Road Block
April 19, 2006 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I recently bought a house that fronts a busy street that is also quite popular with the bass thumping, custom exhaust crowd. Anyone have any advice on building a tasteful noise abatement fence or wall?

It seems there are a lot of specialized commercial products out there, but not much for the average homeowner to purchase and install themselves. The local fencing contractors in Austin that I've talked to haven't been much help either. Has anyone here had any experience trying this, or can point me somewhere that might have good advice. Would a concrete block wall work significantly better than stucco? Would that make much more of a difference than board and baton fencing? It is a really large area, so I'm trying to get that the most inexpensive solution, but I don't want something that is so ineffectual that I have to staple pillows to the front of it just to open my window.
posted by TahitiBlue to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
If you have the space, and your local codes allow, you might look into constructing a berm as part or all of your noise reduction solution.
posted by paulsc at 3:07 PM on April 19, 2006

Something effective is not going to be very cheap. Somebody on a very busy intersection in Cambridge Mass, somewhere near Harvard Square, years ago surrounded their yard with a serpentine brick wall about 6 feet high. I was told once that this was designed by some acoustical expert specifically to maximize sound exclusion. That could have been a lot of baloney, but a serpentine brick wall also has the advantage of being more stable than a straight one even if just one brick thick, offers interesting landscaping opportunities, and certainly ought to reduce the sound. Here are photos of the same kind of wall, as built by Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia.
posted by beagle at 3:07 PM on April 19, 2006

AHA. Great technical writeup here! Includes serpentine and other versions.
posted by beagle at 3:12 PM on April 19, 2006

Sorry, I hit the post button prematurely. I meant to say that properly designed and constructed berms can do a great deal to deflect and contain traffic noise, and dollar for dollar can be one of the most effective and low impact and low maintenance solutions.

Even if you don't have the space or funds to construct a completely effective berm only solution, a low berm can provide a very effective foundation for a noise control barrier, as the Wikipedia article linked above suggests. Block walls can be effective in noise abatement, but they have esthetic drawbacks.
posted by paulsc at 3:17 PM on April 19, 2006

These guys, link, suggest that a homeowner can install double pane windows and improved insulation to reduce the soudn inside and that plants can obscure the sound.
posted by deanj at 3:39 PM on April 19, 2006

beagle: your link... isn't.
posted by I Love Tacos at 4:41 PM on April 19, 2006

Something effective is not going to be very cheap.

Or attractive. Double (or triple) pane glass will go a long way, and insulating the outside walls on that side might help. Unfortunately, you've picked a less-than-ideal location, so all solutions will be band-aids rather than complete solutions.

Here's a tip, though: there are companies out there who specialize in installation of sound-deadening solutions in homes near airports. I recommend contacting a few.

Final thought: how's your local government? You can petition to have the street in front of your house pegged as a no-cruising zone, perhaps, so that police can ticket the loud-radio crowd. They have these in certain areas of LA.
posted by davejay at 5:32 PM on April 19, 2006

+1 on local government. Request a targeted patrol by the local precinct. A cop cruizing by every hour or so at the appropriate hours will move the crowd along.
posted by jmgorman at 5:50 PM on April 19, 2006

The cedar slat SoundFence from Acoustic Sciences Corporation looks like it could be installed by a handy homeowner:
ASC supplies the 2" thick sound absorbing panel that is nested inside of a double-sided fence, along with an instruction sheet on assembling the system. We supply the panels in 8' sections that fit between the upper and lower fence rail of a fence with posts on 8-foot centers. Custom sizes are available to accomodate fences from 3' to 8' tall.
See their PDF flyer for more info. They also offer a berm-fence-baffle combo called the EarthWall.

We've installed several Warm Window Insuated Shades at our house. They must be cut and sewn to size, but they're very effective in reducing outside noise, especially when combined with double-pane windows.
posted by cenoxo at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2006

I have the same problem, only with motorcyclists. I've watched cops pull over kids with loud stereos, but middle-aged white guys with even louder bikes are given free pass. Double-paned glass and well-insulated walls work great for the parts of the year you keep your home closed up, but not this time of year. I'll be looking back on these solutions when I move somewhere more permenant.
posted by jaysus chris at 8:25 PM on April 19, 2006

Sorry, try this:
AHA! Great technical writeup here!
posted by beagle at 4:45 AM on April 20, 2006

I remember a few years ago reading about someone's idea of building a device that did something to blow out the speakers of these annoying-as-fu*k cars with too much bass. I don't recell if the device was ever built or even how it was supposed to work (reverse polarity?) but I thought it was a much-needed solution at the time.

Imagine every time some small-penised asshole drives by with bass so loud your windows shake, you could just press a button and poof their big-ass speakers get ruined.

Maybe it's just wishful thinking. I doubt such a device exists or is even possible to build.
posted by camworld at 7:38 AM on April 20, 2006

I have a similar problem and was thinking about planting bamboo to form a screen.
posted by zonkout at 8:19 AM on April 20, 2006

Shrubs and trees block a lot of noise as well as beautifying your property.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:54 PM on April 20, 2006

for effective noise control you need two things: a impermiable barrier to stop highs and lots of mass to absorb lows. The classic solution is concrete or masonary. If you don't mind getting dirty and local code allow you can construct tip up concrete walls that attach to steel posts fairly cheap. The only cost is of the cement, gravel and sand. For your purposes where the wall/fence won't be load bearing you can also mix in lightweight aggragates to make the panels easier to handle.

jaysus chris writes "I've watched cops pull over kids with loud stereos, but middle-aged white guys with even louder bikes are given free pass."

Of course; middle age white guys can afford lawyers that can make harrassment charges stick.
posted by Mitheral at 11:33 AM on April 21, 2006

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