How to Block Road Noise 101
Whether you’re trying to focus on a specific task or simply enjoy some peace and quiet, road noise can be a nuisance. This can be anything from the sounds of outdoor construction, emergency vehicles with blazing sirens, or dozens of cars honking at each other during heavy rush hour traffic.
Even if you’re inside an office, school, restaurant, or government building, all types of unwanted noise can permeate and interrupt meetings, classes, meals—anything that requires or greatly benefits from silence (or at least a lack of harsh sounds). Fortunately, if you’re looking to how to deal with construction noise or block road noise from piercing through your building’s walls, there are a handful of solutions available to you.
In this guide, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about how to block road noise, including the factors that impact road noise, the principles of acoustics and how sound travels, the materials and strategies you can use to help reduce road noise, and the benefits you may experience by preventing external noise from penetrating your building.
What Factors Impact Road Noise?
In most instances, road noise comes from moving traffic. However, this isn’t always the case. Construction projects, industrial noise, trains in freight, and airplanes taking off or landing can all contribute to disruptive loud sound levels.
The final noise you hear from these elements inside your building is based on factors like the distance and the path the sound takes as it travels from its source to the building. As sound waves are disrupted or deflected, the sound will either be amplified or reduced.
For instance, sound reduces by three decibels when it hits hard surfaces like pavements, whereas it decreases by four and a half decibels when bouncing off softer surfaces, like trees.1
In general, the road noise you may hear from traffic will depend on:
- Traffic volume – Road noise is louder when cars move past a building during times of high traffic, like during rush hour when drivers are more inclined to honk their horns or when it’s easier to hear someone blasting music from their car speakers.
- Traffic speed – A car traveling at 30 miles per hour in a suburb will not be as loud as one speeding at 65 miles per hour on the highway.
- The number of vehicles – More cars driving by a building at one time will result in greater road noise levels than fewer cars driving by the same building at once.
- The size of vehicles – The engines of larger vehicles, like trucks or tractor-trailers, tend to be louder than those of smaller vehicles, like compact cars.
Besides these, other factors like vegetation, traffic management, or roadway alignment relative to a building can determine the level of road noise individuals hear inside the building.
Ways to Reduce Road Noise
Road noise reduction comes down to applying acoustics to minimize external sound to comfortable levels in your building. When we say acoustics, in this case, we’re referring to techniques used to modify sound in rooms. These techniques typically involve reducing noise through soundproofing or treatment.
When it comes to soundproofing vs acoustic treatment options, soundproofing reduces noise levels by blocking sound, whereas treatment optimizes sound to make the noise impact more pleasurable. There are also sound-absorbing materials that can help reduce noise by, you guessed it, absorbing sound.
When it comes to reducing road noise in your building, soundproofing and sound absorption are going to be the most practical and effective solutions.
Let’s explore some common ways to reduce road noise with the following soundproofing and sound-absorbing materials:
Wall Absorber Panels
Cellulose soundproof insulation was developed as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fiberglass and synthetic acoustical panels. It’s made from foam, which is an excellent material for insulating a room and absorbing any sound that may try to permeate the room from the outside.
By absorbing outdoor sound, cellulose wall absorber panels can significantly help reduce the amount of road and street noise that seeps into a room. Plus, these panels are easy to install, as they typically don’t require any special equipment.
Ceilings often contain gaps where road noise can travel into a room and create distractions. Hybrid soundproofing materials, like the Noise S.T.O.P.™ Sound Barrier Acoustical Ceiling Tiles, can help block sound from passing through these gaps in your ceilings.
These ceiling tiles are made from mass-loaded vinyl, making them suitable acoustical treatments that reduce echoes and reverberation in large rooms. This can also be beneficial during presentations, performances, or concerts in auditoriums that require high-performance acoustics.
Inter-Layer Sound Blockers
One of the most versatile sound blockers on the market is a viscoelastic damping compound—a sealant that reduces sound vibrations transmitted from one room to another.
