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Tree Roots & Sidewalks A Beginners Guide

Tree Roots disrupting sidewalk

Surprise it is sidewalk repair notice season! This season unfortunately comes every year and inevitably these notices for sidewalk cracks and gaps are more often than not caused by tree roots.  So what can you do? Well actually quite a bit, which is encouraging as our knowledge of tree roots has progressed a lot even in the last 10 years and there is much that can be done. Below is a step by step guide to the process of tackling one of these projects.


  1. Step One, dealing with tree roots on mature trees is not a DIY project. So if that was anywhere in your mind let it go.
  2. Do not procrastinate. If you got a sidewalk notice from the city it will take the entire time allotted to you to make all of the arrangements to have this work done.
  3. Talk to an Arborist. This is counterintuitive, you would think when your sidewalk is cracked the first step would be to talk to a concrete contractor, but that is not so. The arborist needs to first make a determination of the condition of the trees because if they need to come out this is the time to do (unfortunately this make those notices a double whammy). Also, if the trees are in good condition you need to arrange for the arborist to attend to the roots in between when the concrete is removed and the new concrete is poured.
  4. Get a concrete contractor who understands tree roots. Pouring a slab of concrete is the simple part. Pouring a slab of concrete that can withstand aggressive tree roots is another. There are a lot of things concrete contractors can do to increase the life of your sidewalks when trees are present Including grinding down tripping hazards as appose to removing the sidewalk, adding a pea gravel base layer giving room for tree roots to expand, creating a raised arch over tree roots, and making cut outs to increase space for trees, ect. It is far less expensive to hire the right contractor then to have to replace your sidewalks again 5 years down the road. You need someone who knows these techniques and how to best utilize them.
  5. If steps 1-4 are followed sit back, relax, & drink your favorite beverage as you know have concrete that will last despite those pesky tree roots.

For more information, here is a past article we wrote on tree roots and sidewalks about 6 years ago and also an article by the Tree Care Industry Association.

If you have questions about your particular situation we can answer some questions over the phone (503-226-7143) or for $85 we can come out and do a verbal assessment of your situation (the fee would be credited to any work you have done).

For added information below are some prices for Tree Root Related Arborist Services:

Tree Root Pruning: $85 per hour (does not include digging so roots must be hand dug beforehand) most trees take 1-2 hours. We have a 2 hr minimum.

Tree Root Air Excavation and Root Pruning: We excavate the area around the roots using air and prune the roots as needed $700 for a ½ day and $1,200 for a full day.

Stump Grinding and Root Chasing: $5 per inch in diameter of the stump and $5 for every foot we need to chase roots in any direction. The minimum charge is $150. You can find more info on stump grinding here.

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