Drowning Out the Noise

Hubbard considered another tactic for dealing with noise that reached the front yard of the house: a fountain fashioned from a rustic granite watering trough and a copper spigot. Running water has long been employed to "drown out" extraneous noise and create a sense of serenity — picture the fountains in medieval cloisters or Japanese gardens. Gurgling water creates a continuous sound that is in the same frequency range as other less desirable sounds, such as lawn mowers, air conditioners, and people talking, but because the fountain is nearby, its sound dominates. Today, we call this "white noise."

To be most effective at masking noise, fountains need to be close to the listener — right next to your outdoor area or up against the house. But they don't need to be elaborate or expensive. "Fountains are pretty simple," says Roger. "They can be any vessel that holds water — a stone birdbath, a copper tub, an urn — fitted with a recirculation pump."

But fountains are generally seasonal, often connected to a home's water supply or irrigation system and shut off at summer's end. And they can't camouflage sharp, loud sounds like horns or alarms.

In the end, the TOH team decided not to install a fountain at Carlisle. The expense and trouble wasn't worth the benefit of masking noise near the front door, since most of the outdoor seating and entertaining areas are out back.

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