Front walk and tree roots

efeuerOctober 2, 2012

We have a front walk made of brick that is in need of replacement/repair. The path is right under a massive spruce tree (more than 30 years old), and the roots have heaved up the bricks in places. In an ideal world, the tree would never have been placed where it is, so close to the house. But I don't want to cut it down or damage it now.

What would be the best material to use to create a new walk? Can the current walk be repaired, and graded to ride over the roots? Could the root be safely cut by a tree surgeon? Any advice appreciated.

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please post a good picture that shows it.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 8:06AM
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Here are some photos of the walk, the tree, and the damage to the brickwork.

As you can see, there has also been substantial heaving of the steel edging. The bare dirt in front of the house is the site of our former perennial garden, now (sadly) slated for removal and replacement with some combination of grass and ground cover. Too much shade, too many deer, not enough time and energy any more.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 4:37PM
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hoping someone can give great advice. Beautiful setting.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 8:52PM
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I missed the photos getting added so thanks for bumping.

One thing that's certain about trees is that they have the power to push up not just little bricks, but massive, solid slabs of concrete weighing tons. Given the proximity of walk to tree, it seems this is likely to be a periodic maintenance issue. I'd consider re-configuring the walk to be farther from the tree if at all possible. Then, a root barrier would help as well. If the walkway is substantially reset, I'd consider using a different restraint at its edge. The steel sticking up does not look friendly or attractive. An edge that is not visible would be preferable. Whether the tree root could be cut without significant danger to the tree would need to be assessed on site by a qualified arborist. Unless the walk is moved farther away from the tree and a root barrier installed, the problem will re-occur at some point in the future. I can't see enough of the property to suggest an alternate route.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 8:57AM
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This is a sketch of the property layout. Not a graphic design program, just a scan of a sketch, but maybe it will help. It's hard for me, at least, to see where else to put the walk. People always want the shortest path from A to B. I don't think it would be convenient for them to park halfway down the driveway and start walking across the lawn from there. Between the pine and the spruce is probably worse than where it is.

Unfortunately, the spruce was planted by a previous owner too close to the house. Wish he had thought ahead. But it seems a shame to cut it down now.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 10:36AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

With the bricks, you have the ability to spot-repair, I would think. Maybe? I would consult a tree specialist about trimming the roots in that spot, putting down a root barrier as mentioned by Yard, and replacing the bricks. Perhaps that would work for another 10 years? I have seen this done with street trees here in San Diego, but I don't know whether your spruce would tolerate root pruning.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 11:23AM
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Photos don't show if there's a way to hug the house with the walk and plan sketch shows options are limited. Another idea that occurs to me in addition to what has already been talked about, is incorporating a low, decorative bridge--as a garden feature--that spans the area of root aggression. Exactly how to do it would take some study of the area.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:30PM
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dr. liz, seems the walkway is well positioned now. IF you sacrifice the spruce and have roots ground as well as the stump, you would only need to reset the bricks in the affected area.

There have been discussions about newer materials that are used to retain the outer edges. I don't recall what they are, but think someone will answer here or you could find the information from a reliable installer.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 1:26PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

My vote would be to get rid of the spruce! They do not age attractively and the needles, especially fallen, dried ones, are painful and unfriendly so aren't very suitable in an entrance area. White pines, on the other hand, are one of my favorite trees. They age gracefully; the needles are wonderfully soft to the touch; they provide great mulch for the garden; I've never found their roots to be a problem along a path - but I don't have paved paths under them, so I'm not sure if they create problems for paving. Pines, like the spruce, are softwood trees so are vulnerable to falling in high winds. Depending on the frequency of windy conditions in your area and the age and state of the trees, it coyld be useful to have their health assessed if you keep one or both of them.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 6:05PM
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Thanks for all the comments. I like the bridge idea--I think properly done that could be pretty. What about using decking, and raising the whole thing?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 7:35PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I'm also for getting rid of the Spruce. It will only get larger. You could use more light for the existing shrubs.
Looks like an easy drop for anyone qualified.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:10AM
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Exploring the bridge idea would require a working knowledge of the area. If it's feasible, a bridge should not be something that one steps UP onto, but something that is flush with the rest of the walk and has a gentle rise so as to keep the walk functional. That the obstruction occurs at a curve in the walk has "Asian-inspired" creations creeping into my thinking. It would not necessarily need to be make of wood. It's conceivable that there is a variety of approaches that would work. Search Google Images for "garden bridge" to begin an exploration of the idea.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:46AM
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