• 70°

How to correct aggressive tree roots 

Trees are hardy plants, and their roots fight back against manmade limits around them. In the urban and suburban landscape, tree roots often are forced to grow between buildings or under driveways and walkways. As roots grow, they can break walls, pipes and patios, causing damage to properties.

“Before you plant a new tree in your yard, you need to understand how a tree could damage your property and take appropriate measures to prevent that damage,” advises Tchukki Andersen, board certified master arborist, CTSP and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

Woody tree roots thicken as they grow, gradually pushing shallow roots toward the surface. Since soil near the surface is best suited for root growth, most tree roots are just below the surface — putting them in conflict with man-made obstacles.

Where the soil is covered by a solid driveway or patio, upward growing roots don’t experience the normal signals (increased light and air) that tell them they are reaching the surface. As a result, they often grow against the underside of pavement and become intrusive.

“Most damage is found 6 feet or less from the tree, since roots become smaller and less damaging the farther they are from the trunk,” notes Andersen. “Keep this in mind before you plant. That small sapling could become a large shade tree with roots spreading 30 or 40 feet outward from the trunk.”

Cutting roots with discretion

Some homeowners, masons and landscapers deal with intrusive roots by grinding down or removing them. This can be expensive and is very harmful to the tree.

Wounding a tree’s roots creates points of entry for pathogens, leaving a tree vulnerable to disease. Cutting major roots also reduces a tree’s ability to take up nutrients and water, leaving it more susceptible to drought. Finally, cutting roots can reduce a tree’s structural support, which increases the danger that the tree will topple onto your house in high winds.

Keep the following in mind when cutting problem tree roots:

  • The farther you cut from the trunk, the less threat to the tree’s health, and the less danger of creating a hazard
  • Try not to cut roots greater than 2 inches in diameter
  • Prune roots back to a side or sinker root (growing downward) when possible.
  • Roots recover better from being severed when you:
  • Cut them cleanly with a sharp saw instead of breaking them with a backhoe
  • Mulch and water well after root pruning
  • Consult a qualified arborist when cutting within a distance equal to five times the trunk diameter to the trunk.

Some better root management options include:

  • Installing physical root guides and barriers that redirect tree roots down and away from hardscapes with minimal impact on the tree
  • Curve new hardscape features – such as a driveway or patio – around the tree roots
  • Suspend hardscape features on small pilings to bridge over roots.

Right tree for your site

Andersen advises selecting trees for your landscape that will cause less damage, matching species with site conditions and — most importantly — not planting large shade trees within 12 feet of hardscapes (sidewalks, driveways).

Since the health of trees in your yard is put at risk whenever root systems are cut back or damaged, anything that can be done to reduce the damage caused by tree roots will also benefit your trees.

In areas within 5 to 7 feet of a paved area or structure, plant trees that grow to a mature height of less than 30 feet. In areas within 7 to 10 feet of a paved area or structure, plant trees that grow to a mature height of less than 50 feet.

Reserve trees that when mature reach higher than 50 feet for areas with at least 12 feet of clearance around the trunk; this allows adequate space for the roots. Finally, before you plant, check for overhead utility lines and leave adequate space for that tree to mature.

Find a professional

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best trees and shrubs to plant for your existing landscape. Contact the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938.

It has more than 2,000 member companies who recognize stringent safety and performance standards and who are required to carry liability insurance.

Comments

Education

‘Never in my wildest dreams’: Moore ready to take the helm of Salisbury High

News Main

Raising the Barr for Rowan golf

Local

Greenway expansion, traffic signal maintenance submitted for federal funding

Local

Salisbury VA says telehealth usage up 971%

Education

Shoutouts

Editorials

Editorial: Take precautions during Fourth of July gatherings

Columnists

Harrison Peel: Tillis owes voters real answers

News

Many offices closing Friday to observe July 4th

Local

Sheriff offers July 4th safety tips

Sports

Sports legends: Josh Reeves took coaching skills he picked up in Kannapolis to high school in Alabama

Columnists

Mitch Kokai: Put NC at front of line for recovery

Local

Faith resident won’t let COVID-19 infect patriotic spirit

Landis

Landis hires CPA firm to conduct 2019-20 audit during special called meeting

Letters

Letter: Brownlee raises questions about statue proceedings

Sports

Area Sports Briefs: Lyerly qualifies for match play

Coronavirus

41 recoveries reported as COVID-19 cases continue to rise by double digits

Crime

Registered sex offender found living close to school

Crime

Florida woman charged with identity theft, suspected of other crimes

Education

School board narrowly approves allowing students in for driver’s ed, other assessments

Education

New Sarum donates $9,050 to COVID-19 Relief Fund

Education

Longtime educator, Rowan Democrats vice chair plans school board run

Columnists

Steve Roberts: Trump risks best re-election argument with immigration agenda

Local

Two appointed to Historic Salisbury Foundation board of trustees during virtual annual meeting

Editorials

Editorial: Disliked option may be best for students returning in fall