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How to Remove a Surface Tree Root

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    According to the Washington State University Spokane County Extension, a tree's roots rarely go more than 12 to 18 inches underground. Soil degradation and a need for air and water also contribute to their emergence to the surface. Root removal should never be done if at all possible, as this leaves a tree vulnerable to illness and even death. However, if you must chop away superficial tree roots, do it as far from the trunk as possible.

    • Take a measurement around the tree's trunk at a height of 4.6 m (15.5 feet). To get the diameter from the circumference, divide the circumference by 3.14. Pin oaks, white oaks, and black walnuts, which are particularly susceptible to root disturbance, need at least 1 1/2 feet of distance for every inch of diameter. Tolerant trees, such as red maples, Washington hawthorns, and red oaks, need 1 foot of space for every inch of diameter.
    • Circle the tree with the hose, twine, or rope at the distance from the trunk you calculated in Step 2. To avoid damaging the inside of the circle, root cutting should be done only outside of it.
    • To remove a problematic root, dig a trench around and beneath it, then use a sterile, sharp root saw to make vertical incisions in the root.

    Roots of Trees: How to Dig Them Out

    Able to take care of the trees near your home doesn't have to be a huge hassle, which is good news for first-time homeowners. In truth, all you need to do is keep an eye out for a few telltale signs that your tree is doing well. But what signs should one look for to determine whether or not their trees are healthy?

    When we are trying to know if a tree is doing well, we typically look at its leaves. It's not always possible to tell just by looking at the leaves. It is also possible to learn about potential issues with a tree's health by inspecting its roots. The presence of sick or decaying roots is an indication of more serious problems lurking beneath the bark.

    When clients have unattractive tree roots, they frequently ask us, as arborists, what they can do about it. There is more to nurturing a tree to health than just providing it with water and sunlight. To ensure your tree's continued health, root removal may be necessary sometimes, although it isn't always evident how to go about doing so.

    We recommend hiring a tree care specialist first if you're having problems with tree roots, but if you can't get in touch with one, below are a few things you may try to alleviate the situation in your own garden. At first glance, this may appear to be an impossible undertaking, but we're confident that with your assistance, we can make this procedure much more manageable.

    To What End Should You Cut Down A Tree?

    Be patient if you wish to dig up tree roots on your own rather than becoming too excited and trying to chop everything at once. Gone are only the roots that could be harmful to the tree (such as those a contaminated body of water, growing in poor soil, or even under cement or tar), your home (such as those growing into pipelines or threatening the infrastructure of your home), or the people who use and visit your home frequently (such as those who may need to use your sidewalk or if you have small children who could trip on poorly placed roots).

    Remember that your tree's roots are its lifeline, supplying it with water and nutrients. Cutting them all out is not a good idea. Unsightly roots can detract from the aesthetic value of a home and are therefore sometimes removed at the homeowner's request. There are a number of positives to removing a root system. But take careful not to dig up too many of them, because the tree could topple down.

    Pulling Up the Correct Bunch of Roots

    Now that you understand the rationale behind tree root removal, you can make an informed decision on which root is best to cut out of the ground. Make sure you aren't commencing the separation process too near the tree if you've got a certain root in mind. The safety and wellbeing of your tree is at risk the nearer you get to the trunk. Instead, you should determine the diameter of your tree trunk and multiply it by a factor of at least three. Your safest cutting range from the tree is the result of that equation. So, for instance, you should not really remove a root any closer than 8 feet from the tree for a trunk that's three feet in diameter.

    It's also wise to avoid picking the root from the biggest tree. Structural roots, which are larger and have a more vital role in keeping the tree stable, have earned their name. If a root branches out from the trunk at its origin, it is a structural root.

    Finally, you should never take off more than 20% of a tree's roots. When you water your tree any more than that, you run the danger of hurting or killing it. You shouldn't undertake more than one round of root removal every three years, if at all, to avoid chopping off too much of the tree in a short amount of time.

    What to Do About Exposed Roots?

    Landscape trees are remarkable additions to any yard, and they continue to provide their owners pleasure long after they are planted. Some trees have root systems that are inherently shallow, and as a result, they eventually become exposed above the soil's surface. Many homeowners worry about the safety of their homes due to root exposure and question what they can do about it. If you're concerned about exposed tree roots and want to know how to address the problem without dying your tree, this tutorial will go through some of the tried-and-true solutions.

    Is There Any Way to Cover Up Tree Roots?

    Roots that flare outward and form a wider base are indicators of a tree's health as it ages. Trees can't survive or thrive without their extensive root systems to draw moisture and nutrients up from the ground. When your landscape tree has a bowl around it, it's a sign that its root system is healthy and well-supported.

