Abstract The damping efficiency of an impact damper with granular materials in a horizontally vibrating system is investigated by means of the discrete element method. This method makes it possible to consider effects of granularity such as the particle size, number of particles and friction between two particles. The validity of this numerical method is examined by a comparison of the experimental results. It is shown that the mass ratio, particle size and cavity dimensions influence the damping performance. It is also shown that the cavity dimensions and the particle radius affect the behavior of the granular materials.