Highway and Road Noise
Sonic-Shield realizes that some types of noise pollution are easier to eliminate or at least minimize than others. Some of the toughest types of noise to conquer are highway and road noise. If your home is close to a major road, you know how pervasive highway and road noise can be. Between the sound of cars whizzing by, horns, sirens and all of the other noise pollution that comes with proximity to roadways, it can be hard to enjoy your living space, whether a house, apartment or condo. If you are lucky enough to have a yard, it is even more heavily affected, since it doesn’t have the benefit of walls and windows separating it from the road. However, there ARE ways that you can mitigate the highway and road noise.
How does highway and road noise occur? Road noise is no different from any other type of sound. It is a pressure wave that travels through the air. If you can interrupt the wave, you can block the sound from reaching the pressure-sensitive membranes in your ear drums. With this in mind, there are a number of different measures that can block or slow the wave to help you keep the noise away from your home and yard.
Unfortunately, simply planting trees or thick bushes won’t be enough to block the sound. To get an idea of the effectiveness of landscaping, point a spray hose at it. If water can pass through, sound waves can too. Instead of blocking noise with your yard, add a fountain or waterfall that generates its own noise. These sources of more-pleasant white noise reduce the impact of the road noise. This may sound silly to some of you, but you would be amazed at how creative, relatively inexpensive and pleasant this option can be.
To block the sound from your house and yard, you need a strong wall that is relatively tall. In a perfect world, you would erect an 8-foot tall fence of masonry with no holes. An 8-foot wall will give up to 10 decibels of sound reduction, equivalent to the difference between an alarm clock and a dishwasher. Shorter walls provide less sound proofing, but are still valuable since much of the noise created by cars is tire noise which occurs right at ground level.
You can also upgrade your house’s soundproofing. The first step is to seal any cracks or holes between your interior and the exterior. After that, you can look into adding heavy insulation and upgrading windows or placing storm windows over existing ones. You can purchase special windows that are designed to provide extra sound insulation.
A fountain in the yard can generate sound to drown out the road, but you can also use white noise generators inside the house to mask the sound. White noise is a sound, similar to the sound of water rushing that contains every frequency within the range of human hearing. You can also wear active noise cancelling headphones while you are in your house. These devices play a sound wave that is the opposite of the sound around you. The two waves cancel each other out and you hear nothing but silence.
No matter how aesthetically pleasing your backyard space may be, road noise can destroy any feelings of tranquility it might inspire. The good news is you don’t have to simply put up with noise. It is impossible to block all highway and road noise from your yard, but noise barriers can reduce the noise significantly enough for you to ignore it and enjoy your backyard space.
Masonry walls, such as brick, concrete or stone, are ideal for blocking out sound, but a solid wood fence can also be effective. The material you use is not as important as how you build the fence. A good sound-blocking fence has no gaps. Sound waves will take the path of least resistance, so gaps will allow the sound through. According to “This Old House,” if you can see the source of the noise, you’ll be able to hear it. When building a fence as a sound barrier, make it as high and as long as local regulations will allow, and make sure it extends all the way to the ground.
Barriers constructed out of vegetation are natural and add visual interest that fences can’t provide. To block out road noise, living barriers of trees and shrubs must be planted densely enough that you can’t see over or through them. If you’re blocking intermittent noise, such as lawnmowers, trimmers and other moderate, temporary sounds, a single row of trees or shrubs may be ideal, but to block highway and road noise, this will not be effective because there are too many openings for sound to travel through. Plant at least one row of tall evergreen trees, and then an inner row of evergreen shrubs for best results. The denser you plant your barrier, the more effective at reducing noise it will be, because there are fewer gaps for noise to flow through.
Noise barriers can reduce highway and road noise to more tolerable levels, but they will not eliminate all noise. Whether they are made from metal, wood, masonry or vegetation, a barrier’s effectiveness depends on its rigidity and density. The most effective barriers are tall and long, with little or no openings for sound to flow through. If you live in a residential area, try to preserve aesthetic values when choosing your barrier. Also consider the level of noise you’re hoping to block. Traffic noise from a highway is often very loud, requiring a dense, high barrier, while noise from a residential street is not usually as constant or as loud, so it may be drowned out or reduced with a smaller barrier.
Getting creative is the key. Sonic-Shield has worked with many landscape architects over the years to help design and implement front and back yard solutions to mitigate the effects of highway and road noise. Working outside is only half of the battle however.
As stated above, sealing all cracks and holes between inside and out can usually have quite an impact, and to discuss the most cost effective way to design a workable, effective solution for you, please fill our one of our contact forms. We will be happy to have a conversation with you about the severity of the problem and regrettably, but necessarily, your budget. We will help you design a solution that will provide the best results for the amount of money you can spend.