Guide to Dealing with Tree Roots

Tree roots make up the integral foundation of all trees. Without them, trees would not grow straight up or withstand strong winds and poor weather. Roots keep trees anchored, creating a vast underground network of support.

Roots are essential in many ways, but when they become overgrown, they can get in the way, cause a safety hazard, and make it hard to keep up with your landscaping.

If you have overgrown or exposed tree roots on your Calgary, Alberta, property, it’s possible to remove them without harming the tree. However, it takes careful technique and timing to avoid damaging the tree or even killing it altogether.

Take control of your tree roots! In this article, we’re sharing everything you need to know about the risks of overgrown roots, what causes them, and the various removal methods.

Risks of Overgrown Tree Roots

In Calgary, overgrown tree roots can do more harm than good. While large, exposed roots surrounding a tree aren’t a danger in and of themselves, their proximity to other structures and high-traffic areas can make them a nuisance or even a danger.

Some of the most pressing risks of overgrown roots include:

  • Roots growing under foundation – These will grow thicker and can eventually damage the foundation, compromising the integrity of the building.
  • Roots causing sidewalk/driveway cracking – Roots close to high traffic areas can ruin stonework, make unsightly cracks, and pose a risk for walkers or even cars.
  • Roots as a safety hazard – Roots that grow above the ground can be a significant tripping hazard. They’re often hard to see because of their color, and leaves open cover them up, making them even more dangerous.
  • Roots hindering lawncare and landscaping – Thick roots that grow above ground can make it impossible to mow the lawn or landscape the area surrounding a tree.

However, not all roots come with these same risks. There are two main types of roots.

Types of Roots

The two kinds of roots you’ll find underground are feeder roots and structural roots. Structural roots stabilize the tree and anchor it to its spot on the ground. They are usually sturdier and thicker. Feeder roots transfer nutrients and moisture from the soil back to the tree. 

You can have exposed feeder roots and structural roots, but the most common kind of root to see exposed in Calgary, AB, is the structural root. They are typically larger and thicker, and they can grow out wide to provide a stable base for the tree. 

What Causes Exposed Roots?

Exposed roots, also known as surface rooting, can be caused by a few different things. 

  • Poor soil quality – If the soil is not moist and compact, it’s easier for thick tree roots to break through to the surface, especially in sandy, clay-based, or loose soil. 
  • Lack of oxygen – A lack of oxygen in the soil can cause tree roots to move toward the surface to capture more oxygen needed to keep the tree alive.
  • Weather – Lots of rain, wind, or runoff can erode the soil and area around the tree, causing roots to become exposed.
  • Lack of space – If a tree is planted where it does not have enough room to grow completely, like next to sidewalks, buildings, or streets, the roots may deflect to the surface to continue growing.
  • High traffic – An area that’s walked or trampled on a lot, the soil can become naturally eroded or packed down, exposing the roots.

Determining the cause of your overgrown or exposed roots can help determine the best way to remove them. 

Removing Tree Roots

There are a few ways to remove tree roots from your Calgary property. The most common is to physically remove the trees by digging or cutting them out—or a combination of the two. The other option is treating the roots with chemicals to kill them.

Digging and Cutting Out Tree Roots

If you want to handle the job yourself without involving any harsh chemicals, you’re looking at a major job of digging and cutting out the roots. It’s the fastest yet most labor-intensive option you have. 

To start digging out the roots, you’re going to need a sharp spade and a root saw.

Find the root you want to cut, and trace it back to the base where it is growing from. Know that the larger the base, the more likely you are to damage the tree if you cut it. If it’s somewhat small or smaller than the others, there shouldn’t be any real problem.

Then, find the spot to start digging and cutting. This should be about three to five times the length of the tree’s diameter. Mark this spot with spray paint so that you don’t lose it. 

Start digging out the soil around the root with the spade to expose as much root as possible. Pull out anything loose. 

Then, using a root saw, cut the intact roots, cutting as far from the root ball as possible.

Then, use your spade or another tool to lift the roots out. Continue cutting any smaller roots in the area until you can remove the root ball.

Removing Roots with Chemicals

If you’re not one for all the manual labor, there’s a less intensive way to remove the tree roots using chemicals. This method is only recommended if you are trying to do away with stubborn roots left behind after cutting down a tree or removing the stump.

The first chemical you can use is glyphosate herbicide. Mix this with water in a 50/50 solution and saturate the outer ring of the stump with the solution, avoiding plants or nearby grass. Two weeks after, the roots should be dying off.

You can also use rock salt if you have more patience. It takes a few months to work, and a few applications are necessary to do it right. First, drill into the stump in several places and create holes a few inches deep. Drill holes in any exposed roots as well. 

Then, fill these holes with rock salt, add water to fill, and repeat a few times each month. Eventually, this will suck out all water from the roots, causing them to die.

Final Thoughts

There’s always a risk when removing tree roots in Calgary. If the tree is still living and you want to keep it that way, you should proceed with caution and only opt for the manual method of removing roots to keep the rest of the tree intact and safe from harm. 

However, if you want to stay away from manual labor and have time to spare, a chemical option may better suit you. Or reach out to our team for a free estimate for stump removal services.

Need A Free Estimate?

At Tree Removal Calgary Inc., all of our arborists are experts in their field and have the necessary equipment to handle any tree removal situation. We pride ourselves in being familiar with every detail of the process, including using the gear to rig, as well as manipulating and pulling the tree down safely.