Plastic Root Barrier Options: Are They All the Same?

Are all plastic root barrier products the same?

Tree root barriers serve an important role when you are designing and installing a hardscape.

Uncontrolled tree root growth can become unwieldy, causing sidewalks and other hardscape elements to be pushed up from below. Unfortunately, this usually means all the work (and money!) You put into your landscape infrastructure to be uprooted and destroyed over time, too.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to happen. Your hardscape — and your wallet — don’t have to be at the mercy of a tree root system’s natural growth or innate growth patterns. Tree root barriers help guide and manage the direction and path that tree root growth will take as the tree matures.

But there’s more good news as well. Today, you do have choices in when selecting a root barrier to install. The options can be made of different materials or accomplish the same goal in a slightly different manner.

One of the more common materials used in tree root barriers is plastic. Yet, even all plastic tree root barrier products aren’t created — and do not perform — equally.

There are 3 major types of root barriers:

  1. Root traps and screens
  2. Root deflectors
  3. Root barrier rolls
Root deflectors are commonly made of plastic.

Root deflectors come in panels that form a physical “wall” for the root systems of trees and therefore, “deflect” roots directionally, and to areas, where the roots are not likely to damage hardscape or landscape elements.

While root deflectors are widely used as tree root barriers, they can be very difficult to install. The barrier panels are usually very large and rather inflexible. Frequently, this means you have to spend more than you really need. With root deflectors. You will likely need to install a barrier that covers more surface, since you can’t create a circular barrier. More space covered = more panels = more work and more money expended.

Root barrier rolls can be made of plastic, too.

Root barrier rolls are tree root barriers that — like the name implies — come in rolls. The material used for these rolls is sometimes pliable metal, but more commonly, hearty plastics.

The composition of either material makes root barrier roll a pliable option that can be installed in a circular pattern, around the tree pit. Like a deflector, this type of tree root barrier also directs tree root growth downward and away from potentially uprooting components of your landscape or hardscape.

When flexibility in design is necessary, a root barrier roll product is often the go-to for landscape and hardscape installers.

However, performance will likely be impacted by the specific metal or especially, plastic, used in its manufacture.

If the material can be easily bent, broken, or torn — which is not too uncommon with pliable or bendable products — then it can quickly become useless.

On the other hand, Sidewalk Shield is a tree root barrier roll product that is made of beefy, HDPE plastic that is almost impervious to damage by roots, pests, or the elements.

In fact, the material used in Sidewalk Shield can last 100+ years underground. Yet, even though Sidewalk Shield is so tough and durable, it’s only 1/10th of an inch, while still rendering 200 pounds of puncture-prevention power. Even more impressive… Sidewalk Shield is not only strong, it also WORKS well for controlling tree root growth and preventing that growth From damaging your beautiful landscape and hardscape designs.

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