Preventing Tree Root Damage

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on

Although trees play an important role in urban environments (research says that trees reduce crime and generally make us better humans), it’s important to note that trees can also be costly if they are not well-maintained. Trees can damage the surrounding infrastructure and can become an issue for things like the surrounding pavement, streets, and sewer lines. Most of this damage is preventable and often caused by the root systems.

Trees are actually not meant to be a part of the city environments. Trees are actually meant to be in natural forests where they can thrive. Cities, which are made of manmade structure components that are designed for humans, can often impede a trees natural desire to grow tall and strong. They seek lots of natural light and also the ability for their root system grow deep. Sidewalks, buildings, utility services and roads are all designed for our human needs, but they are totally opposite of a tree’s needs.

In fact, to create these structures (like roads, sidewalks, and buildings), you need to have strong compacted soil to support the constant impact from walking, cars, or the weight of a building. They need to be able to support heavy loads for a long period of time. Unfortunately, in these urban environments the compact soil can restrict root growth of trees.

In this article, we’ll talk about some ways that we can assist trees growing in urban environments!

Pavement or Root Heave

Have you ever come across a sidewalk or even a street that is buckled and heaving? This is often called “pavement heave” and is caused by tree roots that don’t have enough space underground to grow. This can be caused by soil that’s compacted to help support structures, like sidewalks and streets. This will force the tree roots to colonize where the roots systems have more room to spread, right underneath the compacted surface. Once they make room underneath the hardscape, it can cause that pavement to lift or crack.

As you can imagine, this can be a great challenge for city and county municipalities who are trying to keep the public safe. Not only can heaving be an eyesore, it can also be a hazard for people!

Our tree service professionals also realize this and can work with the city municipalities to assist with these trees.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on

Root Heaving and How to Avoid It

Since root systems don’t thrive in compacted soil, they will attempt to find any space they can between the hardscape surface and try to grow there. However, if you allow for a specific amount of uncompacted oil below the paved areas, it will allow room for those tree roots to grow without damaging the pavement above. Allowing for load bearing soil above that can withstand traffic while also creating open space below, will help give tree roots the chance to grow correctly.

It’s also important to create space between the tree trunk and the surrounding pavement, as well. If you need guidance on the proper planting distance between the tree and the surround pavement, it’s important to reach out to a tree care professional for advice. Our tree care service teams are experts in this arena.

Managing Tree Roots

Trees in urban settings will always be of value. Aesthetically, people in urban cities find tree lined streets to be pleasing on the eyes. So, how do we continue to integrate trees into these urban environments, knowing that trees can cause damage to surround structures and systems?

First, we need to design urban environments knowing that ultimately trees need to be maintained so that it can eliminate damage to structures in the area. This means that soil needs to be monitored to allow trees to grow as if they would in natural environments. Also, when planting new trees, precautions need to be put in place. There needs to be specific care that goes into planting urban trees to make sure they grow in adequate conditions without damaging surface structures, like buildings, sewer systems, sidewalks or pavement.

To do this, it starts by making sure that there is enough uncompacted soil and lots of tree maintenance and care. There’s also root management products avaiable to make sure that roots stay below the surface and away from paved areas, utility lines and nearby buildings.

If you like this article, you may find some of these other articles on tree care interesting!

Caring For Your Black Walnut Tree

Best Practices for Watering Trees and Shrubs

Choosing the Right Fertilizer

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