are not meeting a noise code or regulation have investigated the use of an earth berm. Studies have shown that an earth berm is about 2 dBA less effective at reducing noise than a sound wall erected at the same height. The foot print of the earth berm can become very large in width to support the berm itself. If space is limited and the client wishes to install the sound barrier close to the noisy source, we recommend installing a barrier wall instead of an earth berm.
For further information or discussion about your sound barrier wall application, please call us at or email us at
Also Check: Easy Landscape For Front Of House
Install A Water Feature
Running water creates white noise that is pleasing to the brain and helps mitigate undesirable sound. Yes, California is in a drought but it is still possible to install a water feature in an environmentally-sensitive manner. It must have a recirculating pump to keep water moving without draining the fountain and requiring new water to be added.
Instead of filling water features with a hose, use repurposed fresh water from rain barrels or inside the home. As you wait for hot shower water to arrive, fill a bucket with the cold water and use it to fill your water feature.
The water feature also doesnt have to be large to be effective but it does need to be close to the listener to have maximum impact. Place it in outdoor seating areas or near the house itself, depending on the noise. Also consider when youll need the noise. Is it during rush hour? Do you need it only when enjoying your outdoor living space? Or consistently? Many pumps have timers while others run on solar energy that might not power the pump through a full 24-hour cycle.
Fountains can drown out noise levels of lawn mowers, consistent traffic and other noises that are on the same frequency levels. They cant do much for honking horns, sirens and the like.
Sound Deflection And Reflection
This method causes the noise to be bounced away from the recipient and sometimes back toward the source. The difference is based upon the density and rigidity of the barrier. Your designer can create attractive and effective partitions that may serve as a fence, but also double as sound barriers.
When sound waves strike a 5 or 6 foot masonry wall, it does not vibrate so the waves are reflected back toward the source. The sound waves that are higher up will go right over the wall. That’s why the freeway is so loud when it runs between two masonry sound walls. It’s also why sound absorption plants are used in conjunction with walls to catch the higher level sound.
When sound waves strike a slightly flexible panel it will vibrate. This transforms sound waves into other forms of energy, and also deflects them off in different directions. The more flexible the material, the greater the deflection. Common materials for sound deflection barriers are fiberglass and corrugated metal.
A benefit of using a designer familiar with sound issues is that they will be familiar with state-of-the-art specialty materials designed for outdoor use partitions just as egg crate foam is utilized as sound proofing in music studios.
Also Check: Farr’s Landscape Supply & Sod
Sink Your Outdoor Living Space
When it isnt practical to sound proof the entire yard, put these techniques in place in a designated outdoor entertaining area. A sunken outdoor living space at even just a few feet below ground level will benefit from a small wall of soil to help deaden sound.
But if the living area is three feet below ground level and six-foot fencing is at ground level, youve also just created a nine-f00t sound barrier in a way that might avoid permitting issues . Pair this with lush plantings and youve just created a mini oasis.
Does Planting Trees Help With Sound Control To Meet A Local Sound Ordinance Or Property Line Noise Dispute
Answer: Planting landscaping, such as trees or shrubs, is typically just aesthetic rather than an effective means to block sound. Some studies should very thick vegetation can reduce noise by up to 5 dB over 200 lineal feet. There have been studies showing a psychological benefit to planting landscaping features between the sound sources and neighboring receiver.
Can Trees Reduce Noise Pollution
Have you ever experienced noise pollution? Whether you live close to a street or are in a closely-built neighborhood, you may have some unwelcome noise that youd like to remedy for the human ear. Below is a list of the best trees to block sound and an explanation of how trees reduce noise pollution.Plants are the perfect antidote to noise pollution and sound absorption, and of course, they offer many other benefits. These include increasing home value, reducing air pollution, and beautifying your landscape. In order to boost the noise-reducing benefits of trees, youll need to choose ones that feature thick, dense foliage and that can be planted closely together. You need a year round noise reduction fence planted close to the area.
Front Fence Noise Reduction
Arabella Youens investigates. According to the Department for Transport, traffic on rural A roads is at an all-time high. After the economic downturn in , the number of goods vehicles criss-crossing the country levelled out, but, since , they have risen rapidly. The increasing use of satnav by lorry drivers has, in no small way, contributed to the issue.
