Tree Grates in Sidewalks, a Better Technology

With more people now settling in urban areas, there’s a need to rethink the modern cities away from the concrete jungles they’ve become.

One of the easiest ways to build better cities is by planting urban trees to create a healthier environment in these areas. While trees help transform towns and cities by making them greener, they face a lot of unique challenges.

Ignoring these challenges can constitute a problem to businesses in that environment.

Urban trees face exposure to extreme temperatures, foot traffic, vandalism and extreme conditions caused by pollution, de-icing salt and other harmful elements.

Tree grates come in handy to protect urban trees. These installations come in multiple shapes and designs but their primary role is to protect tree roots and allow natural growth of trees under these extreme conditions.

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Traditionally, these grating systems are made of iron, stainless steel, aluminum, concrete and natural stone. New grating technology continues to emerge as an alternative to these traditional grates, and it includes the use of rubberized permeable material.

This post explores the importance of tree grating and explores the benefits of advanced grating technology and how it can help business owners.

The Case for Urban trees

If you live in a town or a city, you’ll appreciate the fast rate at which these areas are growing. It’s estimated that more than 50% of the population now lives in urban areas, a fact that has contributed to the massive construction of residential projects. 

For most urban landscapers, trees are an integral part of these projects to provide better living conditions. Most business owners in the United States can attest to this.

Urban trees not only add to the aesthetics but also help reduce the urban “heat island” effect whether it’s in the United Kingdom, Australia or the U.S. They cool the air and make urban spaces more bearable.  They also play a critical role in the reduction of pollution, including the curbing of carbon emissions – a business idea that has made Elon Musk the 7th richest man in the world using his electric car idea.

Trees also promote urban biodiversity by providing plants and animals with a favorable habitat, food and protection. They also prevent soil erosion and prevent urban flooding.

With this in mind, urban landscapers have to innovate ways to add trees to the landscaping. Finding space for tree planting is a challenge and worse still, protecting these trees at all phases of their development poses a bigger problem.

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Tree Grating to Protect Urban Trees

At a young age, trees face myriad challenges in urban areas.  There’s no room to allow for free root growth and all parts of the tree are vulnerable to physical damage. When tree roots or trunk suffer damage, there’s a risk of stunted growth and this where tree grates come in handy.

Sidewalk grates cover the areas at the bottom of a tree trunk to cover the roots and allow better growth. These are now common in urban areas and have become a common feature of urban landscaping.  By covering the roots, the metal or concrete coverings prevent soil compaction, which ensures better flow of water and oxygen to the roots.

Traditional gratings feature openings in different designs to allow in water but preventing litter from smothering the soil. The grates also prevent the roots from physical damage by foot traffic.

Rethinking Tree Grating on Sidewalks

Cast iron tree grates are the most common types of grates in urban areas. Urban landscapers choose cast iron and other metals due to their durability. These materials are also easy to customize into different beautiful designs.

However, these traditional grates also pose a big problem. As the tree grows, there’s the risk of damage to the roots. The grating system doesn’t expand and the tree outgrows the grate opening within a decade.

The roots will push it up, causing physical damage to the grate or lifting it dangerously. When this happens, the roots suffer damage while the lifted grate poses a potential hazard to pedestrians. Such accidents could lead to costly lawsuits against property owners or local authorities.

One solution for this is to rethink the materials used for making grates. One of the newest grating technologies is the use of a poured permeable rubberized material around a young tree. Unlike traditional grating, this new technology provides a smooth aesthetically appealing and yet permeable surface.

Water and air can seep through the permeable material to nourish the tree roots and guarantee healthy growth.

The rubber material will also protect the tree root and trunk and tree collar against physical damage from foot traffic. As the tree grows, the rubber material will expand and crack to give enough room for natural root growth. Landscapers can remove the cracked materials and mend the grating for function and aesthetics.

As landscapers start embracing this new technology, there are questions about any toxic emissions from the rubber material. Other concerns include the durability of the poured rubber and how well it can cope with the extreme conditions in urban areas.

Whether this new technology replaces metal and concrete tree grates is a matter of time. Landscapers are always on the lookout for safer, more durable and versatile grating to protect the valuable trees.


While trees are invaluable in towns and cities, they suffer extreme conditions that can lead to death or stunted growth. Tree grating offers the protection required and promotes natural root growth. As a landscaper, you need to look out for the latest trend in tree grate manufacturing, which includes poured permeable rubber.

Lovinda Udaze E.
Lovinda Udaze E. is a freelance writer, content development strategist and an e-commerce expert. For your content development and guest posting needs, send an email to [email protected]

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