Get to the Root of Paver Problems: Handling Tree Roots and Pavers

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated March 23, 2022
A family having a nice time in the backyard
Photo: Maskot / Maskot / Getty Images


  • Tree roots can cause pavers to shift and crack over time.

  • Pavers are still the most cost-effective patio and walkway options to place near trees.

  • You can avoid tree root damage with a few precautionary steps.

  • Speak with a professional tree service if tree removal is the only option.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

As much as we'd love our landscape design and its backyard ecosystem to work in perfect harmony, this takes a little finesse sometimes. Tree roots pose a real threat to patio, walkway, and driveway pavers, causing unsightly cracks, inconsistencies, and tripping hazards. In fact, installing pavers too close to trees is one of the most common paver installation mistakes. Let's explore what you can do about pavers and tree root damage and what to consider if you're just starting a project.

Pavers and Tree Roots: Do They Mix?

A tree's expanding root zone can interfere with your pavers whether the tree is old or just a few years old. Surface-level tree roots can reach the pavers themselves, or large tree roots deep in the earth can shift the ground under your patio and cause pavers to rise, sink, or crack.

However, even though these backyard regulars are longtime foes, pavers are still one of the best options when installing a hardscape near trees. Pavers are easier to replace or repair individually if tree roots damage them. Cracked or uneven concrete slabs, on the other hand, could lead to much more significant and costly repairs.

According to HomeAdvisor, large concrete patio repairs cost between $5 and $20 per square foot. Paver repairs, however, are much easier to DIY and can cost as little as $0.50 per paver, depending on the material.

How to Avoid Paver Damage From Tree Roots

Brick and stone cottage style home
Photo: Perry Mastrovito / Image Source / Getty Images

Protecting your pavers from tree roots comes down to where you are in your project. If you're just about to install a paver patio, you have the option to work with the current root system in your yard. If the patio already exists and is butting up against root issues, several options exist to mitigate damage.

Keep Your Distance

First things first: Place your pavers between 3 and 6 feet away from a mature tree whenever possible.

Every tree species has an individual root zone—or how far the roots typically extend as it ages. If you don't have mature trees with large tree roots now, remember that you intend to keep your patio there for years, if not decades, so it could be an issue down the line.

In general, assume your root zone spreads 1 1/2 feet in diameter for every inch of the tree's trunk. However, trees and their root patterns differ, so speak with a local arborist for complete details.

Remove the Roots Before Laying Pavers

Before laying pavers, cut and remove all roots beneath your patio or walkway area before starting. Even if the roots no longer connect to your tree, it's important to pull them out of the ground entirely. If not, they'll eventually decompose and leave holes beneath your patio.

Keep in mind that this is no small task, so you may want to call in the help of a local top-rated landscaper. We also recommend getting advice from your arborist to avoid doing significant harm to the tree's health so you can protect your tree during construction.

Dig a Trench

Digging a 7- to 8-inch trench around your pavers can help keep your patio or walkway level whether it’s for a new or existing patio. Re-dig the trench once a year to remove any invading roots and to discourage the tree from continuing in this direction.

Install a Barrier

If you live in what feels like a fairy-tale forest of old elms and oaks, a concrete footer may be your best bet against inevitable wandering tree roots. While all pavers lay in several inches of sand, a concrete barrier provides solid protection against long-term root damage.

Pry Up Pavers to Cut Out Surface-Level Roots

Let's say you've caught the issue nice and early, but you already have an installed patio. Removing individual surface-level roots is one of the most common solutions to paver problems. Delicately pry up the affected pavers with a flat-head screwdriver, remove the polymeric sand, and set both aside. Remove small tree roots by hand and rent a stump grinder. Renting a stump grinder costs about $190 for larger roots.

Remove the Tree (If Necessary)

In the most extreme scenario, you may find that removing a tree and as much of its root system as possible is the best option for your landscape. For example, this may be the case if a tree sits in the only area where you could have a patio or if roots are keeping you from creating an accessible walkway. 

Also, large tree roots can damage foundations and cause drainage issues over time, so be sure to look at the big picture when making this choice. Keep in mind that some states require specific permits to remove trees, so we always recommend calling a local tree removal service to assess how and when to remove a tree.

Who to Call for Paver Repairs

You'll find plenty of landscapers and general contractors with hardscape experience, but it's important to find a paver specialist who understands tree root issues. The best local paver specialists are also insured and bonded, offer guarantees on their work, and are often members of the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI). 

We also recommend shopping around and requesting at least three estimates for major repairs. If the project calls for it, many paver experts will also have links to trusted tree removal and stump grinding services.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.