Using this type of inter-layer sound blocker is an easy and effective way to minimize road noise transmitted via the gaps in your building’s structure, as it’s applied in the same way that caulking is. Viscoelastic damping compounds are also:
- Pre-mixed, meaning no other materials are required for use
- Non-toxic, meaning use within schools or restaurants is safe
- Affordable, meaning they’re widely accessible
At Acoustical Surfaces, our viscoelastic damping compound, Green Glue, offers an incredible cost/performance ratio compared to other materials, like drywall.
For businesses operating in historical buildings, climate seal solutions like the Climate Seal Acoustic Window Inserts can reduce sound by as much as 60%. Offices, restaurants, and hotels can all benefit from these types of sound blockers, as they reduce road noise levels and act as thermal insulators. This means they may help to keep cool air in your building during the summer and warm air in your building during the winter, lessening your electrical usage and bills.
Additionally, climate seals are easy to install, can be removed for cleaning, and are typically very subtle, meaning they should have minimal impact on your building’s aesthetic.
If you’re a contractor doing construction work near residential or commercial buildings, you can reduce the noise you produce by using an outdoor acoustic sound barrier. Specifically, the echo barrier is a reusable material that can dramatically reduce your outdoor noise levels.
The echo barrier is quick to install and can be attached to temporary or permanent fencing, limiting road noise levels in suburbs or cities. These barriers are also weatherproof, so they can be used at any time of the year and in any climate.
Not to mention the echo barrier can also help you comply with construction noise ordinances, which are common in cities like New York City.2
Benefits of Blocking Road Noise
Although installing sound absorbing or soundproofing material to reduce road noise may require time and financial investment, there are several benefits that can make the effort well worthwhile.
What are some of the benefits of blocking road noise?
#1 Improved Sound and Fewer Distractions
Road noise can be incredibly distracting during meetings, presentations, or classes. This can cause participants to strain as they listen to a speaker and can make information hard to hear.
For instance, if a poorly soundproofed office building is located right next to a construction site, employees in meetings might become distracted by the continuous noise and miss out on information that’s critical to your company’s future. However, soundproofing can reduce these noise levels, improve sound clarity, and make meetings more comfortable for all participants.
The same applies to classroom settings in schools where loud road noise can distract students, preventing them from focusing on the lessons at hand. Blocking road noise can eliminate this distraction so that your students can concentrate on their studies and excel in class.
#2 Optimal Ambiance
Blocking road noise can also help create the right ambiance, which is particularly important for businesses like restaurants. When customers don’t have to listen to loud outdoor noises (like sirens or construction) while having a meal, they’re more likely to enjoy the entire dining experience and return in the future.
Likewise, road noise can hinder operations for other businesses that need silence to function optimally, like:
- Therapy offices
- Massage therapy offices
- Auditoriums used for musical or theatrical performances
- Institutions where sensitive information is discussed, like a bank
By blocking road noise in these instances, you can create a more comfortable atmosphere for your customers, guests, and staff.
#3 Reduced Stress Levels
Interestingly, studies have shown that consistent exposure to road noise can increase stress levels and worsen underlying health conditions like diabetes.3
This means that regardless of what type of building you own or operate, reducing road noise can significantly impact your health and the health of everyone else in the building. When it comes to employees and students, less stress means a more pleasurable work or school experience and in turn, more motivation and better productivity.
Find the Best Solution for Your Road Noise with Acoustical Surfaces
If you’re looking to block road noise, consider working with a team of experts who understand the ins and outs of sound control in buildings and room acoustics and can help you find the right material to soundproof your building and optimize its sound quality.
At Acoustical Surfaces, we take pride in helping you identify your noise problem and determine which solution will best meet your sound needs. To learn more about how to block road noise at your business, contact us today.
- Transportation.org. Traffic Noise & Transportation. https://environment.transportation.org/education/environmental-topics/traffic-noise/traffic-noise-overview/
- NYC.gov. Construction Noise Rules Regulations & Forms. https://www.nyc.gov/site/dep/environment/construction-noise-rules-regulations.page
- PubMed. Association of Long-Term Exposure to Transportation Noise and Traffic-Related Air Pollution with the Incidence of Diabetes: A Prospective Cohort Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783665/