    However, whenever shallow roots began to protrude from the ground, the trunk of a tree can quickly become an eyesore. When cutting, removing, or managing exposed tree roots, a widespread worry is that doing so may destroy the tree. Fortunately, there are tried-and-true methods you may employ in your yard to eradicate tree roots without jeopardising the wellbeing of the tree itself. Knowing the right and wrong ways to maintain tree roots is essential if you don't want to accidentally destroy your tree.

    Ways to Hide Tree Roots from View?

    The most effective method of root control involves hiding the roots of trees. Mulch or compost can be used to hide the exposed tree roots in your yard, which serves two purposes: protecting the roots and enhancing the aesthetic value of your garden. The goal is to give the lawnmower operator a buffer zone around the tree's trunk so that he or she doesn't have to risk injury when trimming.

    Carefully removing the grass from the area under the tree where the exposure is occuring is the first step in hiding the tree roots. In order to distinguish the covering from the rest of the lawn, it is necessary to edge around the tree roots.

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    Remove the sod and trim the edges, then spread a three- to four-inch layer of mulch or compost over the newly exposed ground. This is because bark much is a porous, lightweight substrate that promotes the free movement of air and water. It prevents the dirt from washing away and insulates the roots that are showing. Leave a modest space between the trunk and the mulch to reduce the risk of rot.

    Never grow bedding perennials over an exposed tree's roots; they will outcompete the tree for water and nutrients. It's also not a good idea to construct retaining walls or other hardscapes around a tree's trunk because the roots will eventually penetrate those and make their way to the surface.

    How Can I Safely Remove Tree Roots?

    There is no need to physically remove roots from a tree if you only want them out of sight. The root systems of trees are extremely important for several reasons, including providing the trees with nutrients, water and also providing stability. Destabilising the tree by cutting off its roots could cause it to fall on your house and harm anybody within.

    Only once the root system have gone so far that they threaten a nearby building, like the foundation of your home or the sidewalk, should you consider cutting them. If you care simply about the way a tree looks, don't bother removing or trimming the roots. If you want to get rid of tree roots without destroying the tree, covering the exposed roots is the way to go.

    Only trim roots that are less than a few inches in diameter if you must expose them; leave the larger roots alone so they can provide support and keep the plant healthy. Even if you take this precaution, there is still a chance that your tree will eventually die. It's no surprise that a tree's height is directly related to the size of its roots and its canopy. A tree's branches and leaves are proportionally more vulnerable to damage when its roots are severed, hence doing so can hasten the tree's demise.

    Issues Caused by Exposed Roots

    digging out of trunk and roots with mini excavator. tree stump removal

    Many tree species now used in gardens and parks have adapted to life near water. To better absorb oxygen, these trees modified to have their roots close to the soil's surface. Maples, willows, and ash trees are frequently used in landscape design, although they might cause issues with root exposure due to their shallower than average root systems.

    There are a few issues that can arise from having tree roots exposed. For starters, children and adults alike are at risk of injury from tripping over tree roots that have been left in the ground. A tree's shallow roots will become more visible if the ground underneath it is frequently trodden upon.

    Regular gardening and turf maintenance are complicated by exposed tree roots. A weed whacker or lawnmower will have a hard time avoiding them, and you might even hit a root. The roots can rot if they are accidentally cut by the lawnmower.

    Unprotected tree roots can potentially cause problems for the tree. The tree's roots need to be sheltered from the elements and foot traffic by being covered with earth or mulch. Some homeowners also prefer to hide the roots since they are unsightly and they value the aesthetic value of their yard.

    How to Dig Up Tree Roots Without Ruining the Tree?

    There are situations when a person has a strong emotional attachment to a tree in their yard yet dislikes it because of the damage it is causing to their walkway or their plumbing. So the question becomes, how do you deal with them? Can you safely cut these roots out without killing the tree?

    To answer your question, yes. It is possible to cut back on the growth of the roots and then take steps to prevent them from returning. To begin, you'll need a water hose, a hand trowel, a wheelbarrow or tarp to transport the soil while you work, a root saw, and the components for constructing a root barrier (concrete, plastic or metal).

    Assuming you are prepared in every way, you should begin by using your hose to wet down the ground. The soil should be wet, but not soaked. Then, loosen the soil with the hand trowel and examine the roots. Cleaning up the area around the roots entails removing the soil and depositing it in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp. Try to do it with your bare hands if possible. Carefully use your root saw to cut the roots once the soil has been removed. Here are some rules to follow to protect the tree:

    • Never remove more than a third of the root system.
    • Take the circumference of the tree's trunk and multiply it by three. You can get that close to the trunk without causing any damage.
    • Take the circumference of the tree's trunk and multiply it by 3. You can get that close to the trunk without causing any damage.
    • The maximum amount that should be removed from one side is 25%.

    After you have clipped the roots, build a trench to divert them away from the area. Build a wall of plastic, concrete or metal at least 13 inches tall and 11 inches wide, then cover it with dirt. Water the ground by spraying it or patting it down to compact the dirt.

