Managing Tree Root Contact With Sidewalks and Walkways

At Reliable Tree Care, our top priority is the health and safety of your trees. From basic tree shaping and trimming services up to checking for disease and preventing insects, we’re here to keep your trees beautiful and healthy for decades into the future.

One common property area where basic tree care can become a bit more complex is when trees are located near a property walkway, most commonly a sidewalk. Let’s go over why this can sometimes be a small concern, what can be done when tree roots begin interacting with concrete or other walkway materials, and how our arborists can help here.

tree root contact sidewalks walkways

Roots and Sidewalks

Roots are a vital part of any tree, and as the tree ages, their root systems will spread out. This spread isn’t random – it’s based on finding areas where the roots can comfortably supply nutrients and moisture without interruption.

When roots expand into areas nearby walkways, however, this process can be bothered. The outcome here will often be negative for both the tree and the walkway; roots will not grow properly and the tree’s health may suffer, plus root areas will often grow directly into seams or expansion joints in sidewalks, damaging them significantly.

“Just cut the roots, then,” you might be thinking, but it isn’t that simple. First off, roots can simply grow back again right into that same section and cause even more damage, often within just a couple years. Secondly, cutting roots this way during tree growth risks further damage.

Tree Stability is Paramount

When assessing the options for managing this kind of interaction, which we’ll go over momentarily, the top priority for arborists is the stability of the tree. Roots aren’t only present for nutrients – lateral roots are also vital for resisting wind and keeping the tree stable. If they’re cut, you risk the tree being uprooted far m ore easily.

Essentially, cutting roots closer than five feet from the tree will only be used as a final option if all others have been exhausted. This is due to both tree health and potential liability concerns.

Available Options

There are a couple good options your arborist might suggest when it comes to dealing with tree roots that are reaching walkways:

  • Sidewalk shaving: If possible within local regulations, shaving down the sidewalk is the safest method here for trees. This can be done with asphalt in some cases, or with other formats, and can be repeated several times if needed to even out the sidewalk.
  • Slabjacking: Slabjacking is a recently-popularized technique that utilizes injections into concrete that raise the slabs to a certain level. While it’s commonly used for concrete leveling to avoid removing large slabs of concrete, it may also be used to correct a slab when roots are nearby and make the space safer for both.

For more on how to handle tree roots that are pressing up against walkways, or to learn about any of our tree trimming or removal services, speak to the pros at Reliable Tree Care today.