Tree & Sidewalk Relationship

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The scope of the sidewalk and tree conflict is very large. In the U.S., the cost of repairing sidewalks characterized as being damaged by trees is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In California alone, the extent of damage has been reported at $70 million by the Center for Urban Forest Research.

Learn how to get an adjacent sidewalk repaired

Learn about tree maintenance, pruning, and removal

Causes of the Conflict

tree trunk flareTrunk flare damage is caused by a lack of space. The sidewalk is actually in contact with and lifted or offset by the enlarging tree trunk. Increasing the distance between the tree and sidewalk is the optimum way to repair the sidewalk from trunk flare damage while retaining the tree. There are no opportunities to root-prune in this situation and put the sidewalk back in the same location. If the decision is made to remove the tree the same damage should be expected in the future unless the site design is modified or a much smaller size-classification tree is planted.
tree root damage


Damage from shallow roots and roots along the surface come in contact with the sidewalk causing displacement. Sometimes these roots may be pruned, however, relocating, narrowing, or modifying the sidewalk materials can reduce the need to root-prune.

New construction materials and site re-design design can provide ample space for the two both the tree and sidewalk to co-exist. However, existing retrofit sites may not have the necessary space to allow for re-design which will increase the distance between the tree trunk and the sidewalk.