How to Cut Birch Tree Surface Roots

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Things You'll Need

  • Shovel

  • Saw

  • Axe

Image Credit: Hemera Technologies/ Images

The birch tree that most of us are familiar with has strikingly white, papery bark. And then there's the river birch with its brown feathery bark. Both are favorite choices for landscaping yards. They are often planted in clusters of three to create beautiful grouping. Unfortunately, some birch trees can develop surface roots. As these roots grow and spread, they can undermine pavement, patios and even press against house foundations. For these reasons surface roots should be removed to prevent damage.


Step 1

Cut out surface roots in the autumn. At this time of year the tree can direct all its energy to the roots instead of sending it upwards to sustain the leaves on the branches. Cut as far away from the trunk of the tree as possible.

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Step 2

Shovel the sod and soil away from the sides of the surface roots and underneath them. Don't damage the outside coating of the exposed root. Use a clean, sharp saw and axe to cut and chop through the roots. While cutting through the root don't bend or twist the part of the root that will remain.

Step 3

Cut out only 20 percent or less of the total root mass. Think of the encircling roots of the tree radiating out from the trunk; imagine dividing that root system up into five big slices and using only one of those slices or less.


Trench down 18 to 24 inches and install a root barrier after cutting out the surface roots. A root barrier is an impenetrable shield that the roots can't grow through. Many of them are plastic.


There is a reason why roots grow at the surface. They are seeking either oxygen, water or nutrients to sustain the tree. Cutting away surface roots will take away these things from the tree. Only remove surface roots if you absolutely have to.

Cutting surface roots opens up the possibility of pest infestation through the cut root end.


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