So this should be a really a tiny job.. however there's complications!
I have a path- just paving slabs set onto sand. Underneath them somewhere is electrical cable (steel armoured cable). A tree root from the neighbours house has come under the boundary and lifted some of my path. Only a small section, but I need to be able to get a wheelchair down the path (or I will need to, in the summer).
I live in a Conservation Area- which means I can't touch the trees without Council permission. This costs money and takes 6 weeks, they can also say No. No one can see this path apart from me, not visible from the road, not visible to the neighbour (unless she stands on a box and looks over the fence- which she does do sometimes). The Council require a 'specialist' to submit a report for their consideration- a photo of wonky slabs and me saying 'the tree root did it' isn't sufficient. I'm not really willing to pay a specialist to come out and confirm it is the tree root for the sake of 2 paving slabs.
So I want to do this job in a quiet manner! The neighbour shouldn't notice me working so long as I don't make lots of noise. Even if she does notice, I'm quite willing to ride out the storm with the council (I don't think they will actually care). I don't really want to hurt the tree, as it is quite a nice one, but I really do need to be able to get wheelchairs down that path- it seems wrong that a tree root and awkward neighbour can deny access to the garden for half the household.
So.. how to remove a tree root in a small space with only hand tools? How much am I likely to damage the tree (it is quite a nice tree really). Other ways I can accomplish flattening out the path without removing said root?
It is infuriating that such a tiny thing, if done the 'official' way is likely to cost hundreds of pounds!
I imagine that if the council denied the tree root pruning to allow wheelchair accessibility, it could create a huge stink and the kind of negative attention and public backlash they don't want. If the UK is anything like America, laws and rights are in place to allow handicapped people accessibility. Denying accessibility can be considered discrimination.
Edited for grammar
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We have a steel digging bar that does a number on tree roots. It is really heavy, about 6ft long and has a "blade" on one end. Lift and drop a few times and it chops through anything up to an inch or so with ease.
Alternatively, if it is set in sand, you might be able to lift the slab, clear some sand from under and around the root, and resettle it lower so the slab lies flat. Might need adjusting again in 12 months time but is less destructive that chopping roots.
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My plan for the quietist removal: 1. Pry up pavement and set aside. 2. Dig out sand and set aside. 3. Clear dirt from around root as much as possible, set dirt aside. 4. Saw root with hand saw. 5. Replace all materials in order. 6. Check pavement for level and adjust sand if necessary (possibly you may need to buy a bag of sand).
Cutting one root, even a large one, will not harm the tree.
An alternative(which I don't recommend) that would allow you to not cut roots, is to grind down the proud edges of the paver - it would make the bump passable by wheelchair (although it would be temporary, as the root will only continue to lift the slab, albeit slowly).
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Here's a way to keep the root. The paver doesn't look too seriously out of whack. If you can lift one paver, lift a few, like say 5 with the paver presently heaved by the root in the middle.... get some more sand. Ramp up the sand to accommodate covering the root completely and re-lay the pavers on top of the ramped sand creating a much more gentle longer bump instead of the jutting edge that presently exists.
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Tyler's method is exactly what I would advise. Alternatively, you could raise the surrounding pavers with new sand so there is a gentle, even slope leaving the tree root in place, or a combination of removing only the highest root if there is more than one under there, and raising the pavers a little bit.
It's hard to tell from the photo how big the root is. If it is really large, like several inches, you might be able to slice/chisel off the top couple of inches, leaving an inch clear of where the paver wants to sit. This would let the root continue to feed the tree, and give you quite a number of years of level walk.
I'd go with Tyler's approach too. It may be worth waiting til the neighbour goes out to get this done - minimise stress all round. Rest assured one less root won't hurt a tree that's so well established that it can lift paving slabs.