You don’t need anyone to tell you just how damaging everyday noise can be. Take traffic noises and other sounds that come from the street. Constant irritating sounds that come from cars, car horns, pedestrians, and road workers, to name a few, can quite literally lead to death. And even if death might be just the most extreme scenario, you can still suffer from stress and other related issues if you’re constantly exposed to traffic noise.
So, in order to maintain your health and reduce the amount of din coming from outside, you should think about soundproofing your house. In this article, I will cover the best methods for doing just that — making sure your home won’t let any of those nasty traffic noises inside.
But before you and I move on to the topic at hand, we need to first discuss how sound works in general.
The Ins and Outs of Sound
Sound is vibration through a medium, i.e. through a particular material. Basically, when something vibrates, the energy from that source starts to move in waves. When air or other objects come into contact with this energy, they vibrate at the same frequency. Our eardrums, sensitive as they are, pick up on these vibrations and register them as various sounds.
Sound is similar to light in how it travels through obstacles. When it comes to most materials out there (i.e. glass, metal, etc.), the sound will move through them relatively easily. That’s why you’ll be able to hear something from outside despite your doors and windows being closed.
Before moving onto proper soundproofing, you’ll need to understand a few other basic principles behind most sounds. For example, if the sound runs into a uniform obstacle, only a small amount of sound will be able to travel through. On the other hand, less uniform surfaces, will not stop as much noise.
What is Noise? Anything can be a source of noise, but in terms of traffic noises, in particular, they can come from a variety of places. As stated before, cars honking or tires squealing can both produce loud, obnoxious sounds. But then again, so can someone yelling in the streets, or a dog barking at the mailman, or even a nearby parked car with music blaring from the windows.
Soundproofing Your House from Traffic Noises: List of Methods
If sound comes from vibrations, you will need a way to intercept them before they reach your eardrums. In other words, you will have to put as many effective obstacles in the way of sound so that you can enjoy a peaceful, silent day at home. Yes, sound can pass through many different obstacles, but the more of them you put between you and the noise, the more likely they will reduce the wave’s energy.
Below is a list of a few methods that can help you reduce the traffic noise in your home. Some of them might seem a bit more unconventional than others. However, they have all proven to work against everyday din that comes from passing cars and honking.
1. Install a Fountain
Do you happen to have one of those outdoor water fountains that are made from durable materials like marble or resin? If not, I suggest investing in one as soon as possible. As odd as it might sound, these fountains are one of the best ways to drown out traffic noise.
Of course, when people think of these garden fountains, they normally just assume they’re there for the decor. And make no mistake, a decent, well-placed fountain can make your yard stand out. So much so, in fact, that it can pique the interest of potential buyers, in case you decide to sell your home and move at some point.
But a fountain is so much more than just a neat little ornament. In fact, it comes with a lot of potential benefits, including but not limited to:
- Relieving stress and helping you relax
- Providing natural humidity
- Being a drinking source for your pets and wild birds
- Providing you with negative ions that purify the air
How Does a Fountain Reduce Traffic Noise?
Now, claiming that a typical water fountain will completely eliminate all traffic noise is incorrect. Obviously, there will be lots of traffic sounds that you’ll hear no matter how many fountains you set up in your front yard. For example, a car exhaust pipe backfiring will always be loud, and so will an occasional car crash or a tire squeal.
Of course, all of those noises share one thing in common. They are all sudden, short-lasting, and incredibly loud. What you need is something that can drown out the everyday noise, such as the running of a car engine.
A water fountain is an excellent choice in this regard because it produces a constant sound of splashing liquid. That sound usually moves at the same frequency as anything else outside of your window, with a few added benefits:
- It’s constant
- It’s not booming or loud
- It produces a natural, non-artificial sound, unlike cars.
Basically, a fountain will be your constant source of white noise; as long as it’s running, you won’t be hearing anything else. More importantly, you will be able to go about your day in peace. And to top it all off, the water doesn’t even need to run fast. Even a simple, light gurgle is enough to drown out most of the traffic noises outside.
