One unpredictable part of owning property is knowing if you’ll have to deal with noisy neighbors or traffic. It can be very frustrating because noise issues are often something we can’t control. However, there are some actions you can take to help mitigate unwanted noise from ruining your outdoor experience. In this article we will discuss six potential options: walls, plantings, white noise, sunken patios, speakers, and combinations of all of these.
A good general rule to start with is checking if you can block the line of sight between you and the source of the noise. This will create a barrier that will block sound waves. Depending on the kind of barrier and where that source is, the sound waves can be partially to fully blocked.
1. Build a Wall
Some sort of wall is the fastest and most effective method to address noise coming from many areas. There are a variety of options from a decorative wood fence to masonry. The choice of material depends on what’s needed for a certain level of noise. Whatever you go with, it’s important that it be solid or else the noise will travel through the gaps. Some sound waves will get reflected back towards the source, some will get absorbed and some will still travel through the material. Soundproofing material can be added to one side of the wall or fence to maximize the absorption of the noise.
Since walls and fences may not be the most aesthetic solution, consider using a wall to get an immediate noise-blocking effect and then planting trees and shrubs in front of it to absorb the excess sound over time.
2. Strategic Plantings
Sound is absorbed by all parts of a plant. That’s why evergreen trees with lots of branches and thick, lush leaves are your best bet to defer sounds. Also, the closer the noise blocking plants are to the source, the better. They must completely block the line-of-sight between the noise source and the receiver.
Good choices for noise reduction plantings are Arborvitae, Leyland Cypress, Willows, Hollies, Boxwood, Juniper and Flowering Trees like dogwood, magnolia, plum, and cherry. I like starting with a background of evergreen trees and mixing deciduous trees and shrubs in front to add variety. This creates a layered planting bed that doubles as a thick natural noise barrier. Even better, create a berm to plant on. This will give added height to start with and the additional soil will absorb more of the sound.
3. The White Noise Effect
Cancel out bad noise with something pleasant. This will create a background white noise effect and could be a great solution for specific areas. Unlike plants and walls, you should have this feature as close to the listener as possible.
One of the most pleasant noises I can think of is the trickling sound of water. You can recreate this with a man-made water feature. It could be an actual stream and waterfall for maximum impact, or a simple bubbler fountain which will still be easily heard.
Other items can be used to drown out nearby noise. Wind chimes are inexpensive and easy to scale up to create the desired amount of pleasant noise. The leaves of some plants will create a naturally pleasant sound when rustling in the breeze. Quaking Aspens and Bamboo come to mind.
4. Sink Your Outdoor Living Space
A sunken patio will act in a similar way as a small wall and a soil berm. The lower you are, the more sound will be deadened by the earth, retaining wall and plantings around the patio. This is a clever solution if you already have sloping terrain that needs a step down anyway. It can be expensive because it involves adding retaining walls.
Another benefit of being lower is it can create more privacy. It can act as an enclosed den that gives a feeling of comfort. Note that sunken patios will typically need a drain added to prevent flooding from runoff.
5. Outdoor Speakers
When in doubt, drown it out! Adding music is a temporary, but effective solution to distract from noisy surroundings. You can build speakers into an existing structure or have a simple Bluetooth speaker controlled by your phone. There are even speakers that look like fake boulders. You can place them around your backyard and they will blend in with the natural landscape.
The benefit of using speakers is they give you the ability to control what kind of sound you want to create. From soothing nature to death metal. You do you! Just remember to consider your neighbors or you might have a different problem on your hands.
6. Mix and match
If you take a multi-pronged approach to combating unwanted noise, you’ll have a better chance of success instead of doing just one thing. Build a fence, plant a variety of fabulous native trees and shrubs in front, install a sunken patio, add a water feature, and turn on some music. All your noise-related troubles will seem far away…
Contact Us if You Need Help
Do you need some assistance finding the best technique to block noise in your yard? At Blessing Landscapes, we can meet with you and discuss which solutions might work best. Contact us to schedule a consultation.