Reducing noise in your outdoor spaces can be an even bigger challenge than inside the home. Trucks, cars, planes, air conditioners, lawn mowers, dogs barking, neighbor's music … all these contribute to your outdoor noise pollution. Bouncing the sound waves back toward the source is probably the most effective solution. • This is best accomplished by a wall or fence, and the thicker and taller the better. Any space underneath the fence will allow noise from car tires through, and a low wall allows sound waves to come over the top. Most areas have ordinances on fence height so creating as close to a solid fence as possible, right to the ground and as tall as the ordinances allow, is often the best we can do. Remember, any holes or openings between slats will allow the sound waves to come through. • A fountain is another good way to help with noise reduction. The sound of splashing water is a similar frequency to the hum of an AC unit, therefore the splashing water creates a "white noise" that in effect cancels the sound of the AC. But in order for this method to be effective, the fountain must be placed in close proximity to your gathering area in the garden. • Evidence indicates that plants have little effect on sound absorption (a planting bed would need to be 50 feet deep to absorb sound from a busy road), but certain plants — such as bamboo — can also create a white noise effect with the rustling of their leaves in a breeze.
Scott Scherschel and Chip Vogel are designers with Interior Spaces Inc. If you have a design question for Interior Spaces, email your question with a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org. A solution could be used in a future article.