You want to spend time outside enjoying your backyard, but all you can focus on is the hum of traffic and your noisy neighbors. Don’t pull out your noise-reducing headphones just yet. Learn about the best fences to reduce noise pollution so you can add a little privacy and peace to your life.
Before starting any fencing project, always check your local laws and HOA regulations. You may need to get approval for your project before you begin. But there are fencing options out there for anyone who wants a little peace and quiet.
What Makes a Fence Good for Noise Reduction?
Noise barriers are a practical solution for homeowners and businesses alike. But what makes them work? The fence needs to either reflect or absorb sound. Reflected sound will bounce off the barrier, which could cause other areas to be louder. Absorbed sound will dissipate because of the material.
While making a fence 100% soundproof is impossible, any noise reduction will still give you more peace and make things easier to ignore. It also can reduce the sounds coming out of your yard, which is an excellent benefit if you have kids, pets, or frequent guests.
Acoustic fences are designed to block noise. The following factors affect a fence’s reflection or absorption of sound.
A fence with holes and gaps all over won’t do anything to stop noise from passing through. Picket, lattice, and chain-link fences are some of the least soundproof fence designs. Though you can improve their noise-proofing with fence fabric or other coverings, you’re better off with a complete privacy fence.
The best privacy fence designs are tongue-and-groove for fences made of pickets and solid for fences made of wood, masonry, vinyl, or composite. These designs leave no gaps between the fence pickets.
You also shouldn’t leave a gap at the bottom of the fence. If you want to put a fence on a sloped yard you may need to level the ground before installing your fence to prevent this problem. Sealing gaps after installing a fence is much more complicated.
The taller the fence, the better the noise reduction. You want those sound waves to deflect off the wall or over your head. Plus, you’ll also have a more private and secure yard. Taller fences cost more than shorter ones of the same material, but it’s worth the price if it gives you peace and quiet.
Check the maximum fence height for homeowners in your area. Many cities and HOAs have a maximum height of 6 feet for backyard fences, but you should go taller, if possible. Front yard fences are usually required to be shorter at about 4 feet. There isn’t much you can do to soundproof a 4-foot fence, but you could plant trees, shrubs, and bushes to reduce noise.
Have you ever lived in a place with paper-thin walls? The same can apply to fencing. Thicker, denser walls, like stone or concrete, block sound more effectively than thin designs.
The material often affects the thickness (stone fences tend to be thicker than wooden fences), but there is variation within each material type. For example, 1-inch wooden pickets are more effective than ½ inch wooden pickets.
Placement is key for your noise-reducing fence to be as effective as possible. Your first option is to place your barrier close to the noise source. This positioning deflects and absorbs the sound before it reaches your property. This option is best for homeowners who can build tall front yard fences to block road noise.
Check local regulations to see how many feet away from the property line your fence can be. Tall fences that are too close to the road could reduce drivers’ visibility.
What if you can’t build a fence in your front yard or right next to the noise source? You can still enclose a smaller area farther back so that the sound has more distance to travel, fading along the way. This technique works best for backyards.
You also could create a small outdoor alcove to block out external noise, such as kids playing or neighbors talking. This would be great as a little reading area.
Some common fence materials absorb sound better than others. While wood and stone naturally do this, other materials like vinyl have been specially designed for this purpose. You can even combine different materials to get better soundproofing, such as applying a vinyl layer inside or over a wooden fence. Since these materials vary in price, we’ll cover the cost for each fence type.
What Are the Best Fences to Reduce Noise?
Now that we’ve covered all the factors that affect noise reduction, let’s go over each fencing option and its pros and cons.
Wood absorbs and disrupts sound waves as they pass through. Wooden fences are already popular for their appearance, so their noise absorption is just another bonus. However, not everyone likes the maintenance required to keep them long-lasting and looking their best. You can choose from many types of wood fencing, but red cedar is particularly good for noise absorption.
Want more sound resistance than a regular wooden fence? Build a fence with mass-loaded vinyl or absorbent sound screens inside. Since the soundproofing material is sandwiched between two fence panels, you won’t even see it (though you’ll hear the difference). You can also install mass-loaded vinyl and absorbent sound screens between other fence materials.
Can’t decide? Here are the pros and cons of wooden fences.
