The trend towards smaller block sizes and larger houses means the likelihood of having neighbours overlooking your private areas is increasing, and entertaining areas where people tend to be noisiest are in closer proximity.
Luckily, there are some handy solutions for blocking sight lines and even cutting out noise from the raucous residents next door so you can restore your backyard bliss.
Depending on where your chosen relaxation area is situated, it’s possible to block sight lines using off-the-shelf or custom-built screens. Available in a range of materials, screens can also improve a backyard by creating zones for different activities.
Contemporary backyards will benefit from screens made from modern materials such as aluminium, or laser-cut steel or plastic, with various designs available to suit your space. You could also choose screens made from timber or lattice for a more traditional look, or natural options like bark and brushwood.
If low-boundary fences don’t provide enough privacy, consider upgrading to a higher fence. Check with your local council on the maximum height of fence allowed. In most states, fences under 1.8 metres high won’t require approval, providing they meet planning guidelines regarding styles and materials.
Keep in mind that the general rule is both neighbours need to contribute equally to the cost of a new fence, unless only one party prefers a higher quality fence than standard. In that case, the neighbour who wants the premium fence needs to fork out the extra cash to cover it.
If you want to keep your existing fence but need more privacy, you can install a fence topper. These panels can be selected to match your fence and add height to the boundary without the cost of building a new one.
A living screen not only prevents neighbours from peering in, but also adds a lush backdrop to your yard. Although a dense tree canopy is ideal for blocking views, large trees can take decades to mature and roots can crack concrete, block pipes, destabilise fences and sap nutrients and water from garden beds. To provide screening, a hedge is a better solution.
One of the fastest-growing screening plants is bamboo. You can choose a variety that grows to your exact desired height, and small plants purchased from nurseries can provide screening in as little as six months, growing to full height in about two years.
Although bamboo has a bad reputation for invading garden beds and becoming impossible to remove, this is largely due to homeowners selecting the wrong variety for their yards. There is always the option of installing a bamboo fence which looks tropical, adds a resort feel but eliminates the trouble live bamboo causes.
For screening, choose clumping bamboo, as it has a neat upright growth habit and only sends new shoots up from the main growing clump. Avoid running bamboo, which sends out underground shoots and easily spreads into neighbouring yards.
A popular Australian native plant for screening is lilly pilly, as it forms a tidy hedge and grows up to two metres per year once established. In fact, there is even a variety called Neighbours-Be-Gone, known for its use as a screening plant.
Fast-growing conifers such as Leyland Cyprus are commonly used to create dense screens and hedges, although at up to 15 metres high, overshadowing can be an issue if trees aren’t pruned regularly.
With any luck, a dense hedge can cut out a lot of the noise associated with loud neighbours, but if the residents next door are particularly annoying, you’ll need to think outside the box.
A water feature will make it easier to deal with noisy neighbours, as even though it might not block out the sound completely, it will provide you with a more peaceful sound to concentrate on.
Wind chimes may have the same effect, although a lot of people tend to find them irritating. If you can stand them, perhaps your neighbours can’t, and will move their cacophony to another part of the house.
You could also be direct and politely let your neighbour know their noise is affecting your right to peace and quiet. It helps if you get to know your neighbour beforehand, as there is less chance they will take offence if the first thing you say to them isn’t to shut up.
If noise late at night or early in the morning is an ongoing issue, each state has its own noise restrictions, as well as guidelines for mediation