How to Cut Roots With a Reciprocating Saw

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You can cut roots with a reciprocating saw.
Image Credit: Andrey Sayfutdinov/iStock/GettyImages

Tree roots can wreak havoc on driveways, sidewalks and other concrete surfaces and structures, causing them to break and crack. Though you might think that you can only use a reciprocating saw to cut wood or metal for home construction projects, it makes an excellent tree root cutter tool. Of course, not all of these saws are appropriate or safe to use for cutting roots, but they work very well when using the right one with proper safety precautions. You'll need to consider the power source, design and type of blades before attempting to use the saw in this way.

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Best Reciprocating Saw for Tree Roots

When shopping for reciprocating saws, you'll find corded and cordless models. Ones with cords are usually lighter and maintain their power as long as they are plugged in. Cordless reciprocating saws are more maneuverable since you don't need to think about the cord; you also don't have to worry about cutting through it. It will lose power when the battery runs low, however.

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Reciprocating saws can have straight-cut or orbital-cut blade movement. Straight-cut ones have blades that only move back and forth and work well for making controlled cuts on metal; orbital-cutting blades are in oval or elliptical shapes. Some reciprocating saws have adjustable features that let the user change back and forth from straight to orbital cutting, which makes them more versatile and a good choice for tree roots. Look for ones that are made for both metal and wood or those that are designed specifically for wood or tree roots.

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Best Blade for Cutting Tree Roots

Reciprocating saws can work with different kinds of blades, but some work better on tree roots. A chisel blade is best because it has sharp edges that won't get stuck on small root hairs and tree branches. There are also other root cutter attachments for this job. For example, you can purchase an electric root saw. Home Depot and other retailers provide several options for these kinds of tools.

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The best blades for cutting tree roots are made from high-speed steel, which is best for hardwood roots, or high-carbon steel, which is best for softwood roots. The length should be on the longer side, so look for ones that measure 6 to 12 inches. They should also be slightly wider and straight to make them more stable and resistant to the binding. Choose one that has a sloped tip or slope design to help the blade dig in deeper where it needs to.

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Using a Reciprocating Saw on Tree Roots

To get started on this project, you should put on work gloves, boots, long sleeves and pants, protective goggles and a mask. Insert your blade and adjust the shoe to keep the saw in position while making the cuts. Look over the root to find the base where it extends from the trunk or another branch; this area is known as the collar. Position the blade here and start sawing. Be ready for the cloud of sawdust.

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When roots seem too heavy or dense to cut, you can try positioning the blade below the root and cut halfway through. Getting to this position will involve having to dig out beneath it, but it can work. The bottom/top method also works well on thick branches. While cutting, you will want to maintain consistent pressure on the saw when it is running and use a rocking motion when cutting through the roots.

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