Do root barriers really work?

plants growing through the driveway

How does a root barrier work? 

Tree roots are underestimated for the potential hazards they can be to businesses and homes.  They can cause damage that costs hundreds, even thousands of dollars for repairs of busted waterlines and foundations, with the busted waterlines costing more in water waste that wasn’t noticed for hours, maybe even days. A root barrier is built into the ground around the tree, to provide a structure and gas/water lines protection against tree roots that roam and stretch outward by redirecting them in other directions. 

Essentially, a root barrier is an underground wall that keeps plants, trees, and other hardscapes from conflicting with each other and with gas or water pipes that are buried underground. There are different types of root barriers available: 

  • Chemically Treated Soil – lasts up to 5 years
  • Mechanical Treatment – indefinite lifespan with three different materials:
    • Concrete
    • Sheet Metal
    • Plastic Membrane

 The chemical root barrier treatment stops the tree root from growing once it reaches the barrier by killing the roots.  The mechanical treatment stops the tree roots from growing any further or redirects the roots in other directions. 

How do you make a root barrier?   

The best method for making a root barrier for trees is to call a professional contractor that has experience in this process. They know how far out away from the tree and how deep to go without damaging the tree, how to find gas and water lines so as not to dig in the wrong place, and they will have the proper equipment.

A root barrier limits a tree’s root system from spread and are used for a variety of reasons. In clay soil, tree roots drink in a lot of moisture from the soil. A root barrier prevents soil shrinkage close to structure foundations by stopping the roots from getting to close to the foundation, causing it to crack and sink. Tree roots that allowed to grow endless damage driveways, sidewalks, and other hardscapes. A root barrier prevents this from happening. 

If you desire to install your own root barrier, you should consult with a tree expert first to make sure the tree will have access to moisture so that it can survive without the roots damaging your property. Unless the tree can survive a root barrier, the cost-effective solution is to remove the tree. The other option between root barrier vs tree removal if there is not an effective way to build a root barrier and allow the tree to remain. 

The steps for building a root barrier are: 

  • Step One: If the tree is a new planting, dig a hole that is twice as wide of the tree’s root ball. In the center of the hole, it should be deep enough to hold some enriched soil and the tree root ball so that the depth is the same as the nursery had it planted. Make cuts at the hole’s periphery that are straight-walled two inches less than the root barrier you’re using is deep. Root barrier material come from 12 inches up to 48 inches deep.
  • Step Two: Assemble the root barrier so that is lines the circumference your hole, then place in the hole leaving one to two inches of the barrier sticking up above the ground surface after the hole is filled. The root barrier material should be installed as upright as possible.
  • Step Three: If the root barrier is for existing trees, dig a trench around the trees, which may require cutting back the roots. This is where hiring a professional is suggested since it can take specialized equipment that won’t damage the roots and/or kill the tree. 
  • Step Four: If the root barrier is intended to protect a driveway or sidewalk, install a linear barrier along the edge. This will maintain the moisture and nourishment needed to allow the tree roots to continue growing while redirecting them in other directions.  

 Do root barriers kill trees? 

When installed properly with the research of the setting done first. A root barrier effectiveness will only redirect the growth of tree roots, so they do not grow and damage foundations, gas pipes or water lines. There are not any root barrier pros and cons to provide you comparisons, because they work, simple as that. The only con to a root barrier is if it isn’t correctly installed, it won’t work.  The chance of trees being damaged by a root barrier is very unlikely.   

Will tree roots grow through gravel?

Tree roots will not grow up through porous gravel, but they will grow deeper. The hair-like substance on tree roots serve as “feeler” and when they hit an obstacle, i.e. a root barrier, gravel, rock, etc. they simply redirect themselves.   

Foundations, however, are not in the ground, so the roots grow up under the foundation and expand as they grow, thus cracking the foundation. Regarding gas and water pipes, they grow around them, expand and break the pipes. This is why root barriers are helpful by redirecting the tree roots before they reach that point.

healthy trees and healthy driveway

Do tree roots ever stop growing?        

Yes – tree roots will continue to grow when the temperature of the ground is above freezing (32-degree Fahrenheit). However, when the temperature gets below 36° Fahrenheit, tree roots slow down growing and when the temperature is below freezing, they pause but will start up again after the ground temperature has warmed above freezing. A root barrier does not stop the roots from growing either. They simply redirect them away from foundations and pipes.

Trees are a bonus from Mother Nature, they serve a great purpose in our existence here on Earth. However, they sometimes can disrupt progress, but with a root barrier, they don’t always have to be removed. This keeps the greenery, shade, and other benefits they provide. Need root barriers for your home in Dallas-Fort Worth Area, TX? Reach out to the experts at Solid Rock Foundation Repair when you call 817-400-7625!