Laying a graded path
December 13, 2007 9:33 AM   Subscribe

How do I lay a stone/brick path over an area which is uneven due to tree roots? Instructions available on the web or books?

I'd like to lay a path which starts at the level of the driveway, slopes or steps upwards slightly due to tree roots, and then levels off to meet the concrete at the side of the house. Looking for tips, directions, photos of someone's completed project, websites, books...anything!
posted by sLevi to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
cut the roots
posted by caddis at 10:16 AM on December 13, 2007

My daughter's class laid some brick paths in their school garden a few years ago, with parents' help. In generalities here's what we did: take off the top layer of grass/weed; place edging along sides (we used treated 2x4 -maybe 2x6- doug fir iirc); lay sand and tamp it down with a hand tamper, to a thickness that would leave bricks at the right height (maybe 3 to 6 inches of sand); lay bricks. It was all quite simple and worked quite well. The only snag is that where the path is in the shade, the bricks can be very slippery in wet weather. Sorry, no useful info links, but maybe this will help.
posted by anadem at 10:22 AM on December 13, 2007

This depends a lot on how long you would like the path to last and how irritating your root situation is.

The typical treatment to get firmly set paving stones is to remove any vegetation from the area where each stone will sit. Then keep them level with sand underneath (effectively filling in any abnormalities in the underlying earth). If there is a substantial grade, you will want to keep the paver stones level (not sloped with the ground). This can result in more digging than you might expect. With roots there this gets tougher.

Two things about roots to be concerned with:
They will grow, so a solution their interruption now is not a permanent one
If you cut a substantial portion of the tree's roots you could compromise it's health

To cut them you would probably want to use an axe or a maul (unless you feel like digging all the way around them and using a saw). Without a picture, it is hard to say what your best route is. PM if you have further questions.

Best of luck!
posted by milqman at 11:02 AM on December 13, 2007

As others have said, without cutting the roots your path will be doomed to buckle and warp, likely sooner than later. If you tried to do a stepping stone path instead, you might be able to place the stones around the roots, or only cut minor ones.

You'll want 4-6" of crushed gravel with "fines" -- gravel powder, basically. Most places have 5/8- with crusher fines, that's what you'll want for a stable base. Sand alone isn't as stable. I've done a combo of 4-6" of gravel, then 2-3" of sand on top. The chief advantage of the sand is that it screeds easily to a level setting surface and conforms to irregular pavers better. Both of those layers are compacted with a power-tamper, usually in 2-3" "lifts", to get the best compaction throughout the supporting layers.

Good luck!
posted by Pantengliopoli at 11:25 AM on December 13, 2007

A former neighbor of mine in Atlanta, who had a witness tree near the corner of his house (the house being built much later, and not sited as well as it should have been), sunk a few footings around the worst of the tree's roots, and on those, constructed an elevated walkway, that required little maintenance, and did not materially impact the tree.
posted by paulsc at 4:41 PM on December 13, 2007

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