Installing a Fountain
You can easily find an appropriate fountain anywhere online, and the selection is huge. However, you should keep a few things in mind. First off, remember that fountains usually don’t run in the cold winter months. Next, if you’re going to install one, make sure it’s at a place where you can hear it. The best solution would be in the front yard, close to the doors and windows of your home.
Naturally, there are other water alternatives to a fountain. For example, if you can afford it, feel free to install a water garden with a functioning waterfall. Not only will it do the same job as the fountain, but it will give your home some added curb appeal.
2. Erect a Wall or a Fence
As stated earlier, a fountain will mask the noise with the sound of its own running water. However, that won’t be enough if you want to outright block any noise from coming your way. In order to do that, you will need a solid, continuous barrier that will not let any waves pass through. With that in mind, you will need to start looking into fences or walls.
Naturally, not all fences will block the traffic noises, and homeowners know this. In order to get the most soundproof fence possible, one of the first things people look up is the material. After all, hard material should block sound more easily, right?
Well, that’s not necessarily the case. When you do a search on the best soundproofing materials, you will get extensive, detailed lists. Everything from concrete and brick to wood and foam can either dampen noise or block it out completely. In other words, materials are the least important when it comes to deciding on the best fence or wall.
What Makes a Good Soundproofing Fence or Wall?
In order to have a fence or a wall that will keep traffic sounds out of your way, you need to pay close attention to one key aspect — gaps and flows.
For sound to travel more quickly than usual, it must have as few obstacles as possible. To put it simply, walls and fences will not stop any noise if they have holes or gaps in them. So, when you’re adding a fence to your front yard, make sure it’s made of solid material with zero gaps. That way, all sound waves will simply bounce back and none of them will reach your eardrums.
But what about flowing? What exactly does that entail and how do you prevent it? The best way to illustrate that is with a few examples.
Imagine having a strong, durable fence made from solid materials, but it doesn’t reach all the way to the ground. Those gaps can be quite a hazard, and one major setback is that they allow sound to come through. For example, you can easily hear the noise of car tires passing by, since they are so low to the ground.
Alternatively, imagine having a low-level fence that’s only a few feet tall. Whether it’s made of concrete or stainless steel, the sound will still find a way around it. Well, to be precise, it will find a way over it — most of the waves will simply flow over the top of the fence and into the yard.
In short, the best fence you can get should be tall and sturdy, made of solid material with no gaps.
When Does Material Matter?
Sometimes, the layout of your house won’t allow you to erect a huge wall or fence. Alternatively, the local government might not permit erecting fences above a certain height. In these situations, you will have to pay attention to the material of your wall or fence.
So, if you can only erect a 2 ½ feet-tall garden wall, make sure it’s made out of dry-laid stone. The sheer mass of the wall will block most of the sound from the traffic outside.
3. Plant Some Trees
This particular method is quite popular, but it does come with its fair share of issues. Namely, when you google ‘using trees to soundproof your yard’, you will get millions of results that simply don’t match. Some people will claim that trees cannot drown out traffic noise, others will claim otherwise. So, let’s quickly cover both sides of this issue.
The Benefits of Trees in Soundproofing
Some sources claim that a few rows of trees can reduce as much as 7 decibels of sound. Of course, these trees would have to have thick, dense foliage and should be able to grow tall within a year. Otherwise, they might not do the trick.
You can also try additional all-natural fence solutions. For instance, plant a tall, thick hedge that’s difficult to see through, and then strategically plant a row of trees and another row of shrubs close by. That way you have every level of soundproofing covered, from top to bottom.
But it’s not just the foliage that stops the sound. The very presence of trees has a psychological effect on our brain that lets us ‘think’ we’re not close to any traffic outside. More importantly, the wind rustling through the leaves will create another source of white noise for you, next to the fountain.
