In running my sprinkler system I came across some tree roots that has
basically twisted around under and over my 1" PVC pipe. I am trying to
untangle them but it's impossible. The roots are fifteen feet away from the
center of the tree and I want to cut the roots away to free the pipe so I
can work on it.
The problem is I am not sure what is the best way to cut these roots there
are two pieces about 2" in diameter so it's pretty thick. I tried using a
recipicating saw but the angle is such that it's real difficult and the
blade would strike the pipe when fully extended.
I tried a handsaw and same problem could not extend back and forth without
striking the pipe or other parts of the roots. About the only thing I think
would work would be a mini-hack saw but that will not go far with that size
I do have a 4.5" angle grinder but I only have metal or masonry blades, no
wood blades and I don't think they make one. Could a grinder with metal
blade work in this case? It seems that it should.
if the roots are in the drip line of the tree, basically under its
branches you risk killing the tree, or weakening its base and iot can
blow over in a storm.....
is it worth the risk? trees add great value to homes.
I know it's not my tree, and I certainly can't see the situation from
here, but I'm pretty confident in saying that cutting a couple of 2
inch surface roots are not going to weaken it's base to the extent
that it will blow over in a storm.
It's over 15 feet from the tree, outside of the drip line, it's one foot
from the house exterior wall in one direction and one foot from the concrete
driveway in another. In any case I will cut the root even without the
Can't you dig back a little farther from the pipe so you don't hit it?
The grinder will probably burn through wood as much as cut it, but I
don't see that being a problem.
Or you could get one of these:
It's hard to describe, the tree root comes to the pipe and then when above
and below it at the same time, hence engulfing it and when I dig back it's
also roots. The other two sides of the pipe I cannot dig back because one
side is the exterior wall of the house, the other side is the concrete
driveway. It's in a real tricky angle and that's why the recipricating saw
did not work.
Your "chain" saw may work if I can dig deep to get under the root on the
outside, but even if I cut that out, I still need to "free" the pipe from
the hugging portion of the root. That's why I need something light and
manuveurable to cut that off. I thought of a Rotozip with a cutoff wheel
too but that would probably just break.
Others have expressed concern for the health of the tree but, since you
have already done your best to cut the root(s) in question, it's a moot
It would have been far easier to cut the sprinkler line, pull it from
the root tangle, then repair the pipe. You might still consider doing
so. Good luck.
I have considered that as well, cut the pipe and pull it. However, given
the situation, after I pulled the pipe, I would have to cut the root tangle
away to use that same space for the pipe repair. The pipe run is an
existing run alongside a concrete driveway, and roots are everywhere so
there is no room to re-route.
I might try cutting the pipe and pull it out, that may free up some room for
me to cut the root away, then I redo the pipe again, in the end the result
is the same, I was trying to avoid messing with the pipe, but if it takes a
long time to go around the pipe, it might be easier to fix it later.
There is no danger to the health of the tree, it's far away from the trunk.
I have cut roots on dozens of trees over the last 40+ years (sometimes
substantially) and never had a tree die that I didn't want to die.
We don't get hurricane winds but we do get 60mph quite often and the
area loses a fair number of trees in Oct or Feb.
Tree are pretty resilient organisms, I wouldn't worry unless the
volume of root mass "disconnected" is subtantial wrt to the total mass
As to the best way to cut the roots.....if the area is cleaned out
(hose jetted & drained) use a chain saw otherwise you risk dulling the
chain, which I hate because I'm not very skilled at chain sharpening.
more work but very dirt tolerant, a hatchet or a large axe depending
on swing access.
With a 12" blade in my reciprocating saw, I can cut just about any tree
root. The longer blade allows some "flex" to come in at odd angles, and
gives me a bit better visibility on the area I'm working on.
Is there some way you can just cut back further away from the pipe to avoid
If not, try to avoid the pipe while cutting, and simply replace it
afterwards if you do damage it. Just be sure to turn the water off while
you're cutting. :)
Or, abandon that line entirely and run a new line. Sounds like an easier
approach to me.
If you really need surgical precision to get that root out, how about a
small hatchet, or an old chisel and a hammer, a pocket knife, or a hand
file, or a dremel tool with a grinding wheel.
There are a lot of ways to deal with that root, it really depends on how
careful you need to be, and much time you want to spend on it... :)
El-cheapo pruning saws are good for that kind of problem, although 2"
oak roots are a bit tough.
I can cut a young palm that diameter in a couple of minutes. Or, chisel
out most of the mass of
the root and finish up with something more delicate, like a dremel
tool. I've spent too much time
with sprinklers and fire ants :o)
With a root that size in that confined spot, it might be a good idea to
take out the root
closer to the tree because pruning roots often causes more growth from
I have a 6 foot chiesel-pointed-solid-iron-wrecking-bar that I often
use to cut tree roots in a narrow hole. I just "spear" the root and
that heavy heavy bar chisel point cuts right through as easily as it
can cut off a toe. Or you can grinder sharpen a clam-shell type hold
digger and spear the root with that too, but its lighter so you will
be chopping a lot. (Its hard to swing a hatchett into a narrrow
hole). The tree will probably have a growth spurt in the spring
This probably won't help your situation, but....,
When I was having an asphalt driveway replaced and widened about a year ago,
I need to remove roots from a nearby tree that were going under the old
driveway. What I did was have a tree stump removal person use the stump
removal machine to cut a 15-foot long ditch parallel to the driveway. The
cutter just cut off all roots along that line leaving a 2 or 3 inch wide
ditch. Then when the driveway people removed the old driveway, all of the
roots on the driveway side of the ditch came out with the driveway. The
roots on the other side of the ditch remained untouched.
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