Think it might be time to prune the roots of that old tree causing your sidewalk to buckle? Not so fast! In addition to the risk of fines and penalties from the city, there are safety issues and — perhaps most importantly — risks to the health of the tree that must be considered before starting a root pruning project.
It’s always a good idea to consult with a professional when considering work of this type. For the best in full-service tree care, you’ll want to give the certified arborists at Urban Forest Pro a call. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff can help determine what type of tree work is best for your situation and can advise you on options that you may not have been aware of.
Urban Forest Pro: Root pruning
What is root pruning? The Spruce has a good definition: “Root pruning is the process of slicing through the roots … of an established tree that is going to be dug and transplanted. This is done to encourage the growth of new feeder roots along the root ball that will be transplanted along with the tree. A smaller root ball, with many feeder roots, will help the tree acclimate faster to its new spot in the ground.”
That definition provides a glimpse of the complexity of this process. As we’ve written before in the Urban Forest Pro blog, you should never cut your tree roots (or let your concrete contractor cut them) because tree roots to be cut must be marked by the city arborist before cutting. Cutting tree roots without city approval is a surefire way to cause permanent damage or death to your street trees and to incur a hefty fine.
Besides, without the use of other root control measures, improperly cut roots will not cease to damage sidewalks, if that’s the reason you’re considering slashing at a tree’s roots. In fact, studies show that despite tree root pruning, sidewalks will, on average, lift again within five years.
Often, the city will notify you that you need to do something about a buckling sidewalk. If that’s the case, do not procrastinate. In “Tree Roots & Sidewalks: A Beginners Guide,” we noted that after a notice is sent, it will likely “take the entire time allotted to you to make all of the arrangements to have this work done.”
Root Pruning and the City of Portland
The city of Portland provides clear directives on root pruning.
From the city’s website: “Street trees: A permit is required to prune roots greater than or equal to 1/4 inch at attachment on any tree in the City right-of-way, which is typically between the curb and sidewalk. … No permit is required to root prune a tree on private property.”
As one of Portland’s “Local Tree Care Providers,” Urban Forest Pro has a good and long working relationship with the city. The city’s website is a valuable resource for homeowners and property owners, providing a wealth of knowledge about many different tree services.
For example, here’s what the city says about how extensive a tree’s root system can be: “Tree root systems are very large; they can reach as far away from the trunk as the tree is tall. Tree root systems are also very shallow, with 80 percent of the roots in the top three feet of soil. The roots are integral to the survival of a tree. They support the tree, absorb water and nutrients and store food. A healthy root system ensures a healthy tree, so special consideration needs to be taken when working in the root zone or pruning tree roots.”
The certified arborists at Urban Forest Pro recommend having your tree roots examined and, if necessary, regularly pruned every three years or so. Call Urban Forest Pro today and leave the difficult task of root pruning to the experts.