According to the Highway Traffic Noise Analysis and Abatement Policy and Guidance report produced by FHWA, a reduction in speed of more than 20 mph is.
Plantings Must Also Be Located Close To The Source
The closer the trees or hedge are to the source, the better. Barriers positioned too far from the source will not make nearly as much of a difference.
For example, if a landscape barrier is located 200 feet from the noise source but near a residence, its likely to not make a noticeable difference at all.
They must completely block the line-of-sight between the noise source and the receiver: According to studies conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, natural sound barriers must also completely block the line-of-sight between the noise source and the receiver.
If the barrier is too thin or patchy, it will not accomplish its intended purpose. The culprit is the sound waves themselves, which pass through and around any openings, no matter how small.
However, experts do say that the out of sight, out of mind notion may come into play here. You see, by creating a visual barrier between the source and the receiver, the trees reduce the perception of noise, making people think the noise is reduced when in fact its not.
So, before you bank on out of sight, out of mind, and invest in landscaping as well as the regular upkeep and maintenance that goes with it, it might be worthwhile considering other options.
How To Landscape To Block Noise
Whether you’re tired of listening to your neighbor’s conversations or live too close to a noisy street or market, landscaping can help you create a private, quiet outdoor retreat. To effectively block noise, the landscaping you choose should obstruct the line of sight from your living area to the noise source. For example, if you live near a busy street, your barrier should be taller than the top of the large trucks that regularly pass your home. Noise-reducing landscaping also provides privacy, which can be especially helpful in urban neighborhoods with houses built close together. No landscaping can completely block nearby noise, but there are ways to reduce it and help you regain your outdoor space.
Plant evergreen trees and shrubs, because trees that lose their leaves in winter allow noise to penetrate. Choose fast-growing evergreen trees such as a Leyland cypress, which can grow up to 4 feet per year in mild climates such as northern California. Supplement the trees with shrubs such as hardy boxwoods, to help block noise below the cypress branches. Shrubs also create a second layer of noise protection the deeper your plant barrier, the better the noise reduction. Trim cypress or boxwoods into shapes for a more finished look or let them grow naturally up and out.
Shrubs And Trees As A Noise Barrier
Evergreen shrubs make the best plants for noise because they provide year-round noise reduction. Broadleaf evergreens are more effective than narrow-leaf plants and conifers. Choose trees and shrubs with dense branches that reach all the way to the ground. Plants, such as hollies and , that have thick branches at ground level provide excellent noise reduction.
Additionally, a solid wall is more effective at blocking noise than plants. Combine form and function by using plants along a wall.
When the plants dont reduce noise enough, try adding sounds that mask unpleasant noises. Flowing water is very effective at masking unpleasant noise. A garden fountain or waterfall is well worth the time and expense of installation. Weatherproof speakers allow you to add soothing sounds to the garden too. Many are designed to mimic natural garden features such as rocks.
Create A Garden Wall Made Of Bricks
Brick walls provide increased levels of density and mass. These are important aspects when mitigating sources of noise pollution.
If installed to a good height, they can be an effective noise blockers, especially if built to a reasonable thickness. But the downsides are they are a very costly option and planning permission may also be required.
Take Back Control Of Your Surroundings
The best part about owning a house is that its yours, and you can make changes, add new things, and re-invent it to be your perfect home. In part 1 of Tackle Your Landscaping Issues, we focused on trees and plant suggestions for adding privacy and creating landscape designs for your new home. This time we are focusing more on blocking out noise and unsightly views in your front and back yards. While this can be a new homeowner issue, it also applies to older homeowners!
As a new homeowner, you may not have noticed just how close your home was from a local park or school or that your street has more traffic than you expected. For older homeowners, you may be dealing with similar problems that have escalated over the years and you need help blocking noise and views.
To reduce noise around your home and block out unsightly areas, we have a wide selection of trees and shrubs that can get the job done. We can even help you design your beautiful landscape upgrade! Keep reading for some of our favorite trees and plants to help you with your landscape goals.
