Root Barriers in Commercial Landscaping: Protecting Infrastructure Investments

Commercial landscaping is essential to any business, creating an attractive and welcoming environment for customers, employees, and visitors. However, landscaping can present challenges when it comes to managing the growth of plant roots and protecting infrastructure investments. This article will explore the significance of root barriers in commercial landscaping and how they help safeguard essential infrastructure.

The Role of Landscaping in Commercial Spaces

Landscaping plays a vital role in commercial spaces. It enhances the aesthetic appeal of the property, fosters a pleasant and inviting atmosphere, and can even improve the site’s overall value. However, the beauty and functionality of commercial landscaping come with a few challenges, and one of the most significant is managing the growth of plant roots.

Plants require water, nutrients, and space to grow. When these requirements are met, they can thrive and enhance the landscape’s beauty. However, if left unchecked, plant roots can cause damage to infrastructure, including foundations, pipelines, and hardscape elements. This is where root barriers come into play.

What Are Root Barriers?

Root barriers, also known as root control barriers or root control membranes, are physical barriers designed to control the growth of plant roots. They are typically made from materials like plastic, geotextile fabric, or metal, and they are installed in the soil to create a barrier that restricts root expansion in a specific direction. Root barriers can be placed horizontally or vertically, depending on the needs of the landscaping project.

The Need for Root Barriers

The need for root barriers in commercial landscaping arises from the following key factors:

1. Infrastructure Protection

One of the primary reasons for using root barriers is to protect essential infrastructure. The roots of trees and large shrubs can infiltrate and damage underground utilities such as water and gas pipelines. These roots can also lift and crack concrete and asphalt surfaces, leading to costly repairs. Root barriers help prevent these issues by channeling root growth away from critical infrastructure.

2. Aesthetic Maintenance

Landscapes in commercial spaces are carefully designed to create an appealing and professional image. Uncontrolled root growth can disrupt these designs by uplifting walkways, creating uneven surfaces, and undermining the structural integrity of retaining walls. Root barriers help maintain the intended appearance of the landscape by preventing root encroachment.

3. Plant Health

Root barriers not only protect infrastructure but also support the health of the plants themselves. When plant roots spread uncontrollably, they can become congested and compete for resources, leading to stunted growth and poor health. Root barriers guide root growth to more suitable areas, ensuring the plants receive the nutrients and moisture for optimal growth.

4. Cost Savings

Preventative measures are often more cost-effective than reactive solutions. Installing root barriers during the initial landscaping phase can save businesses substantial money in potential repair costs. Repairing infrastructure damaged by root intrusion can be expensive and disruptive to daily operations.

Installation and Maintenance of Root Barriers

Installing root barriers is a critical step in protecting commercial landscaping investments. Here are the key considerations:

1. Selection of Barrier Material

The choice of barrier material depends on various factors, including the type of planting, soil conditions, and the intended longevity of the root barrier. For instance, flexible plastic barriers are commonly used for shorter-term projects, while rigid metal barriers are suitable for long-term applications.

2. Proper Installation Depth

Root barriers should be installed at an appropriate depth to guide root growth effectively. The depth depends on the planting type and the desired root control level. A barrier placed at a depth of 18–24 inches may be sufficient for shallow-rooted plants. A depth of 36 inches or more may be necessary for deep-rooted trees.

3. Continuous Monitoring and Maintenance

Root barriers are not a one-time solution; they require ongoing monitoring and maintenance. Checking for signs of root growth beyond the barrier, such as surface disturbances or plant stress, is crucial. If root encroachment is detected, corrective action may be needed, such as extending or repositioning the barrier.

Root Barriers in Action

To understand the real-world significance of root barriers in commercial landscaping, consider the following scenarios:

1. Retail Shopping Center

A retail shopping center boasts an elegant landscape featuring a variety of trees, shrubs, and ornamental plants. However, a complex network of utilities lies beneath the surface, including water, gas, and electrical lines. Without root barriers, the expansive root systems of mature trees can infiltrate and damage these essential utilities. By installing root barriers during the initial landscaping phase, property owners protect their infrastructure investments, minimizing the risk of costly repairs and service disruptions.

2. Office Complex

An office complex with a large, paved parking area and walkways creates an attractive environment for employees and visitors. However, tree roots from nearby landscaping threaten to upheave the concrete surfaces, posing safety hazards and requiring frequent repairs. Property managers use root barriers to direct root growth away from hardscape areas to maintain the aesthetic appeal and safety of the property while reducing maintenance costs.

3. Urban Park

An urban park is a public space designed for relaxation and recreation. The park features a diverse range of plants and trees, enhancing visitors’ experience. However, some tree roots encroach on the surrounding sidewalks and paths as the park matures, creating tripping hazards. Root barriers installed around the problem trees help preserve the park’s natural beauty while ensuring visitor safety and reducing liability risks.


Root barriers are
– an essential component of commercial landscaping,
– protecting infrastructure investments,
– maintaining the aesthetic appeal of properties and
– promoting the health of plants.
They offer a cost-effective, preventative solution to the common challenges posed by unchecked root growth. By carefully selecting suitable barrier material, installing barriers at the appropriate depth, and regularly monitoring their effectiveness, businesses can enjoy the benefits of a well-preserved and visually appealing landscape while safeguarding their bottom line. In commercial landscaping, root barriers are the unsung heroes that keep everything running smoothly beneath the surface.

Call Lee Engineering for a foundation drip irrigation system customized for your home’s specific needs. (817) 277-6022

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