I cut them out with a saws-all that has a Demo blade in it.
Demo Blades can cut through nails and therefore dirt won’t be a factor, but if you want to cut them way back- yes, dig a bit.
Hi Kathy, digging them out is often the only possible choice. An Ax and some serious determination is what I always use.
Hope this helps:
The roots are surfacing looking for water or the soil has just eroded away. If you cut the roots, you might be the victim of a tree dying or falling over from no support. Remember the roots support the tree. If this were my tree, I would add soil or a walled in flower arrangement circling the area that has the roots that are showing through.
Hi Kathy, depending on the size and type of tree , here are a few videos for you to check, hope one will help you, be sure to read the comments as well as some suggestions are made
Is there a tree involved that you wish to remain healthy?
Much likes tree stumps tree roots can be eliminated by vigorous digging with a pick ax or mattock or if desperate measures a sawall can be involved.
Is it from a tree in your yard? Or traveling from a neighboring property? Think twice before going out there and just hacking and whacking at tree roots. I second Redcatcec's recommendation as if the tree loses stability it can very well fall over in high winds, too much snow, etc. Last thing you want is a tree to fall on your house, or even worse, your neighbors as you would be legally responsible. If it were my house, call out a proper arborist before proceeding. They are not that expensive and provide valuable information. I had a tree in my front yard, it was here when I purchased the house, but it became diseased and I had to take it down. First person I called was an arborist.
So welcome Kathy, good luck with your project!