Root pruning for tree health though not as common as regular tree pruning, it has its place in proper tree care. Roots can be extremely invasive and damaging to hardscapes. And likewise the grading and trenching that are necessary to construct a house and other hardscapes, can be very damaging to the roots, tree health, and stability.
It is easy to appreciate the potential for damage if you understand where roots grow. The roots of a tree are found mostly in the upper 6″ to 24″ of the soil. In a mature tree, the roots can extend far from the trunk, in fact, roots are often found growing out a distance of one to three times the height of the tree. The amount of damage a tree can suffer from root loss depends on many things, the species sensitivity, age, its current health and structure, and how close to the tree the cut is made. Severing one major root can cause the loss of 5 to 20 percent of the root system For these reason, it is important to have a Certified Arborist consult with you before cutting your trees roots.
When roots are threatening infrastructure, we do root pruning and install a cooper wire mesh barrier that inhibits root extension from re-growth. The fine roots can grow through the mesh and are then girdled by the copper. This often works better than a solid barrier that deflects roots which can often grow over or under the barrier and continues at the same depth as before.