How to Reduce Highway Noise in Backyard: Effective Strategies for a Peaceful Outdoor Space

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Table of Contents

Highway noise is a common issue for homeowners living close to busy roads. It can disrupt the peace of an otherwise serene backyard environment. To address this concern, there are several strategies that can be implemented to reduce the intrusion of traffic noise. Effective noise reduction can be achieved through a combination of landscaping, structural barriers, and soundproofing materials.

A tall barrier wall blocks highway noise in a backyard garden

Landscaping efforts, such as planting trees and shrubs, can create a natural barrier against noise. The density and type of vegetation play crucial roles in its effectiveness. Structural solutions include constructing sound barriers such as fences or walls. Materials like mass-loaded vinyl can enhance the sound-blocking capabilities of these structures.

Soundproofing techniques focus on absorption and deflection of sound waves. Adding features like water fountains in the backyard can mask the highway noise by introducing soothing sounds. Acoustic fences with specially designed panels will absorb and reflect sound away from the outdoor living space. By taking a methodical approach, homeowners can significantly reduce highway noise and reclaim the tranquility of their backyards.

Understanding Highway Noise

A backyard with tall soundproof walls blocking highway noise, trees and bushes acting as natural barriers, and a serene outdoor seating area

Highway noise is a combination of sounds emanating from vehicles, which can affect people’s wellbeing living near busy roads. To mitigate this noise, it is essential to understand its nature, origins, and impacts on health.

The Nature of Sound Waves

Sound travels in waves produced by vibrations, spreading out in all directions from the source. Traffic noise is often a complex mixture of varying frequencies and intensities. Low-frequency sounds, like the rumble of a truck engine, travel further than high-frequency sounds, such as the squeal of brakes, which can make them more pervasive in residential areas adjacent to highways.

Sources of Highway Noise

The primary sources of highway noise include:

  • Engines: The operation of vehicle engines, especially heavy trucks, contributes to low-frequency noise.
  • Tires: The friction between tires and pavement generates substantial noise, especially at higher speeds.
  • Horns: Occasional use of vehicle horns adds sharp, sudden noises that punctuate the ambient traffic sound.
  • Exhaust Systems: Faulty or high-performance exhaust systems can create louder than normal noise levels.

Effects on Wellbeing

Exposure to persistent highway noise can lead to adverse effects on residents’ health and wellbeing:

  • Stress: Constant noise can increase stress levels, potentially leading to long-term health effects.
  • Hearing Loss: Prolonged exposure to high decibels can contribute to hearing loss.
  • Sleep Disturbance: Noise at night can disrupt sleep patterns, affecting daily function.

Recognizing these factors is critical for creating effective strategies to reduce highway noise and its impact on nearby communities.

Noise Assessment and Planning

Before mitigating highway noise in one’s backyard, it is essential to assess the level of sound intrusion and develop an informed plan of action. This process involves measuring the existing noise levels and consulting professionals to create a strategic approach tailored to the unique landscape and acoustical challenges of the area.

Conducting a Sound Survey

The first step is to measure the noise levels using a decibel meter to determine the average dB(A)—a weighted noise level that reflects the sound level as perceived by the human ear. A sound survey must account for both the intensity and frequency of noise, as these factors influence how sound is absorbed or reflected by various materials. The survey should document noise levels at different times of day to capture a complete profile of the auditory environment.

Consulting with a Landscape Architect

After the sound survey, homeowners should engage with a landscape architect. These professionals understand both the aesthetic and functional aspects of sound mitigation through landscaping. They analyze the sound survey data to offer solutions that can involve planting vegetation to absorb sound, constructing barriers to block transmission, and recommending materials that reduce reflection. Their knowledge of acoustics ensures that the visual appeal of the outdoor space is maintained without compromising the effectiveness of the noise reduction strategy.

Noise Reduction Strategies

Effective strategies for reducing highway noise in backyards focus on landscaping, structural solutions, and technological approaches. Implementing these strategies can create a quieter, more enjoyable outdoor space.

Utilizing Natural Elements

Landscaping with plants, trees, and hedges can serve as a natural buffer against noise. Dense foliage absorbs sound, with broad-leaf evergreens and thick shrubs being particularly effective. Opt for a variety of species to form a layered barrier, which helps to diffuse sound waves.

Creating Physical Barriers

Noise barriers, such as fences and walls, are practical solutions for noise reduction. High-density materials like mass-loaded vinyl can enhance the sound-blocking capabilities of these barriers.

Material Height Recommendations Noise Reduction Qualities
Concrete 8-12 feet Reflective surface
Wood 6-8 feet Absorptive with proper design
Acrylic 8-12 feet Transparent, sound-blocking

Strategic placement and height are crucial for effectiveness.

