How to Reduce Traffic Noise in Backyard


Living next to a busy street with a lot of traffic noise can be stressful. I mentioned before how I stopped noise from my neighbors backyard by actually confronting him about it. But that’s not possible with traffic noise. The main thing you can do is set up a functional noise barrier.

A well-placed fence is the first solution that comes to mind. But the question remains:

Will a fence block or reduce traffic noise in backyard?

The answer is yes. A fence can block most of the traffic noise. It’s efficiency however depends on multiple factors: the material, thickness and height of the fence and the loudness of the road noise. Loud trucks and honking will still penetrate regular sound barriers, but you can block much of the regular road noise with a proper fence. 

Is this a good fence for blocking road noise? Keep reading to find out.

Best fences for reducing traffic noise:

Brick wall

It can reduce the noise by up to 50%. If you’re only concerned about reducing noise it’s the most effective solution. However, it’s the most expensive one and building a brick wall can take a lot of time. Another downside is that most of the time a large wall surrounding your backyard won’t look good unless you’re using special masonry.

Acoustic fence

This is a far more aesthetic fence than a brick wall. It has the same noise blocking capacity and it’s almost 50% cheaper than building a basic brick wall. It takes less space as well because it’s not as thick. However, acoustic fences are more expensive than metal or wooden ones which can be easily soundproofed by covering them with soundproofing material, most notably mass loaded vinyl.

Metal fence

These fences are the least effective when it comes to blocking noise. But this can be improved by installing mass loaded vinyl on the fence. Metal fences are a good solution because they’re affordable and easy to install.

Wooden fence

Wooden fences have similar noise-blocking capabilities to metal ones. And they can also be soundproofed by using mass loaded vinyl. The problem with wooden fences is that they’re prone to fire and they can rot over time if not taken care of.

Berms

Berms are hill like structures made from earth. If you can build them high enough they can protect against noise to some extent. It’s best to use them in combination with plants. So you could plant dense and thick shrubs on top of the berms to make them higher.

Shrubbery fence

A high hedge can protect against weaker noise.

Large shrubbery is a popular fencing tactic. It looks natural and can uplift your garden/yard aesthetically. Some shrubbery is also more affordable than regular fences. Unfortunately, just like wooden fences, it can be prone to fires, so if you’re in an area that has this problem during summer, take this into consideration.

Hedge fence

Hedge fences have the same noise-blocking potential as shrubbery. They also provide more privacy. Hedges have the same benefit of affordable price. But they need to be maintained regularly to look nice, and they don’t fit well in every environment. Unless it’s fully grown it will also need time to get to its full size to block road noise effectively.

So what is the best fence for road noise?

A brick wall will block the most of the noise. But it’s the most expensive option and looks ugly. Shrubbery and hedges are affordable but it can take time to get them to their full potential. They’re also fire hazards just like a wooden fence.

This leaves us with the metal fence and acoustic fence as the favorites. Acoustic fence is superior, but a simple metal fence upgraded with Mass Loaded Vinyl (check current price on Amazon) can provide the same noise blocking results (if not better).

Installing vinyl is really simple because you only need the material, nails and a hammer or screws and a drill. Then simply cover one or both sides of the fence with vinyl and you’re done. This material blocks low, medium and high frequencies equally well and it’s used in almost every sound deadening mat for cars. Exactly because it works well against road and traffic noise.

MLV can also be painted over with latex paint if you don’t like the black color. Or you can plant some shrubs along the fence to conceal it. It’s heavy and can withstand poor weather conditions, whether it’s rain, snow or extreme heat.

Furthermore, if you have a basic, tall fence already in place, the easiest solution is to install MLV on the fence, instead of replacing it entirely.

Features of a good noise-blocking fence:

Wall + hedge noise barrier

1. Height

The fence should be at least 6.5 ft (2 meters) high to block sound effectively. If it’s too short, the sound waves can easily go over it. This is why you need pretty large shrubs or hedges to make this work, and why it’s much easier to install a higher metal, wooden or acoustic fence instead. Or in addition to shrubs/hedges.

