For a long time, trees have been established as an integral part of landscaping for homes, office suites, and even industrial buildings. While planting trees can be advantageous (they provide shade, improve landscape aesthetics and are good for the ecological system), if not properly maintained, trees can damage surrounding buildings and their foundations. Trees can inflict serious structural damage due to the unpredictable and uncontrolled pattern of the spread of their roots.

The Effects of Tree Roots on Foundations and Sidewalks

Tree root growth is typically geared toward the direction of optimal soil nutrients, aeration, and water. This is the basis for the effect they have on surrounding structures.

For trees planted in an urban environment, the most suitable direction of spread is usually horizontal and near the ground surface. This is as a result of the heavily compacted soils in these areas from years of building and construction activities. Near-surface, tree root spread is worrisome occurrence which can have damaging consequences for nearby structures.


Trees planted along streets are usually located in sidewalk cut-outs. These trees will inevitably cause damage to the sidewalk as their roots spread. With horizontal or upward growth of tree roots, cracks, breaches or raised portions along the sidewalks will appear.

This can pose a hazard to cyclists or pedestrians. Also, the cost implications of fixing damaged sidewalks are significant as repair materials and processes can be costly.


Although trees grow quite slowly, they still exert a significant amount of pressure on the foundations of structures around them. Trees located near buildings indirectly damage their foundations by displacing the soil around and beneath them.

how does a root barrier work?

With persistent soil movement, the structural foundations undergo uneven settling or lift. As a result, outward signs of foundation damage begin to appear (cracks in walls, ceilings, and floors, breaks in windowsills, jammed doors, leaning buildings).

What Are Tree Root Barriers?

A tree root barrier is a subsurface wall or buffer which helps contain or redirect tree roots and prevent undesirable spread. This helps prevent sidewalk and foundation damage while keeping trees and other plants healthy.

Do Root Barriers Work?

Properly placed tree root barrier materials function effectively to limit the harmful spread of tree roots to building foundations and superstructures. As a result, they will help to maintain the structural integrity of the involved building structure without hurting the trees.

How Does a Root Barrier Work?

Tree root blockers work by either chemically or mechanically inhibiting the spread of tree roots. The mechanisms of the various plant root barrier types are outlined below.

Chemical Tree Root Inhibitors

These barriers are formed by a chemical impregnated mesh-like material that inhibits the growth of all roots that encounter it. If installed around a foundation or beneath pavement, these barriers will act to redirect root spread downwards and away, minimizing structural harm.

While chemical barriers are effective, they are not recommended for use in recreational areas like parks or playgrounds where children will be able to dig them up. Cupric acid and the herbicide trifluralin (substances commonly used in chemical plant root barriers) are both toxic to humans.

Mechanical Root Protection Barriers

In this type of root barrier system, tree root containment is achieved using protective walls around the growing roots. Mechanical barriers can either be solid or porous and the choice of barrier type is dependent on the strength of the tree roots as well as surrounding soil properties.

Tree Root Deflectors

These barriers are made of strong solid metals or plastics which deflect growing plant roots away from building structures and their foundations. Ideally, tree root deflectors should be at least 0.15 millimeters thick to withstand the enormous amounts of pressure exerted by the tree roots.

tree root barrier foundations

Root Screens/Traps

Root screens are made up of porous woven materials that permit entry of root tips but strangle and prevent unchecked tree root enlargement. A strong material with openings no larger than 1/16th of a square inch is recommended for the best results.

How to Fix Foundation Problems If It’s Too Late

how to contain tree roots

Even in cases where foundation damage has occurred before the implementation of preventive measures, there are effective ways to fix the structural defects. For commercial or home foundation repair in Houston, contact URETEK Gulf Coast today to discuss the most effective remediation options for your building’s foundation.

Contact URETEK for Foundation Remediation Today!

URETEK Gulf Coast is a Houston foundation repair company with an excellent track record of delivering the best quality repair solutions to its customers. With a novel, innovative and unique approach to foundation remediation, high-quality fixes are guaranteed.

For foundation repair in Houston, URETEK Gulf Coast is your best fit.

Contact us online today to learn more about our top-quality foundation remediation services.