Incorporating Water Features

Water features like fountains introduce a pleasant background noise, which can mask highway sounds. The constant flow of water produces a sound known as white noise, which makes other noises less noticeable. Select a fountain with an adjustable pump to control the sound level.

Leveraging Technology for Noise Masking

White noise machines and outdoor speakers can be used to play sounds that help mask highway noise. They should be strategically located and angled towards the primary seating areas to maximize noise masking benefits. It’s important to choose devices designed for outdoor use.

Barrier Design and Material Selection

A tall sound barrier made of concrete and dense vegetation blocks highway noise from a backyard

Effective noise reduction through barrier design and material choice hinges on utilizing materials with optimal sound-absorbing qualities and constructing barriers with dimensions that obstruct sound waves effectively.

Selecting Materials for Maximum Noise Reduction

When selecting materials for acoustic barriers, it is pivotal to consider density and porosity as key properties for noise attenuation. Materials with higher density, such as masonry or brick, are adept at blocking sound due to their mass-heavy characteristics. For example, a masonry wall built with dense blocks held together with mortar can reflect and absorb considerable sound energy.

Conversely, porous materials such as certain types of wood or specialized acoustic fences can also serve to trap and diffuse sound waves. An acoustic fence employs a combination of dense and absorptive layers to dampen sound, making a balance between density and porosity essential for effective noise reduction.

  • High-Density Materials: Masonry, Brick, Concrete
Material Density (Approx.) Noise Reduction Capability
Brick Wall 1,200 – 1,600 kg/m³ High
Masonry Wall 1,800 – 2,300 kg/m³ Very High
Concrete 2,300 – 2,500 kg/m³ Very High
  • Porous Absorptive Materials: Specialized Acoustic Wood, Perforated Metals

Designing for Aesthetics and Function

Barriers must not only be functional in noise reduction but also be aesthetically pleasing. The design should blend with the existing landscaping, incorporating elements such as plants or decorative patterns that complement the surrounding environment.

Height is also a crucial functional aspect of sound barrier design. To efficiently block noise, barriers should be tall enough to interrupt the line of sight between the noise source and the receiver. A simple rule to follow might be that for every meter of barrier height, the noise mitigation zone extends an additional 1.5 meters.

  • Design Considerations:
    • Compatibility with surroundings
    • Height for optimal noise blockage
    • Flexibility in design to accommodate varying terrains and conditions

In terms of construction, wooden fences need to be designed with minimal gaps to ensure sound waves do not pass through easily. Applying those principles, a wooden barrier with thick, overlapping boards could serve as an effective sound dampening structure. For a brick wall, the construction must ensure that the bricks are closely laid with adequate mortar to prevent sound permeation.

  • Construction Techniques:
    • Overlapping wooden planks
    • Tight brickwork with quality mortar

By diligently choosing the appropriate materials and design, one can significantly reduce highway noise and enhance the tranquility of a backyard space.

Vegetation for Sound Absorption

Lush greenery surrounds a backyard with a busy highway in the background. Trees, bushes, and tall grass provide a natural barrier, absorbing the sound of passing cars

Incorporating vegetation into the landscape can significantly dampen highway noise. This section explores how strategic planting of trees and shrubs, as well as dense vegetation like hedges, contribute to sound absorption in backyards.

Strategic Planting of Trees and Shrubs

The strategic placement of trees and shrubs can create a natural barrier against noise. Trees with thick branches and dense foliage are ideal as they scatter and absorb soundwaves before they reach the backyard.

Key considerations for planting:

  • Distance: Plant vegetation closer to the noise source for better soundwave interruption.
  • Density: Opt for species that maintain density from ground up to form a solid barrier.
  • Variety: Use an assortment of trees and shrubs for an effective year-round noise buffer.

Examples of effective trees and shrubs:

  • Evergreens: They provide year-long coverage, with species like spruce and fir serving as excellent noise absorbers.
  • Broadleaf Shrubs: Ideal for lower noise barriers; junipers and hollies are effective.

Benefits of Dense Vegetation and Hedges

Dense vegetation and hedges serve as effective sound barriers due to their ability to interrupt and absorb soundwaves more comprehensively than sparse or deciduous plants.


  • Continuous Coverage: Evergreen hedges offer year-round sound absorption.
  • Height and Width: A dense hedge can match the full height of the noise, providing a broader range of soundwave interruption.

Popular hedges for sound reduction:

  • Evergreen Hedges: Boxwoods and yews establish a dense vegetative wall against noise.
  • Flowering Shrubs: Besides aesthetics, thick shrubs like viburnum aid in noise reduction.

