How to Prevent Garden Noise Disturbing Your Neighbours
From simple rugs to acoustic fences, here are some noise-dampening ideas to keep you in your neighbours’ good books
With people living in close proximity and many using their outside spaces more than ever, exterior acoustics have become a big issue. Thanks to these stylish sound-absorbing solutions, however, you can reduce the impact on your neighbours.
As a general rule, sound waves reflect off hard, smooth materials and are absorbed or diffused by porous, pliable surfaces. This is why concrete stairwells are akin to echo chambers, while a recording studio of the same size – with foam-clad walls – absorbs sound and reduces reverberations.
Of all the natural building materials we use, timber is one of the best at absorbing and diffusing sound waves. Decking, like this in a garden by Anna Carin Design, helps to turn down the volume more than concrete, tiles or brick.
Tip Slatted timber furniture can also marginally improve exterior acoustics – every little detail helps.
Renting (or simply reluctant to build a deck)? Try using timber decking tiles instead. They’re removable, so you can take them with you to your next home. Also sometimes called wood paving or decking boards, they come in a variety of woods and finishes.
Decking tiles sit on top of your existing outdoor flooring, so they’re great for concealing old stained pavers and unattractive areas. They can usually be used to cover a small balcony in a single afternoon.
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Timber battens pack a powerful punch when it comes to noise reduction, as well as making a strong statement. Battens can be used to create privacy screens or space dividers, to clad raised beds, or to add texture to balcony ceilings and exterior walls.
If you have an undercover alfresco area that could benefit from some timber battens, it may even be possible to use a noise-absorbing material backing, such as gauze or scrim, which will further soak up the sound.
This entertaining deck in by Goodmanors Pool + Garden uses a dark contrasting backing, the colour of which can be customised to your taste.
With some strategic planning, plantation shutters can be designed to have similar sound-diffusing properties as timber battens and decking.
So if you have a covered patio area, consider shutters for occasions when the decibels rise. These white louvred ones, for instance, help insulate this home from north-east Australia’s intense heat, but also help to contain noise. As with all things acoustic, the more area you cover, the more sound you’ll diffuse.
Need to bring some hush to your garden? Acoustic panels have long harnessed innovative technology to help soundproof interiors, and now these noise-cancelling designs are moving outdoors to replace traditional fences and walls.
This ModularWalls system, which combines sound-absorbing composite fibre cement and EPS sandwich panels with the structural strength of a high-tensile post system, is in Australia, but there are several suppliers of acoustic fences in the UK.
In the same way carpet can act as an interior sound-soaker, so too can outdoor rugs. Both are a richly textured material with an expansive surface area, which is key in sound diffusion.
Exterior rugs are usually made from water-resistant synthetic fibres, so they’re less efficient at absorbing sound than indoor rugs made from natural fibres, but they should nevertheless help to improve your exterior acoustics when laid to cover a hard surface, even if just marginally.
Although different textiles have different sound-absorption qualities, any fabric is better than nothing when it comes to reducing outdoor noise levels. Thicker, highly textured weaves and natural fibres are usually better at absorbing sound, so if you’ve received some noise complaints and are thinking of installing an awning, try opting for one of these exterior-grade textiles.
The sheer romance of outdoor curtains is enough of a reason alone to hang some whimsical drapes from your balcony, pergola or outdoor entertaining space. The fact they can also dampen sound is a bonus, allowing you to sit back and enjoy an alfresco evening with friends.
Tip Fabric umbrellas can also help diffuse sound outdoors, especially if you position them over your main entertaining area and combine them with other measures, such as alfresco rugs.
We all know soft furnishings are the first step to improving acoustics inside, and the same rule applies outside the home. Scatter some outdoor cushions, throw a cosy blanket on a chair, hang up a cushion-filled hammock, opt for outdoor furniture with upholstered seats and backs, and, if you’re entertaining, unfurl a table runner and napkins to help bring the decibels down a notch.
Soft furnishings are just a small piece of the puzzle and, with acoustics, most things result in only a slight noise reduction. It’s when you combine multiple details within a single space that you’ll notice a significant drop in noise… and your neighbours should, too.
Finally, if you’ve been looking for an excuse not to mow the lawn or prune the garden, here it is: just like fabric and soft furnishings, leaves, flowers, plant stems and tree trunks can help to dampen and diffuse sound when grown en masse.
So go on, be a good neighbour – put down the secateurs and invite the people next door over for lunch instead. Did we mention that healthy neighbourly relations are another great tool in solving exterior acoustic issues?
How have you combated poor acoustics? Share your tips and tricks in the Comments.