Sidewalk Damaged by Tree Roots
By: Julie Day
“I have a tree root that is growing under my concrete sidewalk and raising it up. What do you recommend I do for this?” -Gloria
Unfortunately, this is not a problem with an easy solution. You could work around it by replacing your sidewalk with adjustable or movable pavers that can accommodate the growing roots. However, to solve the problem and keep your concrete sidewalk, you’ll need to cut the tree roots (called “root pruning”) and then repair the sidewalk.
Root pruning is highly stressful to trees and cannot be done indiscriminately. The success of root pruning depends on the species, size, and age of the tree, the location of the cuts, environmental conditions, and the overall health of the tree. Some trees—such as Bradford pear, birch, and conifers—respond very poorly to root pruning.
Others may recover but can be more likely to fall later due to a lack of support. I recommend that you contact an arborist for advice before doing this yourself, or consider hiring a tree surgeon who can make the proper cuts to save your tree.
If you choose to go ahead with root pruning, make sure you’ll only have to do it once, by installing root barriers to prevent further damage from growing roots. Root barriers are generally made of fabric or plastic and have to be installed up to 4 feet deep to protect nearby pavement or structures.