How to lay a walkway over a tree root

Written by amelia allonsy
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How to lay a walkway over a tree root
On-grade deck walkways provide a safe walking surface over roots without damaging the tree. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

As trees age, roots may protrude through the ground, breaking up existing walkways and driveways. This creates a tripping hazard that must be addressed. Laying a walkway over a tree root allows you to keep the majestic tree in the yard while enjoying a safe walkway. Trimming the tree roots to ground level leads to rot or death; covering the roots with soil is a temporary solution that may eventually kill the tree. On-grade wood decking allows you to lay a walkway over the tree root without disturbing the tree.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Hose or rope
  • Measuring tape
  • Digging tools
  • Gravel
  • Tamper
  • Pressure-treated 2-by-4-inch boards
  • Screws
  • Power drill
  • Stakes
  • Hammer
  • Decking boards
  • Water seal
  • Stepping stones

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  1. 1

    Lay out the area for the walkway with a garden hose or rope. Position the walkway so that it straddles the protruding root, and either side is at ground level.

  2. 2

    Measure the length of the path to determine the number of 2-by-4-inch boards needed for the path. Measure the width to determine how many decking boards are needed and the length to cut each decking board.

  3. 3

    Dig out the area for the path to remove any sod, plus 2 inches to 3 inches of the soil. Be careful when digging around the root so you do not disturb the tree.

  4. 4

    Add gravel, and tamp it down to grade so that the area receives proper drainage. Do not cover the root with the gravel.

  5. 5

    Lay 2-by-4-inch boards on edge along the outside edges of the path. Screw an 18-inch 2-by-4 piece to the inside of connecting joints if multiple 2-by-4s are needed for the length of the path.

  6. 6

    Drive stakes into the ground along the inside and outside of the 2-by-4-inch boards to keep them from shifting.

  7. 7

    Lay the decking boards across the walkway between the 2-by-4-inch boards. Leave a 1/8-inch gap between boards to allow water to run through.

  8. 8

    Screw the decking to the 2-by-4 frame rails, allowing no more than a 1-inch overhang on either side of the path.

  9. 9

    Seal the deck with two or three coats of a water-seal product for the type of wood used.

  10. 10

    Place a stepping stone at either end of the walkway if it seems too high for some users.

Tips and warnings

  • Wood selections such as cedar, redwood and juniper are wise choices for keeping termites away from the wood walkway.
  • If the root is very tall or there are several roots, you can add short posts to elevate the walkway.
  • Always use pressure-treated lumber if the wood will touch the ground because this helps prevent the wood from rotting.

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