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Root Barrier

Installing a Root Barrier: Pros, Cons, and Methods

As trees grow, their roots spread, and this can cause certain issues to the house. To mitigate such issues, one popular solution that’s been adopted is the use of a root barrier. This article delves into root barriers, their advantages, disadvantages, and the methods to install them effectively.

What is a Root Barrier?

A root barrier is a shield or a barrier installed underground. It’s typically made from materials like plastic, metal, or certain fabrics, designed to redirect or stop tree roots from growing in specific directions. By doing this, the root barrier offers foundations protection, ensuring that structures like houses, pavements, and walls remain undamaged from intruding tree roots.

Pros of Installing a Root Barrier

Foundations Protection

The primary purpose and perhaps the most significant benefit of root barriers lies in the realm of foundations protection. Building foundations, often made from concrete or brick, are susceptible to pressure and intrusions from growing tree roots. As these roots expand in search of water and nutrients, they can exert considerable force against the foundations. Over time, this relentless push can lead to cracks, fissures, or even significant shifts in the foundation. Such damages not only compromise the safety of the structure but can also lead to costly repairs. Enter the root barrier.

With a strategically installed root barrier, these roots are either halted in their path or redirected, ensuring that they do not interfere with the foundation. Consequently, the structural integrity of the building remains uncompromised, and the dwellers can enjoy peace of mind.

Preservation of Trees

Trees are nature’s gift, providing oxygen, shelter to wildlife, aesthetic beauty, and playing a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance. Often, when roots threaten infrastructures, the immediate response might be to consider removing the tree. However, with root barriers, such drastic measures can be avoided.

Root barriers serve as a mediator between man-made structures and nature. By installing them, homeowners and urban planners can ensure that trees continue to thrive without posing a threat to nearby structures. This harmonious coexistence allows for the preservation of the environment while still ensuring safety and structural integrity. Thus, root barriers play a pivotal role in allowing urban spaces to be green and sustainable.

Reduced Maintenance Costs

Any homeowner or property manager knows that maintenance costs can quickly add up, especially when dealing with foundational issues. One of the significant culprits of these foundation damages is tree roots. Repairing foundational damages can be not only expensive but also disruptive, often requiring residents to vacate the premises temporarily. However, with the foresight to install a root barrier, many of these issues can be preemptively addressed.

The root barrier acts as a defensive shield, stopping roots from causing harm in the first place. Over the long term, this proactive approach translates to significantly minimized maintenance costs, saving property owners both time and money.


One of the standout features of root barriers is their flexibility. Recognizing that every landscape, tree type, and building structure is unique, the market offers root barriers in various materials and sizes. From malleable materials like certain fabrics and plastics to sturdier options like metal, there’s a root barrier for every situation. Moreover, they can be cut, adjusted, and molded to fit specific requirements, offering a tailored solution for each foundation’s protection needs. This adaptability ensures that whether you’re dealing with a sprawling tree in a residential backyard or multiple trees in an urban setting, there’s a root barrier designed to offer optimal protection.

Cons of Installing a Root Barrier

Initial Installation Costs

While root barriers offer a proactive and preventive approach to foundations protection, they come with their initial costs. High-quality root barriers, which tend to offer better protection, usually come with a higher price tag. Add to this the professional installation fees, and the initial outlay can be substantial. For homeowners and property developers, it’s essential to weigh these upfront costs against the long-term savings in foundations protection to determine if the investment is viable.

Potential Damage to Trees

Root barriers, when improperly installed or used without considering the specific needs of the tree species, can inadvertently damage the trees they’re designed to work around. Trees rely on their extensive root systems to draw water and essential nutrients from the soil. A root barrier that’s too extensive or restrictive can limit a tree’s ability to access these vital resources, leading to stunted growth, malnourishment, or even tree death in extreme cases.

Not Always 100% Effective

Root barriers are an innovative solution to an age-old problem, but they’re not foolproof. Trees have evolved over millennia to be incredibly resilient, and their roots can sometimes display remarkable tenacity. Depending on the species and the conditions, some tree roots can grow quite aggressive. These roots, in their persistent search for water and nutrients, might find ways to bypass the barrier, either by growing deeper than expected or exploiting gaps or weaknesses in the barrier system. In such cases, despite the presence of a root barrier, foundations protection might still be compromised.

Periodic Maintenance

The installation of a root barrier is not a “set it and forget it” solution. For them to remain effective in providing foundations protection, periodic checks and maintenance are necessary. Over time, natural elements, soil movements, or even the persistent pressure from tree roots can lead to wear and tear on the barrier. Sections may get dislodged, or gaps might form. Regular inspections ensure that these issues are caught early and addressed promptly. While root barriers do indeed reduce the costs associated with repairing foundation damages, they introduce a new set of maintenance responsibilities for the property owner.

Methods of Installing a Root Barrier

As our understanding of the intricate relationship between urban structures and the natural environment deepens, the techniques and tools we use for foundations protection have evolved. One such tool is the root barrier. However, not all root barriers are created equal, nor are they installed in the same manner. The choice of installation method often depends on the specific challenges posed by the site, the type of trees involved, and the kind of barrier being used. Here’s an in-depth look at the various methods of installing root barriers:

Dig and Place

This method stands as the most traditional and commonly used approach for installing root barriers. The process is quite straightforward. A trench is dug, typically between the tree whose roots you wish to manage and the structure that requires foundations protection. The depth and width of the trench depend on the tree species and the anticipated growth pattern of its roots. Once the trench is adequately prepared, the root barrier material, be it plastic, fabric, or metal, is positioned vertically within it. Once in place, the trench is backfilled, leaving the root barrier as an underground shield for foundations protection.

Mechanical Trenching

When the area to be protected is vast or when the soil is particularly compacted or rocky, manual digging becomes impractical. That’s where mechanical trenchers come into play. These powerful machines are designed to create trenches swiftly, cutting through the ground far more efficiently than human labor could manage. Mechanical trenching ensures a consistent depth and width for the trench, which is vital for the effectiveness of the root barrier. By automating the trenching process, it becomes feasible to install root barriers over larger areas, ensuring broader foundations protection.

Chemical Barriers

Moving beyond the realm of physical barriers, chemical barriers represent a different approach to the root intrusion problem. These specialized chemicals are formulated to deter or slow down root growth when roots come into contact with them. While they might be less common than their physical counterparts, chemical barriers can be especially useful in tight spaces where installing a traditional root barrier might be challenging. However, caution is the watchword here. Choosing the right chemical, applying it correctly, and periodic monitoring are essential to using chemical barriers for foundations protection effectively.


Like any solution, root barriers come with their pros and cons. While they play a pivotal role in foundations protection, it’s essential for homeowners and property managers to be well-informed about both their benefits and limitations.

This is where FoundationMD comes in. Avoid all the cons and make the right choice by letting experts from FoundationMD guide you make the right decision.