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Have you ever encountered a troublesome hump in a patio or on a neighborhood sidewalk, especially when pushing a baby stroller or trying to navigate a wheelchair? If so, you know how tree roots can cause serious problems. Not only does this obstacle ruin the aesthetic appeal of the hardscape itself, but it also poses a severe tripping hazard for users and possible legal challenges for property owners. Are tree roots wreaking havoc in your outdoor spaces?

The Ups and Downs of Big, Old Trees

The leafy canopy of an old, well-established tree can be a wonderful thing in an urban garden, providing shade and a feeling of privacy and intimacy. At the other end of the tree lies the root system. Even though (mostly) out of sight, spreading tree roots can be a source of aggravation and never-ending maintenance when paired with hardscaping features like patios, walkways, steps, and retaining walls. Sound familiar?

Tree Roots and Hardscaping 

Hardscaping is the term used for those exterior masonry features in an outdoor area, such as patios, retaining walls, steps, and walkways. Although these features are built to last from durable materials like brick, stone, or concrete, time and pressure from spreading tree roots can cause them to buckle, shift, or even collapse. Roots follow the path of least resistance, which often leads to their burrowing between your hardscape’s joints, thereby forcing the materials apart or upward. 

How to Prevent Tree Root Damage in Your Urban Garden

There are a few measures homeowners can take to prevent tree roots from damaging your hardscape investment. Renaissance Development LLC recommends the following: 

  • Plan your urban garden - hardscaping and landscaping - to avoid tree roots. Don’t plant new trees near existing hardscaped areas, and try to avoid constructing new brick, stone, or concrete surfaces near trees with large or extensive roots. 
  • Dig a narrow trench along the edge of your patio, walkway, or other constructed surfaces each year. As you dig, you will cut the roots and prevent them from becoming large enough to cause any damage. Rapidly growing trees may require you to perform this task twice a year. 

What to Do About Uprooted Hardscaping 

When your hardscaping has already been disturbed by invasive tree roots, the only recourse is to remove the damaged hardscape and excavate the tree roots. Sometimes, this is only necessary for a small portion of your patio or walkway; it may require more extensive excavation in other cases. Some homeowners choose this opportunity to completely redesign and replace their patio, walkways, or other hardscape surfaces while taking care to avoid tree roots in the new project. 

Other homeowners may choose to remove the offending tree to create a cleaner, more open space that allows for even hardscapes or other landscaping. Tree removal may require the services of a tree expert and the use of heavy equipment. Depending on your location, you may need to obtain permission and a legal permit for removing a tree. Remember, the tradeoff can be allowing some unevenness in your hardscape to preserve the shade of a fine old tree. 

Washington DC Area Hardscaping and Exterior Masonry

Renaissance Development LLC has ample experience working with patios and walkways in all states of deterioration​, and our seasoned professionals can help you figure out the best options for your property. We can also help you plan, design, and build entirely new hardscapes on your property to enhance value and comfort. Patios, walkways, and other urban garden features make a significant addition to your historic property.

Contact Renaissance Development LLC for more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our hardscape experts.

Post by Christina Wilson
Oct 29, 2020 2:23:50 PM