How to Build a Tree Root Barrier

Updated February 21, 2017

Beautiful, large trees are highly prized additions to landscapes around private homes, public buildings, roadways and commercial developments. They add spring blooms, summer shade, fall foliage and winter ornamental interest. However, when trees are planted too close together and near sidewalks, roadways and other concrete barriers or hardscapes, their roots often work towards the surface and crack concrete and invade other landscape features. In the United States, tree roots cause over £65 million dollars in damage caused by uplifted hardscapes or broken concrete. Tree root barriers can help prevent this damage.

Choose the correct type of tree root barrier for your trees. There are several different types of tree root barriers including circular, linear or planter containment. The most effective type is planter containment in which ornamental trees are planted in large concrete or masonry containers. The roots cannot grow outside the container and tree growth is restricted. Planting in containers also allows the tree to be readily moved if it grows too large for its location.

Plant dwarf variates of shrubs and trees in 15 gallon plastic containers with the bottom of the container cut out. Plant the entire container level with the surrounding soil. The enclosure will contain root growth and direct new growth downward into the soil.

Plant new trees surrounded by a root barrier. The barrier should be placed 2 to 3 feet from the base of the tree and 24 to 36 inches deep. Tree root barriers can be constructed from any impermeable and durable material that will not decompose when buried in the soil for an extended period of time. Landscape professionals recommend a heavy, thick plastic barrier. You can purchase this material at garden supply and landscape centres. It comes in a roll and you just cut it to the length required for your project.

Enlist the services of a tree specialist for installation of tree root barriers around established, mature trees. The process of cutting the roots and installing the barrier is a challenging "surgery" performed on the tree. If not done correctly, the tree will be severely damaged or will die.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Shovel
  • Shears
  • Barrier material
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About the Author

A passionate writer for more than 30 years, Marlene Affeld writes of her love of all things natural. Affeld's passion for the environment inspires her to write informative articles to assist others in living a green lifestyle. She writes for a prominent website as a nature travel writer and contributes articles to other online outlets covering wildlife, travel destinations and the beauty of nature.