Can I cut the roots without damaging the tree?

I have a Paperwhite Birch tree which is sending big roots on top of the soil directly towards the foundation of my house. Will they damage the concrete? Can I cut them without damaging the tree?
q can i cut the roots without damaging the tree
q can i cut the roots without damaging the tree
  11 answers
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Oct 01, 2017
    You cannot cut the roots it will kill the tree

  • Robyn Garner Robyn Garner on Oct 01, 2017
    No you can't cut a tree's roots and not damage the tree! Additionally, you could make the entire thing unstable and cause it to fall. I'd consult with an arborist.

  • Kauai Breeze Kauai Breeze on Oct 01, 2017
    The decision is ultimately yours; do you want to risk replacing the tree, or replacing your foundation? Looking at the distance between the tree and house there are probably many roots coming from the base. The root is coming up since it already hit something solid (like a large rock or foundation) and is trying to go around it. Also since your foundation is smooth, I assume it is either block or concrete, in which case the root probably hit the solid wall and detoured down or to the right in search of water from the downspout. Cutting the root near the house and leaving the rest might not kill the tree if there are others to support it, but if the downspout is the primary source of water others will follow it. I would add an extension to your downspout directing the water further out away from the house. Then cut the root about 3 ft from the house and see what happens. Trees are cheap compared to a foundation.

  • Nancy Turner Nancy Turner on Oct 02, 2017
    Birch trees are by nature a bit unstable and supposedly will get blown over relatively easily. I have never seen this, I have one in the back yard by the house that is way taller than the house and we have had some incredible wind storms, almost 60 mph, just this summer and didn't even lose a dead branch. What you do depends on if you want to try it and save the foundation.

  • Lynne Webb Lynne Webb on Oct 02, 2017
    I had a maple removed for that exact same reason. I bought the house and the tree was well established. I thought the previous owners big dogs had dug holes in the front yard. A year passed and something didn't seem right. I called a 'tree guy' who quickly showed me the problem. My walk was heaving at a joint. And all those things I was walking over weren't the remnants of holes, they were tree roots that were spreading far an wide. If they're under my walk, they're under my house! So, thought I hated to see the tree go, I am so glad I did. A few more years and I'm sure I would have seen mortar between the bricks developing cracks.

  • Carmen Carmen on Oct 02, 2017
    I work with a landscaping company and I would have to agree that you will kill the tree if you damage or remove the roots.

  • Carmen Carmen on Oct 02, 2017
    Actually, I looked at your pictures again and I was thinking that you can perhaps make a garden around the tree and hide the roots. I would get some flat rocks or bricks, etc., and make a wide garden around the tree and build it up to about a foot or a foot and a half high. I would then put in some nice earth and plant hostas and add mulch. This would not only hide the roots, but when the hostas grow they will cover most of the area around the tree and it will look very nice. I design gardens for our clients and that is what I would do.

    • The29669991 The29669991 on Oct 03, 2017
      . HappyLove that approach, Carmen! Thank you. I was wondering what to do with our birch that's doing the same thing, and since we brought it home from the tree nursery as sapling that I could encircle the whole trunk with one hand :), it's too precious to cut down. I'm going to do just what you've suggested, starting with the digging and the rocks now, and adding plants in the spring. So inspired!! HappyinEdmonton

  • Carmen Carmen on Oct 02, 2017
    As for the roots near the foundation? I would call in an expert.

  • Ter27767619 Ter27767619 on Oct 03, 2017
    Just walk around cemetAries and see how close graves are dug to large trees. No damage...what is up with that?

  • Deborah Betz Deborah Betz on Oct 03, 2017
    Thank you all! I have decided to try and dig them up and see exactly where they are going. My foundation is solid concrete so I am hoping that I see what I want to see, and that is the roots detouring! if not, I will regretfully cut them! I will cry if my tree dies. But you are right, I can buy another tree. Foundation work will be a lot more expensive!

  • Carmen Carmen on Oct 03, 2017
    Your welcome.