    Is It Better to Dig It Up or Bury It?

    Lawns with a lot of surface roots can be a major hassle. However, there are a variety of approaches that can be used to deal with them effectively. A tree's root system directly affects the tree's overall health, so taking care of it is essential. Water and nutrients are absorbed by the roots, which then transport them, the tree is anchored, and energy is stored in the roots to be used later.

    Our company, Arborilogical Services, Inc., advocates for measures that shield roots from damage. Root infections can get access to plants via wounds in the root system. Loss of root area can be extremely detrimental to a tree's health. The elimination of a troublesome root is, nevertheless, analogous to the elimination of a limb or branch in many respects.

    Counting the number of roots that need to be dug up is crucial. A tree's overall health should not be affected by the removal of one or two small surface roots, provided that the roots were removed correctly. However, if 30% of the root region is damaged or removed, the consequences might be catastrophic.

    Avoid performing any root pruning in the months leading up to or during our scorching summer. During these months, the tree places the greatest strain on its root system, while root regeneration is at its lowest. Roots are best worked on during the cooler months of fall and winter. And finally, if you have to trim some roots, do so carefully and precisely. Roots that have been torn or ripped apart grow new roots much more slowly than roots that have been cut cleanly.

    Roots near the surface can also be concealed. If soil erosion has exposed the roots, this is often the best course of action. Two to four inches of good, loose topsoil can be spread over the root zones. There could be certain negatives that should be taken into account. The drainage could become a concern if dirt is added. Too much soil can prevent the roots from getting the oxygen they require.

    The roots on the surface can often be left in place, and the turf can be converted to a more suitable ground cover. Landscaping with trees and grass rarely works out. Being a prairie plant, turf is particularly susceptible to thinning and loss under trees. When we try to cultivate one thing under another, we always create friction. Over-thinning and removal of huge, low limbs to acquire more light for the turf has led to the death or significant injury of many trees.

    The condition of your tree can be assessed by a tree service consultant. Solutions and a strategy can be devised to deal with the problem's superficial causes. Never risk damaging the roots by ignoring this warning. The health of trees depends on them.


    If you care about a tree's health and longevity, you should never remove its roots. Whenever possible, remove only the outer layer of roots from a tree. Signs of root disease or decay point to deeper issues that could eventually kill the tree. Root removal is occasionally required to ensure the long-term health of your tree. There are certain advantages to removing a root system, but you need to be careful not to unearth all of them.

    The closer you are to the trunk of your tree, the more you endanger the tree's health and safety. If you don't want to harm your tree by accident, you need to be aware of the proper and improper ways to care for its roots. Some trees have naturally shallow root systems, and their roots often protrude through the top layer of soil. To your relief, there are tried-and-true strategies you may implement in your yard to get rid of tree roots. The exposed tree roots in your garden can be disguised with mulch or compost.

    The idea is to create a safety zone around the tree's trunk where the mowers won't damage the tree. Keep a small gap between the mulch and the trunk to prevent rot. The depth of a tree's roots and the breadth of its canopy are inversely proportional to the tree's height. Exposed tree roots can cause a number of problems. The expansion of the roots can be stunted, and then measures taken to ensure they don't grow back.

    Maintaining a tree's root system is crucial to the tree's overall health. After the earth has been removed, carefully make cuts with the root saw. Make a barrier of plastic, concrete, or metal that is at least 13 inches high and 11 inches wide, and then cover it with soil. Don't bother with any root pruning in the months leading up to or during our blazing summer. Fall and winter are optimal for root work because of the lower temperatures. Many trees have been killed or severely damaged as a result of excessive thinning and the removal of massive, low limbs.

