Urban Trees and Root Control

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What Are Tree Root Barriers?

Tree root barriers are physical barriers installed around a tree to redirect roots down and away from infrastructure like foundations, sidewalks, and pipes. They are made from plastic, fabric, or other materials and create an impenetrable wall that tree roots cannot penetrate and cause further damage.

Redirect Tree Roots

Root barriers work by blocking invasive horizontal root growth and guiding roots downwards away from potential targets, such as an area where there is more water and nutrients. They do not actually stop roots from growing, but simply redirect them. This helps preserve the health of the tree while also protecting infrastructure.

Some root barrier materials like chemical-impregnated fabric can retard root elongation for years, but in general the barriers just obstruct roots physically without harming the tree. Root barriers provide a sustainable, non-invasive way that is essential in managing invasive root growth, preserving the root and preventing damage.

Benefits of Root Barriers

Root barriers provide several key benefits that make them an attractive alternative to tree removal or excessive root pruning.

One of the main advantages of root barriers is that they allow mature trees to be preserved. Removing a large, established tree can negatively impact property value, aesthetics and the local ecosystem. Root barriers enable homeowners to keep their trees intact while still protecting against damage.

Additionally, root barriers prevent future structural damage, by containing roots within a designated space. Studies show that linear and vertical barriers redirect at least 85% of new root growth downward and away from foundations and pipes. This proactive protection means expensive repairs may be avoided.

Compared to the disruption of removing a mature tree, installing root barriers is relatively minimally invasive. It also requires less ongoing maintenance than frequent root pruning, making it a more sustainable long-term solution.

Types of Root Barriers

There are three main types of root barriers that can be installed to protect foundations of buildings and infrastructure from invasive tree roots:

Linear Root Barriers

Linear root barriers are long strips of material that are installed in a trench alongside foundations, driveways, or other infrastructure you want to protect. They create a vertical barrier that redirects roots down and away from the protected asset. Linear barriers are often made of tough plastic material and can be attached to the foundation wall before backfilling the trench.

Surround Root Barriers

As the name implies, surround tree root control barriers fully envelope the root zone area around a tree. They provide a 360 degree barricade against invading surface roots. Surround barriers are commonly constructed out of rigid panels that interlock to form a continuous barricade around a set perimeter from a tree.

Vertical Root Barriers

Vertical root barriers are implanted vertically into the ground or soil around a tree to form a barricade against deep lateral roots. They extend down 2-3 feet deep and sever roots or redirect them away from the protected area. Vertical barriers are often made from durable plastics or fabric material.

Effectiveness and Limitations

When installed correctly, tree root barriers can be very effective at redirecting roots down and away from foundations, pipes, construction areas, signs and other infrastructure. The success rates is over 90% in preventing future root damage when barriers are installed before any issues arise. However, root barriers do have some limitations:

Root barriers are less effective for mature trees with extensive pre-existing root systems. They work best on younger trees or as a preventative measure to minimise invasive root growth. Barriers can also be breached by especially aggressive or dense root masses. Thicker commercial root barriers, perform better than DIY plastic options.

Root barriers should extend deep enough underground to block the problematic roots. Barriers less than 24 inches may only redirect shallow feeder roots. Proper installation is also key - any gaps or spaces allow roots through. Monitoring and maintenance are required to ensure the barrier remains intact over time.

Overall, root barriers are a simple and sustainable option for most homeowners compared to removing mature trees. However, they may not be as foolproof with invasive tree species or in situations with extensive prior root damage.

Using With Other Solutions

Root barriers can be combined with tree removal and root pruning as part of a layered approach to managing invasive tree roots. By pruning back the existing problem roots, you can provide immediate relief and protect your foundation and infrastructure. The root barrier can then be installed to redirect any new root growth down and away from structures.

Root pruning excavates problem tree roots and allows space for a vertical root barrier to be installed. The barrier encourages any new roots to grow away from foundations and pipes. Periodic root pruning may still be needed in the future, but the selective root pruning barrier provides long-term prevention against future root invasion and damage.

Using root barriers and root pruning together provides both immediate relief from invasive roots as well as lasting preventative protection. Pruning tackles existing issues while root barriers protect against future root growth. It's an effective layered approach to root management for homeowners seeking sustainable long-term root management.

Browse our extensive range of urban tree root control products and solutions, or for more information contact the helpful team at StrataGreen.