Summer BBQ season is upon us, which for many means sunshine, sausages and paddling pools in the backyard garden.

But as urban pressures grow and neighbours increasingly spend most of their time in the backyard garden within earshot of each other, there are also more tensions around exterior acoustics.

If you’re prone to throwing many a loud outdoor party then you might want to design your garden in a way to minimise noise travelling across your boundary fences.

There are ways to minimise, distract and soften noise, ranging from concrete barriers to acoustic panels.

But as with everything, it is impossible to live in an isolated bubble, so if these tricks don’t work then try talking to your neighbours and compromising on a solution.

Or better yet, invite them over to your backyard garden for an occasional steak sandwich and potato salad to help keep tensions at bay.

outdoor area
There are plenty of ways to minimise noise in your garden if you’re keen on hosting backyard soirees. Photo: iStock

Choose the right materials 

Donna Stanish of Auckland based landscape design company Seed Landscapes said if space and budget allowed, then brick, concrete filled block or rock walls were best for cutting down the noise from your garden.

“They can reduce noise by up to 50 per cent. They are relatively expensive and require a wide footing, so when space is at a premium may not be the best option.”

​Stanish said these options were also widely used to reduce road noise on front boundaries.

“Timber fences are more cost effective but they need to be built in a tight formation style such as shiplap. The more dense the timber, such as a hardwood over pine, will also contribute to its noise reduction properties,” Stanish said.

Curating your perfect autumnal evening should involve all the senses.
Choosing the right materials is essential if you want to keep things quiet. Photo: Stocksy

She also said the denser the timber then the more expensive the price.

Other options were brushwood-style fences, which could dampen noise, but these needed to be fairly thick and this style of fence didn’t suit all backyard gardens. It also broke down over time.

Glasson Huxtable director Mark Huxtable said traditional barriers such as block or brick could be an effective tool in reducing noise from your garden.

“A standard timber fence without gaps will reduce a little noise; this capacity varies depending on the thickness of the material,” he said.

Modern courtyard with pool
Water features can help distract from outside noise. Photo: iStock 

Huxtable said the least effective option was a corrugated steel fence.

Acoustical Society secretary James Whitlock said to stop sound travelling from place to place, a solid barrier that blocked line of sight was the key.

“For example, a close-boarded fence or block wall. It doesn’t have to be particularly heavy,” he said.

The key aspects were that it needed to be high enough and have no gaps underneath or between palings and panels.

Acoustic panels were becoming more readily available for outdoor use. Photo: Stocksy

He said lightweight concrete blocks and panels were a “newish” solution.

“They sit on the ground and have mortar between blocks.”

Whitlock said there was nothing acoustically special about blocks or concrete solutions but they worked well because they were solid with no gaps.

A timber fence built as an acoustic barrier could cost up to 50 per cent more than a standard fence, he said.

While the menu is certainly a prime consideration, a solid music plan is a must. After all, no one likes a quiet party.
While the menu is certainly a prime consideration, a solid music plan is a must. After all, no one likes a quiet party. Photo: iStock

Plants as a buffer 

Stanish said hedging or planting as a noise barrier needed to be used in conjunction with other tools.

“They don’t have a lot of noise reducing properties alone. They can be allowed to grow above the height of the fencing and can give you the impression of less noise as you will have created a cosseted space in your private garden,” she said.

​Huxtable recommended plants with dense, thick evergreen leaves to help reduce noise.

He agreed planting didn’t reduce noise by much, but if a thick hedge was planted in conjunction with a barrier, this could both soften noise flow and also help to create a more private space in your garden and filter out pollution.

Family celebration outside in the backyard. Big garden party.
There are ways to minimise, distract and soften noise in your garden, ranging from concrete barriers to acoustic panels. Photo: iStock

Distractions can work 

Stanish said a water feature with a trickling sound could put attention on it and distract from outside noise.

“Playing music when entertaining and encouraging birds in your garden will further place your attention within your garden,” she said.

Acoustic panels 

Stanish said acoustic panels were becoming more readily available for outdoor use, though these could look quite industrial.

You might want to design your garden in a way to minimise noise travelling across your boundary fences. Photo: iStock

“I would explore the options for breaking up the solid look of the panels with other options. A landscape designer will be able to help you out with softening and integrating the final look and feel of the product in your garden,” she said.

Huxtable said urban pressures were growing and so acoustic fences and walls were slowly becoming more commonplace and were a very effective way of reducing noise.

“There are typically solid panels made with a variety of materials. Timber acoustic fences are more lightweight and less likely to be damaged by earthquake activity than traditional blockwork or brick walls,” he said.

This story originally appeared on 

This article written by Shabnam Dastgheib

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