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cut or not to cut (tree roots)

Hello everyone,
I have a situation with a tree lifting our front sidewalk of our home.

We will have to repair the sidewalk for safety reasons but we'll most likely have to remove the roots that are under it. They're pretty big, around 4" to 6" wide.
I'm afraid removing them will kill the tree and we have trees that line up and down our street.

Killing it would leave a nasty hole along the viewline of our street and we'd hate to do that.

P.S. Is it possible to repair the sidewalk without removing the roots?

Re: cut or not to cut (tree roots)

1. Is this tree yours or the City's?

2. Is the sidewalk yours or the City's?

Different cities have different rules concerning sidewalks and trees, so head on to your city hall to find out. Some cities won't allow you to do some of the things you want to do.

Re: cut or not to cut (tree roots)

One method is to install a brick or paver sidewalk that rides up and over the tree roots. As the tree grows, the sidewalk can be taken apart and re-laid without damage to anything. Use compacted sand as a base.

Re: cut or not to cut (tree roots)

The tree is most likely a Silver Maple. It has a silver smooth bark when young and a silver shaggy bark when mature. There were your typical tree lawn trees that were planted 30 to 75 years ago because they were a fast growing shade tree. Their biggest problem is their roots. They invade sewer lines and will heave sidewalks and curbs as they grow. I had the same situation at my house and I had the sidewalke relaid and the roots were necessarily cut.

My side yard also adjoins a hardware store and another Silver Maple had invaded his sewer line to the point that the owner was cleaning the lines every two months. He had a contractor come in and remove the old sewer line and install a new line which was right next to my tree. The contractor took out lots of big roots. Both trees survived very well. It is hard to kill a Silver Maple. Most cities have now prohibited planting these trees especially in curb lawns.

A heaved sidewalk is a hazard to all pedestrians and you would be the one that would be held responsible if you have a slip and fall. When you replace the sidewalk you should also put down a foot to 18 inches of treated plywood or galvanized steel between your sidewalk and the tree to retard the roots from reheaving the sidewalk in the near future. A brick or paver idea is only a temporary - at best - solution as the roots will push the paver up creating an edge for pedestrians to trip over.

Re: cut or not to cut (tree roots)


Your first step should be going to city hall to determine who is responsible for what.

For instance, in my city, the city is responsible for the concrete sidewalk and the trees in the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street (parkway). Usually the city is very slow to react, even when pedestrians slip and fall and sue the city, and lets homeowners make repairs (but the repairs must meet city codes).

Re: cut or not to cut (tree roots)

In San Antonio, when building sidewalks around trees the contactors always cut out the roots of the trees to make room for the sidewalk. Most of the trees are oak, which have roots that are spread out alot. I would check to see what type of tree it is and go to a nursery to see if it would be ok to cut some of the roots of that tree.

Re: cut or not to cut (tree roots)

Thanks for the info everyone.

I'll definitely give the city a call.

I think the tree is a variety of Honey Locust.

I forgot to mention that the tree is on roughly 7 x 20 feet of land between the sidewalk, street curb and driveways.

Since the roots in question go under the sidewalk and into our front lawn I'm figuring it's where it gets a good amount of nutrients/water.

Re: cut or not to cut (tree roots)

I would call the city first... You do not want to do something and then have to deal with the city afterwards.

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