Few things can lend more beauty to any property than a few trees, and the benefits don’t stop at curb appeal either. Trees clean the air, create shade, and even provide a home for beneficial local wildlife. You’d never want to be without trees in your life. But, occasionally, trees can also cause damage, especially if their roots grow out of your control.
Tree roots, when unchecked, can do damage to a number of the structures around your home. For example, they can burst pipes as they seek water. One of the most dramatic ways they can harm the property around a home is to damage the sidewalk.
You’ve seen it before: a sidewalk that has buckled as a result of out-of-control root growth. Besides being unsightly, this can become a hazard, as the buckled concrete can create a danger of tripping and cause injury. If this has happened to property you own, chances are you’ve already received an order from the local government to repair it as soon as possible.
Not to worry, though: this damage doesn’t need to be permanent and fixing it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Read on to discover how to repair a sidewalk raised by tree roots.
Start with Prevention
Naturally, if you can prevent your sidewalk from becoming damaged in the first place, that will always be your best option. Taking steps to avoid damage to the sidewalk can save you a lot of headache—not to mention money—later on. If you’ve had to repair a sidewalk raised by tree roots in the past, there are several steps you can take to prevent it from happening again.
The first steps in prevention are taken very early on, when you first plant your trees. Certain tree species are less prone to invasive roots than others, and it’s a good idea to do a little research before planting anything you know will be near a sidewalk.
If you see roots growing out of control and anticipate they’ll do some damage, it’s possible to have them removed. However, this is not an ideal solution for a number of reasons: first, because roots are a critical part of the tree. Trees need roots for support and to find and absorb water and nutrients. If you cut them away, you might put the tree at risk. Sometimes, you may weigh the pros and cons and decide removing the roots is what you want to do. In some cases, homeowners decide to remove problem trees completely.
However, often, people will decide they don’t want to put their beloved trees at risk. In other cases, the trees damaging your sidewalk may not even belong to you. Getting permission to remove the roots of a tree that belongs to someone else may be more trouble than it is worth. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to solve your problem through root pruning, it is best to have it done by a reputable company that will minimize the risk to the tree and the surrounding property. Contact a company like Mr. Tree and ask their advice about removing roots or removing whole trees.
If you decide that removing the roots is not an option, there are other preventative steps you can take to avoid dealing with a damaged sidewalk. Built-in barriers that block the roots from harming the sidewalk are a popular and effective method. There are several types of barriers you can make use of. Some are made from plastic, others from geotextile fabric. They are installed at the edge of the sidewalk, and so when the errant root makes contact with them, it is redirected and prevented from growing under the sidewalk and pushing it up.
Other barriers are made from rebar and simply reinforce the strength and weight of the sidewalk, essentially, brute-forcing the tree roots back down. Any one of these barrier types can be effective, depending on the type of property you have and the amount of time and money you are willing to invest in making upgrades.
Repairing the Damage
If it’s too late to take preventative steps and the damage has already been done to your sidewalk, it’s possible to make repairs or even have the sidewalk replaced entirely.
If You Do Remove the Roots
Repairing the damage will be easiest if you have been able to remove the tree roots beforehand. However, as we’ve mentioned before, do not simply grab an axe and attempt to remove tree roots on your own. Look for a contractor like the ones at Mr. Tree to get the job done with minimal risk to the tree, your property, and surrounding plants.
Once the roots have been removed, you’ll need to remove the damaged concrete slab and dig in the area a little. You’ll place a large piece of wood in the hole as a support for the new concrete slab. You can also reuse the old concrete slab and opt to simply fill in the crack. Either way, you’ll place a layer of dirt on top of your wooden board and then put a layer of gravel over that. Your concrete slab will be placed on top of the gravel.
If You Cannot Remove the Roots
One challenge you may face if you choose not to have the tree roots removed is redirecting the sidewalk around them so that you don’t have a huge, buckled and cracked slab of concrete to walk over. It’s actually possible to build a small bridge over roots, by removing the damaged concrete and replacing it with fresh. However, this will leave a sort of a hump in the sidewalk that you may not want. You can also opt to redirect the sidewalk around the roots, avoiding them entirely.
There are even alternative sidewalks you can build that are less prone to buckling than concrete is. Asphalt, for example, is harder for roots to destroy, as are walkways made from bricks. Consider replacing your old concrete sidewalk with something new if you cannot remove the roots that are damaging them.