    Content Summary

    1. If you absolutely must remove any of the outermost roots from a tree, do it as far from the trunk as you can.
    2. Find the circumference of the tree at a height of 4.6 m. (15.5 feet).
    3. Take the hose, twine, or rope and make a circle around the tree at the distance you determined in Step 2.
    4. Roots should only be trimmed on the outside of the circle to protect the interior from damage.
    5. Actually, all you have to do is keep an eye out for a few indicators of success to know that your tree is thriving.
    6. The roots of a tree may also tell you a lot about its overall health.
    7. Our first recommendation if you're experiencing root intrusion is to contact a tree care professional; but, if you're unable to do so, you can attempt the methods below in your own garden.
    8. Instead of becoming overly eager and trying to chop everything at once, use patience if you want to dig out tree roots on your own.
    9. Don't forget that the roots of your tree are what bring it water and nutrients.
    10. Selecting the Right Roots to Tear Up Having read this, you should be able to decide which tree root is the ideal one to remove from the ground.
    11. The closer you are to the trunk of your tree, the more you endanger the tree's health and safety.
    12. Find the circumference of your tree's trunk, then multiply that number by three.
    13. The answer gives you the optimal distance to cut away from the tree without risking damage to the tree or yourself.
    14. You should also stay away from the root of the tallest tree.
    15. A structural root is one that splits off from the trunk at its point of origin.
    16. In conclusion, you should never remove more than 20% of a tree's roots at a time.
    17. Since the root systems of some trees are naturally shallow, they will inevitably become visible above the earth as the tree grows.
    18. This tutorial will discuss some of the tried-and-true ways for dealing with exposed tree roots without killing your tree.
    19. A bowl surrounding your landscape tree indicates a strong and healthy root system.
    20. There is common concern that if exposed tree roots are cut, removed, or managed improperly, the tree may die.
    21. Fortunately, you may use tried-and-true methods to get rid of tree roots in your yard without endangering the tree.
    22. If you don't want to harm your tree by accident, you need to be aware of the proper and improper ways to care for its roots.
    23. Hide the exposed tree roots in your yard with mulch or compost to protect the roots and improve the look of your garden at the same time.
    24. The first step in concealing tree roots is to carefully remove vegetation from the area under the tree where exposure is occuring.
    25. It's important to edge around the tree roots so that the covering stands out from the rest of the lawn.
    26. Once the sod has been ripped up and the edges mowed down, a three- to four-inch layer of mulch or compost can be applied over the bare soil.
    27. Keep a small gap between the mulch and the trunk to prevent rot.
    28. If you just want the roots to be out of sight, there's no reason to dig them up.
    29. If you sever the tree's roots, the tree could become unstable and collapse on your house, causing serious injury or death.
    30. If the tree's aesthetic value to you is minimal, you should not bother with root pruning or removal.
    31. Covering the exposed roots is the best approach to get rid of tree roots without killing the tree.
    32. If you must expose roots, only cut those that are less than a few inches in diameter; the larger roots should be left alone so that they can continue to support and nourish the plant.
    33. It makes sense that the depth of a tree's roots and the breadth of its canopy would have a direct bearing on the tree's final stature.
    34. When a tree's roots are cut out, its branches and leaves are exposed to increased stress, which might hasten the tree's death.
    35. Exposed tree roots can cause a number of problems.
    36. Regular gardening and turf upkeep are difficult by exposed tree roots.
    37. Roots that aren't properly protected could end up killing the tree.
    38. The expansion of the roots can be stunted, and then measures taken to ensure they don't grow back.
    39. If you have everything you need, you may start by using your hose to dampen the ground.
    40. Check out the roots by loosening the soil with a hand trowel.
    41. To get rid of the dirt and muck surrounding the roots, you can use a wheelbarrow or a tarp.
    42. After the earth has been removed, carefully make cuts with the root saw.
    43. After the roots have been cut, a trench can be dug to redirect them.
    44. Spraying or patting the earth down with water will help compact the soil.
    45. Surface-root-laden lawns can be a real pain to maintain.
    46. Maintaining a tree's root system is crucial to the tree's overall health.
    47. When plants sustain damage to their root systems, pathogens may gain entry.
    48. If a tree loses too much of its root system, it might be fatally injured.
    49. Damage to or removal of 30% of the root zone, however, could have disastrous results.
    50. Don't bother with any root pruning in the months leading up to or during our blazing summer.
    51. Fall and winter are optimal for root work because of the lower temperatures.
    52. This is the most effective method when soil erosion has exposed the roots.
    53. Having an excessive amount of soil around a plant can cut off its supply of oxygen to the roots.
    54. Oftentimes, only the aboveground parts of the roots need to be removed, and the turf can be used as a new type of ground cover.
    55. Trees and grass are a common landscaping fail.

    FAQs About Surface Tree Root

    The best prevention for surface roots is to select appropriate plants for the situation such as shorter tree species and planting at least 4 feet away from paved areas. But if you already have an older large tree with surfacing roots, you can adapt your landscaping maintenance to help avoid troubles.

    To protect the tree's roots, make mowing easier and reduce tripping hazards, you can apply a shallow layer of topsoil around and over the exposed roots. Apply just enough to cover the roots by about a half inch. Applying too much soil over the roots of a tree can suffocate them and cause tree damage or death.

    Cutting tree roots in your lawn is an option you should only reserve for cases when the tree roots have spread so far that they're threatening a nearby structure, like your home's foundation or the sidewalk. It's best to avoid removing or cutting visible tree roots for aesthetic reasons only.

    Tree roots can damage a house foundation, with an invitation to do so. Tree roots are very opportunistic and will only grow and penetrate where it is easiest to grow such as friable soils and mulch.

    If the roots are not completely removed, they can continue to grow and eventually lead to new tree growth. However, this process takes many years and is not guaranteed. Herbicide can also be used to kill the roots to prevent regrowth.

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