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Question DetailsAsked on 2/28/2014

I want to take out a tree and put a new one in its place. Will this work if the old roots are still in the ground?

I've seen tree trunks removed by a chipping machine, but it seems that the roots, which can be expansive, stay in the ground. I know that it takes several years for them to break down. I would want ot plant my new tree within a month.

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3 Answers

Voted Best Answer

1) IF you are talking the root crown - the portion where it is not one solid truck or "bole", but still a solid or near-solid mass of roots coming off the base of the trunk, then that has to come out on way or another. Typically, once you get beyond about a 3 foot circle then you are in the radial portion of the roots where they spread out laterally, and are a foot or more apart, and new roots can grow in that area fro the new tree OK. Of course, be prepared to have to trim some volunteers so the old tree can't come back, and be sure to fertilize the new tree per recommendations because the old roots will still be trying to extract water and food from the soil to support the tree that they do not yet realize is gone. Do NOT put stump killer or poison in the old tree - will kill new one too.

2) The proper commercial way to do this is to have the entire root crown and larger roots removed with a stump grinder - looks like this -

You need a tree service that can grind down at least two feet below ground level and remove the root crown and larger root segments. If you hve large roots running laterally quite a ways, he can grind them up too - ditto to "trippers" sticking up above ground. Just be sure to have it clear (spray painted) upfront how far he is going for what he quoted - typically about $150 for tree up to 1-2 feet in diameter, up to $500 for a massive sycamore or walnut or cottonwood or redwood with 6 foot diameter crown. While you can rent stump grinders at tooll rental places, I REALLY do not recommend it - the rental ones you can afford to rent for one use are pretty light duty, and they can chew a person up in no time flat if you lose control when it snags in the wood or hits a rock.

3) Another way is to go out to where the massive roots taper off to something you can reasonable cut - say 4-6 inches in diameter, and cut them all in a circle around the stump, then with a come-along or CAREFULLY (not more than a few hundred pounds) with a vehicle with a trailer hitch, put a steady pull on a good rope or strap or chain in a shallow notch cut around the top of the stump (so it does not pop off easy), then while it is being rotated up out of the ground walk around and cut any root you see still attached or trying to lift out of the ground. This works much better if the stump is left about 4-6 feet high so you get some real leverage on it with the pull, but if already cut down short run chain or strap over the top of it and around a large root on the far side of the stump. I use a Sawzall with foot long coarse tooth wood cutting blade for this - goes through roots really fast, and blade is only $1 or so apiece so ruining one or two hitting rocks is no big thing, and also reaches in under the stump better and safer than an axe. I helped a neighbor take out a back yard full of birches this way - took us about half a day to remove about 15 trees with about 6 foot diameter circle of crown and roots, leaving holes about 1-2 feet deep where each tree was. Remember this - whichever way you use to take it out, you will need maybe 1-5 wheelbarrow loads of good growth medium to replace the divot.

4) Cheaper route - cut off flush with ground level (or leave some stickup as a planter or stool or feeder base or whatever), and plant new tree at least 4 feet away from old crown, in a spot between the old roots.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


Great Answer LCD!!!

Answered 3 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions



Have been a fan for awhile before joining up here, always impressed with the time/effort you put into answers ... like this one, kudos for Best Answer!

Thus, I have been curous why Angies List doesn't publish (at least) the Top Experts' backgrounds in education, experience, trades, businesses ... even if retired now.

So I wrote this off to young people just trying to keep a website going that might be more refined later on.

But I can't help asking you as a fan ... these background questions.

Thus far, my guesses have seemed in right field, as I toss them up I shoot them down for one reason or another .... e.g. Occupation/profession, trade: Construction Science college professor retired, General Contractor retired, HVAC ex-business owner ... I give up. I'm pretty sure college grad ... + Masters?

Answered 2 years ago by StoneCutterHou


StoneCutterHou - pretty close. My Dad was a contractor so spent a lot of weekends/ summers working for him growing up. Also had my own handyman/fixit company from about age 10 - 18 and also worked as a troubleshooter/fixit guy for a general building contractor going around fixing all types of punchlist and warranty and minor remodel items, as well as general construction with his crews and on major remodel/ expansion of our own home (he had full in-house capability, so I got tradesman experience in all trades). College - 2 engineering bachelors, 2 masters degrees. Currently hold 4 professional registrations, plus have gotten probably at leasst two dozen professional certifications / licenses from HVAC to hazardous waste site operations to explosives and so forth across the construction fields over the years. Though currently winding down and basically retiring, have experience in engineering design and construction, construction management, contracting - working on worldwide projects from multi-billion $ down to subdivision construction and single residences, from Antarctica to the Arctic and a lot of places in between. Have served on several building code and municipal design review committees, performed municipal engineer/inspector/arbiter/reviewer services in 3 cities under consulting contract for several years, taught university engineering and computer courses on the side, as well as as an energy/insulation/building sciences instructor and consultant for a state housing authority, a state energy authority, and Craftsman and contractor association and building trades council building construction, how-to, and apprenticeship programs (for both homeowners and contractors). And of course do pretty much all my own home/vehicle work.

So, over the past 50 or so years, I certainly have not seen it all in the building trades but probably had more overall variety of experience than most people in the business, and a goodly part of it in troubleshooting or remedial construction mode - which is a more intensive exposure than new construction gives. I thank you for your comment, as I do try to be helpful to the questioners and at least give them a ballpark idea of what they might be getting into and hopefully help them solve their issue, or point them in that direction anyway. I really wish there were more responses to each question - seems like once a question is answered one time other contributors clam up and generally do not put their thoughts in unless they really disagree - a pity, because the members could do with more variety of opinion. I experimented for a couple of months once by only answering questions (except ones indicating an emergency like a plumbing leak) that were over 5 days old - but that did not kick in a lot of additional responses. It seems responders come and go, but there are only a half dozen or so active at any one time - it would be nice if there were a lot more monitoring the questions and helping people out, especially as the questioners here seem to be more intense and interested in doing it right than on some other sites like Yelp, where the general intellectual level seems to be - shall we say - not so high.

I have taken flack for giving ballpark cost ranges when the exact project details are not known - but I figure a ballpark idea is better than none, especially to the normal homeowner who commonly has no idea of what is reasonable - as evidenced by some of the after-the-fact questions here about whether rather incredible charges were reasonable. So - better they have at least a ballpark idea up front of what is in range. I also figure if a contractor (or several) bid way above the range I offer for some reason, the homeowner will show them the AL responses and ask them - "why is it going to cost more than this indicates". Some people say giving a homeowner a little knowledge about his situation is dangerous - but my counterpoint is that none is useless and potentially expensive.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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