✔ Visually appealing
✔ Many wood types and designs to choose from
✔ Can paint with many colors
✘ Requires regular maintenance to prevent rotting
✘ Susceptible to wood-destroying pests
✘ It only lasts 10-20 years
✘ Paint will peel over time
Cost: $14-$31 per linear foot
A study sponsored by the Ohio Department of Transportation concluded that vinyl fencing was an effective option for reducing traffic noise. This study isn’t just good news for local government agencies but for all homeowners living near busy streets.
Vinyl fences can either be designed to reflect or absorb sound. Some vinyl fences are filled with acoustically-absorbant materials to boost their effectiveness. The thicker the vinyl, the better its performance.
Vinyl fences are even more versatile than wooden fences. Not only do they come in many styles and colors, but they also can mimic other materials like wood and stone. The material is often hollow and lightweight, but it’s still durable. Vinyl resists heat, UV rays, wind, moisture, and pests. But just like any material, vinyl has its pros and cons.
✔ Comes in many colors and designs, including faux wood and stone
✔ Resists heat, UV rays, wind, moisture, pests, and fire
✘ You can’t customize them after they’re manufactured
✘ Higher up-front cost than wooden fencing
✘ Color can fade
✘ Becomes brittle over time
✘ Not eco-friendly
✘ More difficult to repair or restore
Cost: $17-$38 per linear foot
Want the best of both worlds? Composite fences are made of recycled vinyl and wood. The overlapping panels and density block noise from going through composite fencing.
Just like vinyl, they come in many colors and can mimic stone and wood fences. The vinyl protects the wood from rot, wood-destroying pests, and splintering. However, these fences are more expensive than wood or vinyl, and their color may fade over time.
✔ Comes in many colors and designs, including faux wood and stone
✘ More expensive than vinyl or wood
✘ Color fades over time
Cost: $26-$57 per linear foot
These fences may not appeal to everyone’s tastes, but they can add beauty to a yard. Sounds bounce right off these thick barriers, and there’s minimal risk of privacy breaches. You can choose from several styles, such as:
- Stone (granite, limestone, etc.)
Want to switch things up? Paint or apply stucco to change the fence’s appearance. You can also purchase precast concrete fences with designs on them.
These sturdy fences are durable and last for decades when maintained. However, you’ll need to be committed to this design choice. Masonry fences are hard to remove or customize once installed. They also have a very high up-front cost, especially if you want high-quality materials.
✔ Variety of styles
✔ Extremely long-lasting
✘ Hard to remove, modify, or repair
✘ Time-consuming to build
Cost: $10-$80 per square foot
Money doesn’t grow on trees, but maybe peace and quiet do. Living fences are made of plants and provide a natural sound, wind, and privacy barrier. Vegetation reduces noise pollution through sound attenuation, which is the reduction of sound intensity. A privacy hedge creates the densest barrier. You also could plant various species to create more visual interest and disease resistance.
Here are some of the best living fence plants for reducing noise.
- Leyland cypress
- Arborvitae trees
Living fences work best in yards with lots of space.
✔ Aesthetically pleasing
✔ Low maintenance costs
✘ Take time to grow
✘ Not practical for small yards
✘ Add more to your garden to-do list
Cost: Depends on the plant species. Contact your local nursery to learn about your options.
FAQ About the Best Fences to Reduce Noise
Attach fence fabric, mass-loaded vinyl, noise-reduction panels, and soundproof blankets to an existing fence to muffle noise. You also can plant a living fence along your existing fence to create a secondary sound barrier.
First, make sure it’s not a technical problem. You may need to replace the motor, fan, or entire unit. If everything’s in order, surround the machine with a compressor sound blanket or a soundproof fence around the pump. You can use some of the fencing materials discussed in this article, but ensure you can access the heat pump or AC for maintenance.
If your neighbor’s heat pump or AC is bothering you, discuss the problem with them. It may be something they can fix themselves. If they don’t or can’t do anything, you can soundproof your fence to absorb or reflect the noise.
If you can’t muffle all the noise, why not mask it with something more pleasant? Here’s how to decorate and landscape to reduce noise.
● Place wind chimes to distract from external noise in the neighborhood.
● Install fountains or other water features. The running water will create white noise that helps drown out other noises.
● Plant more vegetation to absorb, scatter, and block noise. The rustling of leaves and the sound of wildlife also can create a pleasant ambiance.
● Create a berm or mound of soil. This method is most practical for those with large properties.
When to Hire a Pro
While you could tackle many of these types of fences as a DIY project, some soundproofing techniques are tricky to get right. Reach out to a local fencing pro to get quotes and advice for your new fence or soundproofing project.
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