The Risks of Large Tree Roots and How to Handle Them

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The Risks of Large Tree Roots and How to Handle Them

If you have trees in your yard or near your property, you may enjoy their shade, beauty, and ecological benefits. However, you may also face some risks and challenges related to their roots, especially if they grow large and invasive. In this blog post, we will explore the risks of large tree roots and how to handle them, so that you can enjoy your trees safely and sustainably.

What are large tree roots?

Large tree roots are the main structural and functional organs of trees that anchor them to the ground, absorb water and nutrients, and transport them to the rest of the tree. They can vary in size, shape, depth, and spread, depending on the species, age, soil, climate, and other factors. Some trees have shallow and wide roots that can extend beyond their canopy, while others have deep and narrow roots that can penetrate the soil deeply. Some trees have taproots that grow straight down, while others have fibrous roots that spread horizontally. Some trees have strong and flexible roots that can withstand wind, water, and other forces, while others have weak and brittle roots that can break easily.

What are the risks of large tree roots?

Large tree roots can pose various risks to people, property, and the environment, depending on their location, condition, and behavior. Here are some of the most common risks of large tree roots:

1. Structural damage

Large tree roots can grow under and around buildings, sidewalks, driveways, and other structures, causing them to lift, crack, or collapse. This can lead to costly repairs, safety hazards, and legal liabilities. Moreover, if the roots penetrate the foundation or basement of a building, they can cause moisture problems, mold growth, and structural instability.

2. Drainage problems

Large tree roots can absorb a lot of water from the soil, which can cause the soil to shrink and crack, leading to drainage problems, erosion, and soil compaction. This can affect the health and growth of other plants, as well as the stability of slopes and embankments. Moreover, if the roots clog or damage the pipes or septic systems, they can cause backups, leaks, and contamination.

3. Safety hazards

Large tree roots can create tripping hazards, especially for children, elderly, and disabled people. Moreover, if the roots grow near power lines, they can pose a risk of electrocution or fire. If the roots grow near roads or sidewalks, they can obstruct the view, cause traffic accidents, or damage vehicles.

4. Ecological impacts

Large tree roots can compete with other plants for water and nutrients, reducing their diversity and abundance. Moreover, if the roots grow near streams or wetlands, they can alter the hydrology and chemistry of the water, affecting the aquatic life and ecosystem services. If the roots grow in contaminated soil, they can absorb and accumulate toxic substances, posing a risk to human and animal health.

How to handle large tree roots?

Handling large tree roots can be challenging, but there are several ways to mitigate the risks and maintain the benefits of trees. Here are some tips and strategies:

1. Prevention

The best way to handle large tree roots is to prevent them from causing problems in the first place. This can be done by selecting the right tree species for your site, planting them at a safe distance from buildings and infrastructure, and providing them with adequate soil, water, and nutrients. Moreover, you can prune the roots regularly to prevent them from growing too large or invasive, and to promote their health and function.

2. Detection

If you suspect that you have large tree roots that may pose a risk, you can detect them by observing the symptoms, such as cracks, lifts, or tilts in the structures, changes in the soil moisture or vegetation, or signs of decay or disease in the tree. You can also use various tools and techniques, such as ground-penetrating radar, root excavation, or aerial photography, to map the roots and assess their size, shape, and location.

3. Protection

If you have large tree roots that may pose a risk, you can protect them by installing barriers, such as root barriers or geotextiles, that can redirect or contain the roots. You can also use various techniques, such as root pruning, root grafting, or root zone aeration, that can reduce the size or density of the roots, or improve their health and function. Moreover, you can consult with a certified arborist or tree care professional who can provide you with expert advice and services.

4. Removal

If you have large tree roots that cannot be prevented, detected, or protected, you may need to remove them. This can be done by cutting or grinding the roots, or by removing the tree altogether. However, this should be done with caution and care, as it can affect the health and stability of the tree, as well as the surrounding ecosystem. Moreover, you may need to obtain a permit or permission from the local authorities, especially if the tree is protected or significant.


Large tree roots can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on how you handle them. By understanding the risks and benefits of large tree roots, and by following the tips and strategies outlined in this blog post, you can enjoy your trees safely and sustainably. Remember that trees are valuable assets that provide us with many benefits, such as shade, beauty, and ecological services, and that we should treat them with respect and care.

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