Tree Root Removal: A How-To Guide

Old tree roots, out-of-control roots of a living tree, and old tree stumps all bring issues that a professional tree removal service can resolve. Roots that grow under the foundation or driveway can cause expensive damage. Dead tree roots take up space and host pests and diseases. An old stump in the yard is just ugly. Many people want to trim back live tree roots without killing one of their trees. All of those issues, or almost all, can be handled without hiring a tree service.

Trimming Live Tree Roots

Living tree roots need to be trimmed back in a few different situations. Tree roots grow indiscriminately, sometimes threatening your sidewalk, driveway, or foundation. Sometimes soil erosion or simple tree growth exposes roots. In that last situation, good tree maintenance might require cutting some roots. Roots can threaten your house by damaging the foundation or cracking pipes that run under the house. If your foundation or plumbing might be in danger it is best to call an expert to assess the situation.


There are a few rules and guidelines to keep in mind when trimming a live tree’s roots. Here are some things to avoid:

  • Don’t cut more than 25% of the roots on any side or 33% overall, because this can kill the tree.
  • Don’t cut a growing tree’s roots in the first two years.
  • Don’t cut the roots in spring after buds have emerged.
  • Don’t cut too close to the trunk.
  • Don’t trim the roots of a leaning tree. It could become even more unstable and fall.
  • Don’t cut any roots larger in diameter than the size of your fist.
  • Careless root trimming can kill the tree or introduce a disease to the tree.

Here are some things you should do to maximize the odds of success when you trim a tree’s roots:

  • Only trim in late winter and early spring. This is when a tree is less active and unlikely to be harmed by having some of the roots cut away.
  • Know how close is too close to trim the roots. Measure the trunk diameter at chest height. Multiply by five. This is the minimum safe distance from the trunk to cut the roots.
  • Mark the roots with spray paint. This can remind you of the minimum safe distance. You can obviously also mark the roots for someone else to cut.
  • If for any reason you need to cut close to the tree, consult a tree care professional first.
  • Fill the holes where the roots used to be and consider putting down some grass seed.
  • If a tree is growing too close to a building, you might not have the option of trimming the roots to protect the building. The best thing to do in this situation is to call a professional tree trimming service.

Make sure you have the right tools and equipment before getting started.


You will need several pieces of equipment to do the job correctly:

  • Sharp hand saw
  • Spade
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Spray paint
  • Mulch and/or bags of topsoil

Sterilize your saw or shovel with alcohol. Living roots that have been damaged are susceptible to disease. This is why sterilized tools are essential. The spray paint is for marking the minimum safe distance from the trunk.

After cutting the roots and removing the cuttings, restore the ground by filling in the holes with topsoil or mulch. Plant some grass seeds to finish off the restoration process. If trimming some live tree roots on your property sounds like too much work, contact us to get a free estimate on your job.

Removing Dead Tree Roots

If the tree stump has been removed, then cleaning up the roots is easy enough. Trace them visually or by digging near the location and cut up the roots. You can handle these root cleanup jobs with a shovel, saw, hatchet, and spray paint. On larger root systems you can use spray paint to mark points where you will cut the roots into manageable segments. After removing the roots, you might want to restore the disturbed ground. Fill in the holes. Plant some grass seeds. The tree root segments can be hauled off to a landfill or turned to wood chips and used on the property.

Most tree removal services will probably take care of a dead tree’s roots after cutting down the tree and removing the stump. Stump grinding services might not be included, so be sure to ask.

Tree Stump Removal

Tree stumps waste space in a yard and are unsightly. You can hire a company to get rid of an old tree stump for you. You can also handle the removal work yourself. A large tree stump may have a huge root ball under it. Imagine a huge old oak that left a stump almost three feet across at the top. It would take a huge amount of labor to cut it up and haul it away or grind it up. Renting a stump grinder can speed things up, of course.

Property owners have a few options when it comes to removing a tree stump themselves:

  • Burn it – Instructions for burning out an old tree stump using potassium nitrate and gasoline may be found online. However, this is a risky process and probably an illegal one in most of the Atlanta metro area.
  • Soften it with chemicals – This process can take a few weeks to work, and the tree stump still needs to be removed manually. This process involves handling potassium nitrate, and gasoline or kerosene. This process is also not recommended.
  • Grind it manually – You would use a chainsaw, mattock, ax, and digging bar to tear up the stump and remove it in pieces or pull it out with a 4×4 vehicle. Renting a stump grinder is also an option.

The best stump removal option for most people in most situations is probably to call a tree services company that offers stump removal and stump grinding.

Tree Root Removal in Atlanta GA

We offer stump grinding and tree stump removal in Atlanta and surrounding areas. Call us and let our fully licensed and insured specialists handle the job. We are happy to provide free estimates on root removal, stump removal, and other tree services.


Southern Tree Pros

Our company provides a range of services that covers everything from small residential tree maintenance jobs to large commercial projects. Our Atlanta tree service staff is fully trained and equipped to meet your needs.

Contact Us

2743 Orchard Knob Dr Atlanta, GA.
(770) 841-1684

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