Depending on the location, whether you're shopping for a new home or trying to sell your current residence, one of the biggest challenges is trying to reduce street noise.
Tony Sola, founder of Acoustics.com cautions homeowners and buyers about too high expectations when it comes to reducing traffic noise.
"Too many times I have seen homeowners try to do something about the noise by adding another layer of drywall, or something to the wall itself. It's not minimal return, it's zero return. Unless you control the weak point, that does nothing," says Sola.
Sola says there are some cases where the wall might be the weak point but he says usually that's just one percent of the time. Generally the windows are the weakest noise link.
So, if you've fallen in love with a home that's perfect for you but butting up a little close to a busy road, there are options to help make the traffic less noticeable.
Starting with the interior of the house, the first area to listen closely to are the windows. They can tend to let in a significant amount of noise.
"The sound almost always goes through the window and doing anything at all to the walls will be pointless until you have fixed the noise that comes through the window," says Sola.
Windows have a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. The higher the rating the less outside noise you should hear inside the home. A typical single-pane window only has a 22-25 STC rating whereas a dual-pane window might have a STC rating of 27-32. There are also specialty windows with even higher STC ratings available.
Choosing the right STC rating depends on what you're planning to do.
"If you're looking at a STC 30 window versus a STC 33 window, you're not going to notice a huge difference in that but it might be worth it to you, if they're about the same price. But if you're looking at replacing windows and you're planning to go from a STC 30 to a STC 33, that's a lot of work to get virtually little improvement. If you can get a five or six decibel difference, then that can start to make a noticeable change," explains Sola.
Keeping sound from coming into your home is usually only part of the solution. Many people want to enjoy a traffic-noise-free backyard. This can be a little more complicated but not impossible.
"One of the first things you would look at is the barrier. If you've got a view wall or wrought iron fence that's not going to block anything, or if you have large oleander bushes, that might block the view but it doesn't block the sound at all," says Sola.
Instead he says a solid wall that doesn't have gaps in it will help a little.
"Auto noise comes from the tires. So to control auto noise the wall will work pretty well because the source is really low -- it's at ground level but truck noise -- the medium trucks or the semi truck -- comes from about eight feet off the ground, so even if you build a six, seven, or eight-foot wall, that won't help much," says Sola.
However, if you couple a barrier wall with a noise-masking system such as a water feature then you can virtually wash away the traffic sounds.
"A water feature, if done right, can work very well," says Sola.
"You wouldn't want a water feature that's just trickling water. You would want something more substantial that does have a noise level to it and more of a broad band noise," says Sola.
He says the problem with water features is they tend to be very localized. Sola says he's been to some homes where the homeowner placed one water feature in the backyard and it drowned out the traffic noise in that one area of the yard but the street noise could be heard from other parts of the backyard. He says that's when a couple of fountains might need to be used.
Getting creative is the key. Working with a sound acoustic expert and landscaper can result in a beautifully designed outdoor area that's doesn't reveal any sign of the chaotic hustle and bustle of the nearby road.