Alter Sound Perception In Our Brains
Along the road in front of the Carlisle house, young disease-resistant elm trees will sit where a couple of older trees had once flourished but had fallen prey to disease in the last century. In the backyard, multistemmed Heritage river birch will replace old, dying hemlocks along the property line, and also in clusters at the outer edges of the yard to buffer it from some of the noise filtering in from the adjacent streets.
In Reality, Trees Donât Help Reduce Road Noise
Many homeowners consider using plantings like these to block noise from their property, but in fact, greenery has very little effect on noise levels . The problem is those persistent sound waves, which sneak through the tiniest openings. You’d need a tree swath at least 50 feet deep to get good sound absorption.
But, They Create an âOut of Sight, Out of Mindâ Effect on Our Brains
But because sound perception is highly subjective, sometimes our brains can be tricked. The field of “psycho-acoustics” is a recent area of study â though its effects have been observed for many centuries. Four hundred years ago, when European church organists couldn’t reach all the right pedals, they realized they could play a combination of notes that made people think they were hearing a much lower note. Today, some small speakers digitally enhance similar frequencies to create a “phantom bass” effect, making these same components sound like much larger models.
Consider the Comfort and Aesthetic Appeal
If You Have The Space Consider Soil Berms/ Mounds To Block Road Noise
These are probably only viable on larger properties, but may be the most effective measure out of anything weve looked at so far.
Soil berms are basically mounds of soil that are build up like little hills.
They may be expensive if you need to hire the earth moving equipment to create them .
But they could work well if you build them tall enough.
Adding plants on top of a dense, thick mound of earth would work quite well in reducing road noise.
Why You Should Reduce Noise In Your Backyard
A 2003 study by Brown and Bullen found that up to 20% of dwellings in Australian cities experience traffic noise well above the World Health Organisation recommendations. This percentage has likely increased due to Australias expanding population, advancements in infrastructure and the residential housing boom. Furthermore, the study suggests noise affects our mental and physical well-being. Effects include increased risk of hearing loss, generalised anxiety disorder, stress, disturbed sleeping patterns, and even reduced life span.
Noise reduction, therefore, can positively affect more than just your Sunday morning sleep-ins.
Caring For Leyland Cypress Trees
You will be happy to learn these trees are relatively maintenance-free. You will not need to prune them. After planting, make sure you water your new trees every day for about one week. After the first week, start spacing out waterings to every other day. For the third week, water as needed.
Simply fertilize your Leyland Cypress trees with a high-quality slow release fertilizer and enjoy the peaceful beauty of your outdoor space.
Landscaping To Reduce Road Noise
Road noise is something that can plague even the nicest and most expensive of properties. If you want to live anywhere near civilisation, road noise is part of the package. Road/traffic noise can be anything from, most commonly, the noise of tires against pavement all the way through to loud stereos, car horns and tire screeching.
Some people find the sound of traffic relaxing as its a little reminiscent of white noise, waterfalls or waves on the beach but if youre not one of these people, here are a few methods for landscaping to reduce road noise.
Combine Different Noise Blocking Options
If you are dealing with a particularly noisy road, my recommendation would be to combine as many of these options as possible.
1. Start with approaching council about reducing noise levels in the first place.
2. Look at using solid barriers the thicker and denser the better to reflect much of the sound as close to the source as possible.
3. Add layers of plants like hedges to soften any sounds that make it past the fences/walls.
4. Place white noise generating elements close to your sitting area things like water features and/or speakers playing softer sounds.
Having determined what approaches and material options might work best for you, its time to consider the design and construction of your project.
A Beautiful Garden Trellis
Now, we know this might sound preachy but a trellis is a must-have for every garden enthusiast. It not only makes your garden look more aesthetic and chic, but it also adds a layer of practicality.
- Firstly, a properly decorated trellis does have some light sound-absorbing abilities.
- Secondly, certain vines like for example Jasmine and Honeysuckle help filter the nasty fumes that nearby cars let out into your garden. While others climbing plants such as climbing roses can turn your trellis into the eye-catching focal point of your garden.
- And last but not least, a trellis is a marvellous creation when it comes down to privacy. Not only does it help avoid your neighbours gaze, but it also provides something pretty to look at. Read our blog post on garden security for more privacy and security tips.