There is a solution available, however. Using its expertise in developing noise-reducing fence panels for motorways across the UK, BSW Timber has developed a version called Soundshield for residential use that is effective, affordable and attractive. Soundshield has been proven to reduce noise levels by 22 dB in independent laboratory tests. To put this into perspective, many scientific studies state that a 10 dB reduction in noise to the human ear can provide up to a 50% reduction of loudness.
Manufactured in the UK from responsibly-sourced timber, the lightweight panels are installed as modules for convenience and can even fit between existing posts, which makes it easy to replace old fence panels. Horizontal fence boards ensure that the modular panels blend into one another seamlessly and using both sides of the panel creates a run that is aesthetically attractive from any angle.
Unlike traditional garden fence panels, the Soundshield system has sound-damping technology within its core that’s built-in around the framework. Panels are clad not just on one side of the fence, but on both sides using carefully selected high-density pressure-treated boards. These boards are overlapped and connected securely in a way that helps prevent any gaps appearing between joints that you would expect to see in traditional garden fence panels.
The challenge with producing an acoustic fence system for domestic applications is keeping the weight and ease of installation comparable to standard fence panels. Using a cleverly patented jointing system, Soundshield panels are installed in two ‘half-sized’ modules and interlock together to make the full height.
Do I need planning permission?
Generally, no planning permission is required for any type of fencing under 2m in height unless it is within the curtilage of a listed building. However, if your property is next to a highway or footpath, it cannot exceed 1m without planning permission.
Traditionally, garden fencing was used to mark a boundary and to offer a degree of security but now fencing, with the wealth of styles available, offers so much more. It can be used not only to frame your garden, but also to transform the look and feel of your outdoor space.
There are many different choices; solid fencing, like featherboard or tongue and groove panels, can create valuable privacy, increase security and reduce noise, whereas semi-solid styles, like fashionable Venetian horizontal slatted panels and forms of trellis, can add light and air, also creating great shade effects. So the type of fencing you choose is very dependent on your individual needs.
Standard fence panel heights usually start at 0.3m through to 1.8m with several heights in between. No planning permission is required for a wall or fence that is under 2m in height. However, if that wall or fence is adjacent to a highway, including a footpath, then the height cannot exceed 1m without planning permission. You should always check with your local council planning department if you are thinking of installing anything higher.
As an experienced self-builder, you will be well aware that you get what you pay for when buying materials and fencing is no exception. There are many products on the market that look similar, but be warned cheaper versions will not last more than a few years, the varying quality of the timber and how it has been treated is key. Look for solidity in the fence panel, does it look strong and feel heavy? If it feels flimsy and lightweight, then that’s what it is! Properly kiln-dried and pressure-treated timber will cost a bit more but can last five times longer than cheaper alternatives. It’s worth enquiring about whether there is a guarantee, some suppliers offer long guarantees against the fence and posts rotting.
Good quality fixings that won’t rust are very important, use heavily galvanised or stainless steel fixings, to hold everything in place for many years. Make sure you use gravel boards. These are a strong and durable board, usually about 150mm-high, by 28mm-deep, by 1.83m-long, that run horizontally between the posts on the ground, below the panel. They help protect the bottom of the panel from resting on damp earth and are made from a specific type of wood that, when treated, is resistant to rot. Fence posts should also be treated and made from this class of timber so that they won’t rot when in contact with the ground.
Dig proper foundations – no matter how good your posts are, they won’t stay up unless you have them dug in to the correct depth, at least 600mm and with plenty of concrete to secure them in the holes.
If you live in a very exposed area that is subjected to a lot of wind, choose a semi-solid panel that offers less wind resistance.