The concrete patio behind my Benton Harbor home is lovely - but it has one problem: a massive oak tree in the backyard has equally massive roots - and they are pushing up the patio - creating an unsightly hazard. How can I fix the problem without taking down that ancient tree?
LaVyrle T. ~ Benton Harbor, Michigan
You have a few things going on here, a patio that needs to be leveled out, tree roots that need to be removed from beneath your patio, and a tree causing the problems that you do not want to cut down. Chances are, if you remove all the roots from beneath the patio, you will kill the tree. If you remove the roots and the tree does not die, the roots will probably grow right back to where they were before causing the same damage. If you remove a significant amount of roots from a large tree you greatly decrease the trees stability, making it more prone to falling over in a big storm. Typically, if you want a lasting solution you will have to decide if it is the tree you want to save or the patio you want with out root damage. I have had a situation where we thought it was oak roots ruining a driveway, but it ended up they were alder roots from trees 40 feet from the driveway, so make sure it is the oak causing the problems. I would suggest talking to a tree specialist and find out what you options are with removing roots and still preserving the tree. It may be that you have to shrink patio size or go with a raised deck on piers to provide room for the tree to spread its roots.