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I am helping a friend rebuilding an house he recently bought.

One of the issues with it is that he only has a front garden and its in a very busy street, with cars. It would be nice to reduce that noise.

Are there any "hard" solutions, preferably with good aesthetics, that may help to break the noise?

Are bushes a good solution or should he use something else?

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Foliage won't do much unless it's very dense and a fairly wide strip--say 50 feet thick or more. Instead, you'll need to look to solid-panel fencing to block and deflect sound energy.

The problem is likely that there are other homes nearby, which will reflect sound from several directions. You may not be able to accomplish significant noise abatement with that consideration.

As they say in real estate, the three most important assets of a property are location, location, and location. This is a case in point. My current home has a highway a few hundred yards away, and we hear it almost constantly. Eventually our ears tend to become accustomed to ambient sound and it's less of an annoyance.

More information

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Yeah a solid wall will be best, but for what it's worth, if you are considering plants, go hedges. Besides hedges, generally, look for evergreens so that the sound will be blocked in winter, too. I think bamboo is also good, but it usually requires a lot of maintenance because it likes to spread.

Also a water fountain (maybe for a koi pond) can help drown out some noise.

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  • note that some jurisdictions may not allow you to install bamboo. "likes to spread" is a huge understatement! – DrewJordan Apr 5 '16 at 16:21
  • @DrewJordan Thank you for the comment about checking local laws about bamboo (good point). But how all plants spread, depends on the area and species... so sage advice would be to choose whatever plants according to your geographic criteria. – Ben Welborn Apr 5 '16 at 16:27
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Reducing the road noise when you're in the garden is more or less impossible in this situation. Chalk it up to poor urban planning that this is even a problem to begin with. Huh, maybe "planning" is part of the problem…

Anyway, there's at least hope for blocking the sound for people inside the house. Adding more insulation is virtually guaranteed to help, especially insulation that is more "massive" than fiberglass batts are: things like mineral wool batts or dense-packed cellulose in the stud cavities, and mineral wool boards, or polyiso foam boards outboard of them on the outside.

Making another part of the all (preferably the interior) thicker and more massive helps too, but that's hard with typical crappy stud frame construction. However a version of this could be accomplished by thickening up the drywall, or using denser, 5/8" fire-rated drywall.

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