Building and Enhancing Structures

Effective noise mitigation in backyards adjacent to highways relies significantly on physical structures. These can either be newly constructed or optimized to enhance their noise-blocking capabilities.

Constructing Noise Barriers and Fencing

Building noise barriers or fencing is a primary defense against highway noise. Fencing should be tall and solid, such as a board fence or a wood fence, to effectively block road noise. The construction of a noise barrier involves materials that absorb or deflect sound, such as thick wooden boards, masonry, acrylic, or specialized noise-dampening panels. An adequate barrier can secure privacy and provide noise reduction for a more peaceful backyard environment.

  • Recommended Materials for Noise Barriers:
    • Wood
    • Masonry
    • Acrylic
    • Noise-dampening panels

Optimizing Existing Structures for Soundproofing

Enhancing existing structures can greatly improve their soundproofing ability. Adding mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) to an existing fence helps to block noise. For buildings, replacing standard windows with soundproof windows can make a significant difference. Insulation materials, such as acoustic foam or fiberglass, can be added to walls, sheds, and decks to absorb sound vibrations. Strategic positioning of dense planting or barriers around an outdoor living area can also act as an additional sound buffer.

  • Soundproofing Additions for Existing Structures:
    • Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV)
    • Acoustic foam
    • Fiberglass insulation

Innovative Approaches to Urban Yard Design

In urban areas, the key to reducing highway noise lies in innovative yard design. This includes the integration of structural elements with the existing landscape to create a sound barrier. Multi-functional structures like a combination of an elevated deck with a privacy wall can offer not just noise reduction but also aesthetic value to the property. The creation of an outdoor living area shielded by noise-reducing fencing or built structures provides both privacy and reduces exposure to highway noise, improving the sense of peace with one’s neighbors.

  • Features of Innovative Urban Yard Design:
    • Elevated decks with privacy walls
    • Multi-functional structures that serve as noise barriers
    • Dense landscaping to absorb sound

Acoustic Considerations for Outdoor Spaces

Effective outdoor acoustics involve a strategic balance between absorbing and reflecting sound waves, thus creating a tranquil environment. Utilizing specific materials and understanding sound dynamics are pivotal in this process.

Balancing Absorption and Reflection

To mitigate highway noise in the backyard, absorption is critical. Materials such as mass loaded vinyl can be implemented within or added to boundaries to absorb sound. High-density materials are particularly effective at reducing sound transmission. Conversely, reflection occurs when sound waves bounce off surfaces. It is essential to strike a balance where desired sounds, like music or ambient noises, are preserved for a peaceful oasis, while undesired noise is minimized. Placement of absorptive and reflective elements should be considered carefully. For example, an acoustic fence positioned with absorptive materials on the side facing the noise source will help diminish sound levels.

  • Absorption: Use of mass loaded vinyl, heavy foliage, or other dense materials to diminish sound transmission.
  • Reflection: Position surfaces to reflect sound waves away, considering the impact on the overall sound profile in the outdoor space.

Creating a Peaceful Oasis by Combining Elements

Constructing one’s oasis by combining elements of entertaining, desirable sounds, and acoustics transforms a plain backyard into a sanctuary. When designing the space, considering both the placement of sound elements and the integration of ambient sound can significantly enhance the acoustic quality. For instance, correctly situated water features can introduce soothing sounds that mask intrusive highway noise. Simultaneously, strategic placement of speakers for music ensures entertainment without escalating the overall noise level.

  • Placement: Careful positioning of sound-absorbing and sound-reflecting elements, speakers, and ambient sound sources to create an optimal acoustic environment.
  • Entertaining: Blending functional acoustic treatments with elements of entertainment to achieve a harmonious outdoor space.

Water Elements as White Noise

A backyard with a highway in the background, trees and bushes lining the perimeter, and a water feature in the center emitting white noise to reduce the highway noise

Incorporating water features into a backyard is an effective strategy to create a soothing white noise that can mask unwelcome traffic sounds.

Water Features to Mask Traffic Noise

Water features can significantly lessen the perceived noise level from traffic by generating a consistent stream of white noise. White noise is a blend of various sound frequencies, which together can effectively override and mask disruptive noises such as highway buzz. Here are several water elements known for their noise-reducing capabilities:

  • Fountains: A fountain can range from a simple tabletop design to a large, sculptural installation, all generating a cascade of sound that drowns out traffic noise.
  • Waterfalls: Artificial waterfalls provide a robust sound of running water, creating an effective sound barrier.
  • Streams: Gentle streams can be landscaped into a yard, their babbling noise adding a tranquil acoustic layer.