2. Density

It’s important that the noise-barrier doesn’t have any gaps or cracks. If there are small gaps inside the fence the noise can easily pass through them. Make sure that the fence goes all the way to the bottom everywhere without any major holes.

3. Thickness

The thicker, the better. Thickness is the quality that makes a brick wall better at blocking sound than other before-mentioned materials. However, you can improve the thickness of a smooth metal/wooden fence with mass loaded vinyl or a similar soundproofing material.

4. Coverage

Coverage includes height and the width of the fence. The larger the area you can cover, the better results you’ll have. Cover as much of your property facing the road as possible.

5. Placement

Install your fence as close to the road as you can. The closer you get to the source of the noise the better chance you have of deflecting it. If the fence is not close to the road, the noise can disperse and travel above or around the fence more easily.

More ways to reduce traffic noise in backyard and house

A high metal or acoustic fence.

If your fence has all of those features it will do a great job. But you can reduce the noise further by implementing the following tips:

  • WATER FOUNTAIN – Additional noise that is natural and soothing can override the annoying road noise. A water fountain is the obvious choice in this regard.
  • MORE VEGETATION – Trees, shrubs and hedges can all muffle the noise further. If you plant them close enough to each other the effect can be significant. Having evergreen plants that have leaves throughout the year is obviously the best option for year-round protection.
  • FRONT DOOR SOUNDPROOFING – Making your door thicker and sealing the gaps in the door frame can block the noise that would otherwise enter your home. This can be accomplished in 30 minutes or less and on a very tight budget. Check out my 14 door soundproofing tips to learn these simple methods.
  • WINDOW SOUNDPROOFING – Windows are another easy entrance point for road noise. You can seal the gaps in the window frame with foam tape and hang noise-blocking curtains on the window. Or you can make your own window plug and use it when you feel is necessary, for example when you’re trying to get some sleep. Here’s my window soundproofing guide that explains all the best methods.
  • WALL SOUNDPROOFING – Are the walls in your home really thin? For blocking road noise you can soundproof your exterior walls by installing a layer of drywall, placing mineral wool batts between the studs or attaching mass loaded vinyl to the studs. Or you can install soundproofing panels or thick moving blankets directly on the wall’s surface. Here are some affordable ways to do it.

How to sleep with road noise?

I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping thanks to the road noise coming through my bedroom window. I solved this problem more or less completely by hanging noise-blocking curtains on the window. But before I did that, I used ear muffs.

Ear muffs are similar to ear plugs, but I like them better because they’re more comfortable since you don’t have to insert them in the ears. I used these ear muffs for a few months, and they’re very light and comfortable.

If you want to override the outside noise, you can use a white noise machine. It sounds weird, but white noise is actually really relaxing. It’s a stable sound frequency that has a relaxing effect and is used by many people in offices and bedrooms. The Marcap Dohm is the most popular machine with over 13000 user reviews on Amazon!

While you can listen to white noise through headphones, it can be uncomfortable if you sleep on your side or belly. It will also drain the battery on your phone or laptop by the time you get up. This is why a white noise machine is a more practical solution.

Both of these tips are really simple and affordable and obviously don’t require any tools or installation. So try this if any sounds are lowering the quality of your sleep.

On blocking road noise from backyard and house

A relatively high wooden fence.

Reducing traffic noise is all about improving the barriers between your property and the road. The most effective barrier you can install is a fence. Additional barrier is the vegetation such as shrubs, hedges and trees.

If the road noise bothers you in your house or apartment, you can also soundproof the doors, windows and/or walls by following the advice that I’ve shared in other articles on this website.

You can also override the road noise to some extent by using natural sounds of a water fountain in the backyard, or a white noise machine indoors. And finally, if you have trouble sleeping due to the noise, using ear muffs or ear plugs can be of great service as well.

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