Birch trees are tall trees with a smooth bark that peels off in layers during the fall and winter months. The root systems of the trees are shallow and often surface on top of the ground or push up sidewalks, pavements and even building foundations. For this reason, the roots of birch trees that are located in a home landscape must be cut every three to four years to prevent the roots from damaging property.
Place a tape measure at one side of the birch tree trunk approximately 4 1/2 feet from the ground. Stretch the tape across the trunk to measure the diameter of the tree in inches and multiply the number by 1.5. For example, if the birch tree trunk measures 12 inches in diameter, you would multiply 12 by 1.5 to arrive at a final number of 18.
Place the end of the tape measure at the base of the birch tree and stretch it out on the ground the number of feet that correspond to the final number arrived at in Step 1. Using the previous example, you would stretch it out 18 feet. Make a mark in the soil to identify the location. Work your way around the tree making marks at the proper distance.
Dig a 1 foot deep trench around the birch tree at the location of the measurement marks. As you encounter the birch tree roots, hit them hard with the blade of the shovel to break them. If the roots are too large to break with a shovel, leave them alone and continue digging the trench.
Walk along the trench and locate the larger birch tree roots. Cut through the roots using loppers or a hand saw. You do not need to remove any of the roots from the soil, simply severing them stops the growth.
Fill the trench back in with soil and stomp down on it with your feet to pack it down tightly.