It’s crucial to position these features closer to living spaces rather than near the noise source for maximum effect.

Choosing the Right Water Feature for Your Yard

To select an ideal water feature that serves as a white noise machine, homeowners should consider the following aspects:

  • Size and design: The water feature should complement the size and style of the garden. A large fountain may overwhelm a small space, whereas too subtle a feature won’t effectively mask traffic noise.
  • Sound output: The volume and type of sound produced should be enough to cover traffic sounds without being overly loud or disruptive itself.
  • Maintenance: Running water elements require upkeep to ensure longevity and consistent sound quality. Consider ease of cleaning and the availability of replaceable parts.

Table: Feature Selection Guide

Feature Type Sound Output Maintenance Level Space Suitability
Small fountain Moderate Low Patios, small gardens
Large fountain High High Large yards
Waterfall Very high Medium Spacious landscapes
Stream Variable High Medium to large yards

By thoughtfully implementing a water feature, homeowners can enjoy a serene outdoor ambiance and a decrease in the intrusive noise from nearby roads.

Supplementary Acoustic Measures

In seeking to mitigate highway noise, homeowners can employ various acoustic measures that not only reduce noise but also enhance the aesthetic appeal of their property.

Enhancing Privacy with Soundproofing Techniques

Homeowners may consider upgrading windows to specialized soundproof windows that contain layers of thick glass and gases like argon to dampen sound transmission. Furthermore, applying mass loaded vinyl (MLV) to walls significantly adds density to surfaces, acting as a sound barrier. These techniques prioritize privacy and tranquility in the backyard environment.

Building Earth Berms for Dual Functionality

Landscapes can be transformed by constructing earth berms—a type of mound made of soil and compacted to serve as a barrier against noise. With strategic design by a landscape architect, berms help deflect and absorb sound while doubling as a visual feature. Landscaping atop and around the berms can further assist in breaking up soundwaves, harmoniously blending form and function.

Implementing White Noise Solutions

Implementing white noise solutions effectively masks highway noise and enhances backyard ambiance.

Using White Noise to Enhance Backyard Ambiance

White noise can significantly improve the quality of a backyard environment by masking unwanted sounds with a consistent audio backdrop. Typically, this is achieved through the strategic placement of white noise machines around the perimeter of a backyard. These devices produce a soothing, steady sound that can mimic natural noises, such as the rustling of leaves or a flowing stream. The goal is to create an acoustic barrier that blends into the natural setting and neutralizes traffic noise.

By installing white noise machines, homeowners can reclaim the tranquility of their outdoor spaces. It’s essential that the volume is adjusted to a level that is both effective at reducing highway noise and comfortable for human ears. The settings should be consistent across all devices to ensure a uniform sound field.

Comparing White Noise Machines and Outdoor Speakers

White Noise Machines

Feature Benefits
Sound Variety Offers an assortment of sounds to match preferences.
Portability Easy to move and adjust.
Specialized Function Primarily designed to mask unwanted noise.

White noise machines are specialized devices designed to generate a spectrum of sounds that can neutralize ambient noise. They are typically portable and come with a variety of sound options, allowing users to select the most effective sound profile for their particular environment.

Outdoor Speakers

Feature Benefits
Sound Quality Higher fidelity sound, suitable for music and ambiance.
Versatility Can play music, ambient sounds, or white noise.
Installation May require professional installation for optimal results.

Outdoor speakers, on the other hand, serve a dual purpose. Not only can they play a variety of white noise tracks, but they are also well-suited for entertainment purposes. The sound quality is typically superior to that of white noise machines, and they offer greater flexibility in terms of audio content. However, outdoor speakers usually demand a more permanent installation and potentially professional setup to ensure proper coverage and sound levels.

When choosing between white noise machines and outdoor speakers, homeowners should consider their primary need: if the goal is solely to reduce highway noise, white noise machines might be sufficient. For those desiring a more versatile audio solution that includes entertainment, outdoor speakers are the more suitable choice.

DIY Noise Reduction Projects

Reducing highway noise can be tackled through various do-it-yourself projects that are both affordable and effective. Homeowners can take steps to build solutions like an acoustic fence or strategically use plants to dampen unwanted sound.

Homeowner-friendly Strategies to Cut Back Highway Sound

In the pursuit of tranquility, homeowners might consider integrating dense vegetation as a natural sound barrier. Strategically placed trees and shrubs can absorb and diffuse sound waves emanating from highways. They can select plant species that are known for their dense foliage. It’s important to construct multiple layers of varying heights for optimal effect.

