I have a big Sycamore tree in my front yard and the roots are growing towards the foundation of my house. One of the roots is about a foot from the foundation. My husband is not able to do the work, so I will have to try and cut the roots myself. We can't afford to hire someone to do the work. A Sycamore tree has large roots. I've tried using a hand saw and a hatchet, but it takes a long time. What would be the easiest tools to use to cut the roots? I'm 73 years old, but I'm pretty strong.

  • Is chain saw an option for you? Apr 8, 2015 at 9:43
  • 1
    @pythonstarter Chainsaw + dirt = dull chain. I think it even says in the user manual, not to let the chainsaw hit the dirt.
    – Tester101
    Apr 8, 2015 at 11:53
  • Well I wouldn't use it because I would cut it with chain saw, but this lady can’t. She can dig around, wash the roots with water, and clean it that would minimize the damage. But if you ask me even if chain is sacrificed maybe it is ok, because she will get the job done. Apr 8, 2015 at 12:13
  • You could dig a hole under a section of the root and build a small fire to burn it out.
    – mbeckish
    Apr 8, 2015 at 17:02
  • Ugh, that brings back memories, the root was about 3" in diameter and I used a splitting maul. It was either me, the two branches of root or the foundation that were going to die that day. Sycamore is really tough stuff, rounds are unsplittable manually. Apr 9, 2015 at 4:35

5 Answers 5


If you are comfortable using power tools a Sawz-all also called a reciprocating saw will do the job. You will want a coarse blade with less than 14 teeth per inch. They are available in battery powered models if you don't have an outlet nearby. If you have never used anything like it before ask the salesperson if they can show you how to use it safely. Ask if they have a piece of scrap wood so you can make a cut to see if you are comfortable using it.

  • 1
    Available at most tool rental places, too.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 8, 2015 at 11:59
  • Wished I'd gone this route... Apr 9, 2015 at 4:36
  • With the proliferation of discount tool outlets such as Harbor Freight, a reciprocating saw with a suitable blade is possibly going to be lower cost than a rental. I purchased one for the sole purpose of cutting some 4" roots in the way of a trench. It worked through the project and continues to cut well enough. It turned into a sandblaster after the trench work, until all the sand blew out of the fan/cooling system!
    – fred_dot_u
    Jun 25, 2017 at 22:49
  • This is how I keep my Yucca patch from expanding out of control. It's FAR easier than going in there with shovel and hatchet. Jun 26, 2017 at 3:54

If you're not comfortable using power tools, and the roots are not too large (less than about 2 inches). A Ratcheting Lopper should handle the job.

  • Good solution but only for really thin roots. Not sure that it can cut even inch thick roots. Remember this is an old lady not strongman. :) Apr 9, 2015 at 7:46
  • @pythonstarter The description for most of the loppers I looked at, said they're good for branches up to 2 inches. Because of the long handles, and the ratcheting mechanism, you don't have to be a strongman to use them.
    – Tester101
    Apr 9, 2015 at 7:59
  • I believe that the manual says so but when I have tried...it's not easy at all. But maybe I was doing something wrong. Apr 9, 2015 at 8:06

I will echo a previous reply about the sawzall. you can rent one, just don't tell them what for! I own one, and keep a few sacrificial blades JUST for root cutting. You do need to dig around the root enough to get the saw in there, but a sawzall, IMHO, is faster and cheaper then renting a root-witch or a chainsaw.


I am a petite Asian elder female, 68 yrs old. I was able to cut a few roots of over 2 inches. I digged a hole deep enough for the hand saw movement, wet the cutting section and kept it at least damp during the cutting work, used the root cutting hand saw that can be folded and adjusted to different angles so that I can cut in different directions around the root, and used a regular hand saw additionally when it is possible


Use a sawzall or reciprocating saw same thing. You don't even have to dig, it will cut right thru the dirt and root. I use this method all the time by laying a 2x6 on the grond and running the saw through the dirt for many feet on both sides with a 12 inch blade. It sure makes laying electrical conduit or using it with a 2x4 wide for sprinklers systems a breeze. And the dirt comes up in nice cubes.

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