Tree Roots around the Home

root foundationRoots conflicting with infrastructure around the home is a common concern; from driveways, patios and pathways to foundations, septic tanks and underground pipes.
A tree in the wild sends its roots far out to seek adequate space for anchorage, nutrition, water and air to supply itself. In the urban and suburban landscape, there aren’t as many welcome places for roots to grow. A prime example of this is on city streets where the soil underneath is very compacted and space is too limited for tree roots to go anywhere, so they push up the sidewalk. Roots will always seek out the easiest source of air, space and water, whether that is through a crack in a pipe, a home foundation or at the surface through the pavement.
So, what can be done short of complete tree removal?
First of all, we want to be certain that there is an actual root issue before condemning the tree. That can be done by air or manual excavation or by going high tech with ground penetrating radar. Also, have any of your infrastructure elements looked at by the appropriate hardscaping/construction inspectors for suspected flaws and root invasion. If roots are indeed found to be invading, here are some management options for consideration:


    • If tree is small enough, transplant further away
    • Physical root barriers can be installed such as Deep Root Barrier
    • BioBarrier is a cloth barrier treated with herbicide or copper (copper is toxic to roots)
    • Copper mesh can be used around pipes
    • Raise up the level of the soil surface
    • Engineered coarse soils have been used underneath pathways
    • Get creative with your landscape designer, if possible lay sinuous pathways.
    • Install flexible walkways that allow movement instead of rigid concrete. Foam and rubber have been successfully integrated.
    • Root pruning can be successful on some species and situations
    • Cultivate a more attractive soil to lure roots in another direction


Tree friendly solutions can be worked out if you plan far enough ahead and if not, creative solutions can be implemented depending on each situation, your budget and dedication to the landscape.