In addition to soundproofing your yard, trees and shrubs can add to your home’s market value and effectively fight air pollution. Moreover, your yard will have a lot more appeal than before and the presence of trees will have a positive effect on your health and mental wellbeing.
The Flaws of Trees in Soundproofing
If you go back to how sound travels, you will immediately spot the biggest flaw with trees as soundproofing solutions. During the winter months, you won’t have any foliage, so there will be nothing that’s stopping the sound waves from reaching you. In addition, as tall as trees can get, they still won’t be tall enough to drown out any noise that reaches your home’s second-floor balcony.
4. Soundproof Your Windows
Some windows will let more noise in than others. It really depends on how many panes of glass they contain. The general rule of thumb is: the more panes your window has, the better it will insulate your home from noises.
Of course, the best option for a window frame when it comes to soundproofing is PVC. However, if you prefer natural materials, make sure that the wooden frames of your windows are in good condition. If necessary, call an expert for any potential repairs.
If you don’t have the tools or the money to fix cracks around your window panels, consider investing in new curtains. Typically, soundproof curtains are made from denser material than regular ones. As such, they can absorb any sound that comes from outside, as well as keep your own room nice and insulated from within.
However, when you’re shopping around for these curtains, make sure that they cover the wall both below and above the window. That way, no soundwaves from the outside will get past them.
5. Inspect Your Doors
Sometimes, door frames will have gaps in between that will allow sound from outside to move about freely. In order to prevent that, inspect every single door in your home. Wherever you can, install a weather stripping foam and seal off any openings. Not only will you keep the noise out, but you’ll also keep the heat in during cold days.
It’s important that you check all the doors in your home, even the ones between different rooms. Sound can travel around easily around the house, so either install soundproof curtains and weather stripping wherever you can or replace any hollow, damaged doors.
You may also like: How to Soundproof a Door with Household Items
6. Check Your Walls for Cracks
Even a small crack in the wall can allow traffic noise to reach your ears. So, one of the steps you need to undertake as soon as possible is to inspect every single wall for damage.
Normally, cracks will appear next to the areas that you already had to cut or bore through. For example, areas around window frames, electrical sockets, and ventilation grates will develop additional cracks if you don’t maintain them. So, if you notice any damage, contact a specialist or try to fill the gaps yourself with some caulk.
7. Soundproof Insulation is Key
Instead of focusing on outside soundproofing, try a few proven interior methods. For example, you can insulate your walls with various products and materials, including:
- Mass-loaded vinyl
- Ceiling panels
- Viscoelastic foam
- Neoprene rubber
Organizing Your Home to Soundproof Outside Traffic Noises
Most of the methods I listed above require a lot of investment. However, you can also try decorating your home in such a way that you can reduce all noises coming from outside, including any traffic racket.
Invest in Thick Carpeting
As odd as it might sound, some of the outside noise can come from between cracks in hardwood floors. In order to mitigate that noise, invest in either thick carpeting or a few thick rugs. They will effectively block any sound coming from below and insulate your floors. More importantly, they will provide comfort and warmth for your feet.
Rearrange the Furniture
If your wall happens to be against the open road outside, you can drown out some noise by adding an extra barrier. For example, you can move some of your furniture against that wall and dissipate some of the noise that comes in. Anything will work, from that low, three-cushion sofa to the cupboard.
Add a Massive Bookcase
This method is similar to the one above, but a bit more effective (and amazing if you’re an avid book reader). If you need to soundproof a wall close to the open traffic, simply place a bookshelf against it. Then proceed to fill that bookcase to the brim with your favorite volumes and leave no gaps. In addition, you can do your research and figure out which type of wood absorbs sound the best and use that wood as the material for your bookcase.
In today’s society, we can’t really avoid all of the traffic noise. However, with these soundproofing methods, you can at least mitigate some of that racket and live a stress-free life. And if one of these methods doesn’t help you, try mixing and matching — two methods are always better than one, after all.