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How Can I Reduce City Noise in My Backyard?

by Matt Goering

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If you live anywhere near an arterial or collector street, you know that traffic noise is one of the greatest generators of noise in cities and suburbs. In fact, if your home is on a busy street, or close to one, traffic noise can actually become a quality of life issue, making it difficult to enjoy time spent outdoors and even inhibiting sleep. Add to that the fact that most municipalities have laws in place that prohibit the construction of walls and fences tall enough to provide an effective sound barrier, and you've got a real challenge on your hands.

Reducing City Noise the Natural Way
Tall hedges, effective landscaping, smart backyard design, and natural sources of soothing white noise can all make a huge difference when used together effectively. Talking to a quality landscaper about developing the right landscape for reducing city noise on your property is the best way go. Nevertheless, here's some tried and true ideas for combating that urban din.

Reducing City Noise with Tall Hedges
Perhaps the best way to both provide an effective noise barrier and comply with city building codes is by planting hedges. Tall hedges aren't subject to height limitations, and when cultivated and planned properly they provide excellent sound barriers between your yard and busy streets.

Hedges and trees are also an excellent way to provide your yard and home with more privacy, another common concern for those living on busy thoroughfares. Be sure to talk a landscaper or nursery about choosing the right plants for your situation, space, and climate, however. Ideally you want a hedge that grows up without growing out, and the faster it grows the better. Avoid plants that put off fruits or berries, since they can make more mess than they're worth, and always look for vegetation that won't demand much upkeep or watering on your part.

Reducing City Noise with Landscape Design
Besides vegetation, there are other aspects of landscape design that can help make dealing with city noise easier. Building a deck on the opposite side of the home from the road, for example, can seriously reduce the amount of city noise you deal with when you're grilling, entertaining, or just enjoying a good book on a warm spring day. If that isn't an option for you, building a privacy wall on the street facing side of your deck can work wonders. And while height restrictions can limit their effectiveness, a privacy fence or a rock or brick wall bordering your property can still make a difference when used in conjunction with tall hedges and other sound reducing strategies.

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Reducing City Noise with White Noise
Sound barriers are good and well, but any city dweller knows that it's impossible to block out all of that city noise. When you've exhausted all sound barrier options, it's time to change your strategy. Think competition rather than reduction. Installing fountains, pools, waterfalls, and streams in your yard can create a soothing source of white noise that drowns out other unwanted noises. In fact, with these smart additions you might just forget you're in the city altogether.

City noise can get to even the best of us. However, by adopting a comprehensive landscaping strategy that includes planting hedges, creative landscaping and deck design, and the addition of soothing background noise, reducing city noise is well within any homeowner's reach.

Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.