Trees and Shrubs Attributes
Evergreen Trees Year-round coverage
Shrub Hedges Dense foliage
Tall Grasses Sound diffusion

In addition to planting, homeowners can employ surface modifications to their property. Creating earthen mounds or berms along the property line nearest to the noise source can reflect and absorb sound waves.

Crafting Your Own Acoustic Fence

Building an acoustic fence is a more direct approach a homeowner can take to reduce highway noise. The fence must be tall and solid without gaps to effectively block sound waves from the highway. They should use materials such as mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) for added soundproofing.

Materials Needed:

  • Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV)
  • Weather-resistant wooden panels or thick boards
  • Acoustic sealant
  • Nails or screws

Steps to Build:

  1. Measure the area where the fence will be erected.
  2. Dig post holes and secure posts with concrete.
  3. Attach horizontal rails between posts.
  4. Fasten wooden panels or boards to the rails with no gaps.
  5. Apply mass-loaded vinyl on the side facing the highway.
  6. Seal seams with acoustic sealant for thorough sound dampening.

By combining dense planting with the construction of an acoustic fence, homeowners can create an effective sound barrier against highway noise. They should take care to ensure continuous maintenance for long-term efficacy of these DIY measures.

Maintaining and Upgrading Sound Barriers

A crew installs taller sound barriers along a highway, shielding a suburban backyard from noise pollution

Effective sound barrier maintenance and strategic upgrades are critical for optimizing the performance of noise reduction systems. These actions ensure that barriers remain functional and effective over time.

Seasonal Care for Vegetative Barriers

Spring and Summer:

  • Inspect vegetative barriers for winter damage and initiate necessary repairs.
  • Schedule regular watering and fertilizing to promote dense growth, which enhances sound absorption.


  • Prune plants to remove dead or diseased portions; this encourages healthy growth and maintains barrier density.
  • Apply mulch to protect roots against upcoming winter temperatures.


  • Assess the stability of vegetative barriers post any heavy snowfall; reinforce as required.

Upgrades to Enhance Existing Noise Reduction Features

Acoustic Fencing:

  • Assess current fencing for any damage or deterioration. Replace weakened sections with higher density materials that offer superior sound attenuation.

Adding Mass:

  • Augment existing barriers by adding mass, such as concrete, earth mounds, or specially designed acoustic panels which can reflect or absorb sound more efficiently.

Insulation and Sealing:

  • Strengthen fences and barriers by sealing gaps and cracks. This prevents sound leakage and improves overall noise reduction performance.

Height & Coverage:

  • Increase the height of existing structures to obstruct more noise. Ensure that barriers extend sufficiently to cover the area where noise reduction is required.

Hiring a Professional:

  • For optimal results, one can engage a professional landscaper or sound engineer to advise on the best methods to upgrade and maintain noise barriers.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common inquiries about mitigating highway noise in residential backyards, focusing on practical solutions and proven techniques.

What are the most effective soundproofing techniques for backyards near highways?

High-density barriers such as concrete walls or masonry are highly effective at blocking noise. Additionally, installing soundproofing panels or acoustic barriers designed specifically for noise reduction can provide substantial relief.

Can acoustic fences significantly diminish highway noise in residential areas?

Yes, acoustic fences constructed with materials such as mass-loaded vinyl can absorb sound waves and significantly reduce the amount of highway noise that enters residential areas.

What outdoor noise cancelling systems are recommended for mitigating traffic sounds?

Active noise control systems that utilize noise cancellation technology can effectively reduce traffic sounds. These systems detect the sound waves from highways and emit antiphase signals to counteract them.

How can landscaping be used to reduce the penetration of road noise into private backyards?

Dense vegetation, including trees, shrubs, and hedges, can act as a natural barrier against road noise. Strategic placement of such landscaping features can help absorb and deflect sound waves.

What materials are best suited for building a barrier that blocks out highway noise effectively?

Materials such as concrete, brick, mass-loaded vinyl, and specially designed acoustic barriers are optimal for constructing sound-absorbing and sound-reflecting barriers.

Are there any particular designs or features for patios and balconies that can help minimize traffic noise?

Creating enclosed spaces with high walls and using sound-reducing materials such as acoustic glass for patio enclosures or balcony railings can help minimize the intrusion of traffic noise.

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Jack Daniel

I am Jack Daniel, and I have been gardening for more than 20 years now. I believe that with my years of experience, I can help you with backyard ideas and backyard product reviews. So, with the motto to help anyone facing gardening issues or wanting tips on enhancing the beauty of their backyards, I have created Backyard Muse. So, before anything else, I want to welcome you warmly to my site.


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