Can I cut Redwood Roots?

raven0070January 13, 2007

We have a 75 foot tall redwood in our yard 17 from the corner of our future (hopeful?) addition will be. There are large roots (6-8 inches diameter) running through the area. We were assuming they came from the redwood as they seem to run in the right direction. There is also a walnut tree nearby, as well as the possible root system from an apple tree that died a few years ago. From what I have been reading, it seems that the roots are too big to be redwood. Are they? If they are, can we cut them, put in a barrier, and build? Or will that kill the tree. Any information would be very much appreciated. Thank you all in advance.

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Cutting them probably wouldn't kill the tree, but might make it die back (leaving an ugly dead top), and more seriously, very probably will make it unstable and liable to blow down, with all the consequent safety risks. Definitely not recommended.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 4:49PM
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Okay, then if cutting them is not an option, is there any way to build around them? Or is it a choice between house and tree?

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 9:59PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If you are talking about adding a regular room with a sunk foundation, so that you have to cut away the tree the outlook for the tree is not too good. Beyond that you really need someone to view the site in person. Sometimes cuts and fills do not kill trees subjected to them, but as a general rule these can be quite deleterious. Your redwood will have a large network of roots extending well beyond the spread of its branches. Cutting a big wedge out of these, extending out from right next to the trunk is not advisable. The tree is not guaranteed to die back or blow over after being so impacted, but...

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 10:22PM
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greyneedle(z6b NJ)

When they put in a sewer line to my parent's back yard several years ago they dug a long trench and it cut through the root systems of several large trees. They didn't seem affected. However, a 75' tall tree should not be near a house if at all possible. Cutting one large root will probably not be too bad, but trees and houses don't mix in general. There are construction techniques that involve pilings rather than foundations which can save trees, but you don't generally mix and match foundation styles. Talk to an arborist.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 1:04AM
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I am known for my contrary opinions here, so here goes again. I think you can cut these roots (you may want to treat the cut ends with liquid copper fungicide (search that and you will find my earlier postings). Why do I think it would be OK. You do have 17 feet--that's not bad. Plus, it is a corner, so you are not cutting off a swath all along one side of the tree. Finally, you will be reducing the roots of the tree by, I would guess, less than 10 percent. Earlier in this forum, under a topic I forgot the name of, I described what was done at Penn Alps in MD to a couple of Norway spruce trees--they were within 5 feet of the foundation of a new house that was built and most of the roots on one side of these trees were cut. This house is down wind in a very, very windy location and those trees as of now, about 5 years later, are still firm and have had no top deterioration.

Now I don't know anything specific about how redwoods would react to such disturbance, but I would guess that it will be at least as well. Roads have been built all through the CA redwood state parks very, very close to large redwood trees, certainly resulting in the destruction of the roots on those sides of the trees right next to the roads, and I don't see any of these trees dying, being uprooted, or losing their tops. The road through Humbolt Sedwood State Park and Prairie Creek Redwood state park was for many, many years a main US highway, so its base was very deep. I know these redwoods are very deep rooted in the alluvial soil there, but those roots must have been destroyed.

So, I would cut the roots, treat the ends with the 1/3 liquid copper fungicide 3/4ths water mixture I recommend (just to be on the safe side) and enjoy having your house built. But, But, But, be very careful not to disturb the other rooting area of this tree during construction--have it roped off, covered with heavy plywood boards, really, really thick heavy mulch or whatever for ONLY the period needed for construction. Don't have any extra soil put over the roots.

I think you are golden!


    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 12:17PM
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3-13-11 I am doing research on the redwood root system. Here in No. CA, Caltrans is planning to make the curves longer to allow longer trailers (53�from 48�) of semi�s to make the curves along Hwy 101 in the Richardson Grove State Park area. The trees along this corridor are large and very close to the road. Caltrans plans on cutting the root system out on the road side to make this happen. I would like to know the impack this will have on these magical trees. Pris

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 1:02PM
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