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I would like to build a paver patio next to a large tree that has a 3" wide root at ground level. I do not want to damage the roots of the tree, so it seems like my only option is to build a raised paver patio. If I do build a raised paver patio what material should be used for the perimeter? I assume the roots will be a problem when building the perimeter, for instance if I need to bury the perimeter 4" deep how do I deal with roots that may only be 1" deep? Am I putting the tree at risk by burying the surface roots under a patio? I've considered building a raised deck instead, but I would really prefer a paver patio. Are there any other options for dealing with a situation like this?

Thanks for the help.

Edit: I believe the tree is a New Zealand Christmas tree. It's 20'-25' tall. The patio would be about 5' away from the trunk.

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Also consider water drainage to the tree. concreting/paving all around a tree can be a good way to kill or stunt it due to lack of water. – winwaed Dec 29 '11 at 23:14
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Established trees like things just the way they are. I killed a tree by doing just what you are planning. The reason that trees don't take well to grade changes is that most of their roots are within 6" of the surface. An substantial amount of gas and water exchange goes on in the soil near the surface.

If you build over the roots it is like putting a blanket on someone's face. The tree roots cannot breathe.

Roots will grow out as least as far as the drip line of the branch farthest from the trunk. If you still want to build a patio you should not cover more than one third of the total area under the drip line of the tree. The roots will die in this area but will regrow.

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+1 for "blanket on someone's face" – bstpierre Jan 6 '12 at 18:25

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