How do you keep tree roots from lifting sidewalks?

If you’re dealing with such an issue, you’ll find this article quite handy as we provide helpful tips on preventing tree roots from destroying your sidewalks and managing existing conditions.

Sidewalk Tree Roots

Trees offer lots of benefits, including general landscape improvement. While that is true, there are multiple issues occasioned by tree growth. This is especially true for trees with invasive root systems.

Such roots are likely to interfere with built structures along their paths. In this article, we’ll be discussing tree root interference with sidewalks.

Such discussion will focus on the results of tree root incursion on sidewalks and the possible solutions to such problems.

Popular Trees To Plant Near Sidewalks

Before we get into the main focus of our discussion, it’s important to mention that the type of tree you grow will determine how disruptive its root systems will be.

Shallow-rooted trees grown around sidewalks are known to interfere with such structures. Therefore, you’ll need to determine the tree type you grow.

Examples of shallow-rooted trees you shouldn’t grow around your sidewalk or building include red maple, Norway maple, and sweetgum trees.

Other varieties include ash trees, willows, sugar maple, poplars & cottonwoods, tuliptree, pin oak, and American elm trees.

If you’ve made the mistake of growing any of these, all hope is not lost. You can take many actions to solve the problem.

First, you must determine whether the growing tree’s roots are tolerant of pruning action. Not all trees do well when their roots are being pruned.

You can cut back on certain tree roots without much of a problem. Trees in this category include red maple, elm, ginkgo, sycamore, silver maple, and honey locust trees.

Some other trees are not as tolerant to root pruning but will survive when the procedure is performed.

Examples of trees in this category include willow, ash, oak, linden, and Norway maple trees. The root pruning technique isn’t ideal for all trees, as some are unlikely to survive or recover.

These include tulip trees, beech, sugar maple, birch, Callery pear, and conifers.

Cutting Roots Under Sidewalk: Consider Tree Stability

When trees grow, they spread out lateral root systems that search for moisture and nutrients and help stabilize the tree. Unfortunately, such roots could interfere with a nearby sidewalk or building or drainage lines below ground.

Before any action is taken to address this problem, you must ensure that removing its roots won’t affect the tree’s stability. This might be complex for the novice, hence calling a professional.

Have an arborist inspect the tree’s root system to determine what action(s) to take.

Other options apart from cutting off the roots might be recommended. Whatever the case, an inspection will need to be conducted first.

When Tree Roots Extend to Sidewalks

Tree roots will always grow out in search of nutrients and water.

This provides stability to the tree, making it stable during heavy storms and strong winds. However, a problem arises when these roots get to your sidewalk.

They cause issues such as cracks in sidewalk slabs and lifting.

This makes the sidewalk less ideal for pedestrians as they’re likely to trip over it due to the unevenness of the sidewalk. There are several possible solutions to offer when dealing with the problem.

Whatever your repair choice is, it’s best to involve an expert in the repair process.

Fixing the Problem

So far, it’s evident that sidewalks are significantly affected by invasive tree roots. Now there are several possible solutions you can take to solve the problem.

They include rerouting the sidewalk, installing root barriers, concrete reinforcement, and adding a gravel sub-base. Let’s discuss each of these.

  • Rerouting the Sidewalk

Sometimes, tree roots may extend well beyond a sidewalk which might cause considerable damage, thus making it difficult to fix. One of the ways you can correct this problem is by having the sidewalk rerouted.

Here, little to no pruning of roots is required.

This is especially suitable for trees that aren’t tolerant of root pruning. Strangely, rerouting might help improve the visual appeal of your environment. It’s seen as a style when executed properly.

Sometimes, rerouting may be a temporary measure pending when the tree is removed.

  • Installing Root Barriers

Root barriers serve the function of keeping tree roots away from the sidewalk.

These barriers vary by the results they give. Overall, all of these measures serve one objective. Examples of root barrier types include inhibitors, deflectors, and traps.

As the name suggests, inhibitors are designed with specific chemicals to interrupt root cell division, which stops further growth. On the other hand, deflectors help redirect root growth from your sidewalk.

Trap traps help prevent roots’ radial growth when tree roots pass through a fiber material.

  • Concrete Reinforcement

The damaged sidewalk is reinforced with rebar to create a more durable, barely broken platform.

The advantage of concrete reinforcement is that it becomes much more sturdy. Tree roots will have to lift multiple slabs to be able to damage the sidewalk.

As a result of such reinforcement, the sidewalk becomes crack-resistant, and the extra weight makes it less likely for tree roots to lift or shift out of position.

In situations where cracks appear, these are still held in place.

  • Adding a Gravel Sub-Base

A sub-base is added to a sidewalk to help keep tree roots below the walk as the sub-base layer isn’t suitable for root growth. To be effective, gravels used must measure around ¾ or larger.

The sub-base must have a thickness of about 6 inches or more. There should be no fill used in the sub-base apart from gravel.

The common problems arising from interactions between sidewalks and tree roots can be contained when adequate measures are implemented.

Adopting the preventive method makes it less likely for such problems to occur.

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