Air-Spade Work

Root Crown Excavation and Base Investigation
Using the Air-spade®

The Air-Spade is a handheld soil excavation tool connected to a large air-compressor. The high pressure stream of air is funneled through a small nozzle breaking dense soils apart into small particles. By using air to excavate soil, delicate roots, underground pipes, and hard surfaces are not damaged. Arborists can recommend using the Air-Spade for many reasons.

Air-Spade Work

  • Root collar excavations
  • Expose root flares of trees planted too deep
  • Expose root flares of trees covered with fill dirt
  • Expose root flares and root structure 6” to 18” below grade for base investigation and tree hazard evaluation
  • Radial trenching or Vertical mulching
  • Root delineation and selective root pruning
  • Grade remediation
  • Up-lighting installation
  • Decompaction and soil treatment (minimize construction damage)
  • Digging trenches without cutting roots or concrete

Problems with roots and soil often can lead to plant failure. Greg J. Monfette, Owner of Tree Case Management Inc. states “We use this powerful handheld devise to expose root systems, thereby more effectively diagnosing and treating plant and tree problems that may have been difficult or impractical in the past.” The Air Spade also provides a new method to more precisely develop long-term care plans.

Why the Air-Spade

  • Immediate visual inspection and correction of specific plant health concerns
  • Quick, accurate diagnosis of plant diseases and the extent of decay without extensive root system damage
  • One step aeration and soil replacement to reduce soil compaction
  • Trench with minimum disturbance of roots during utility or construction projects
  • Facilitates application of specially blended materials to promote root growth and survival rate
  • Air spading can accurately reveal the cause of declining plant health in an otherwise healthy row of trees or shrubs

The root flare or root collar is the area where a tree begins to flare outward at ground level. This is a critical part of the tree where trunk tissue changes into root tissue. If this area is covered with soil and kept moist for extended periods of time, the tissue begins to breakdown. This leaves the tree vulnerable to root decay and ultimately poor health and vigor. Base investigation is needed when an Arborist suspects deterioration of root tissue. Since roots can not be seen above the surface, the only way to confirm this suspicion is to excavate the soil and inspect the root structure and then make the proper assessment of the structural condition of the tree in accordance with current arboriculture standards.


Preparing the Soil- Water the soil area around the tree (within 4 feet of the trunk) one or two days prior to the Air-Spade work being done. This will soften the soil and expedite the process.
Clearing the Work Area- The work area around the tree will need to be prepared. Prior to the movement of soil, we should remove any grass, ivy, shrubs, or flowers from around the base of the tree. This work area is typically one to two feet from the base of the tree. We request you salvage any plant material you want to keep. We do not replace the vegetation that needs to be removed.
Noisy Process- Due to the high pressure air being used and the compressor needed, the process can be quite noisy. However, we are cautious and considerate so we will take all measures necessary to keep the noise down as much as we can.
Backfilling the Excavated Area- When excavating a root flare or root crown the void created can sometimes be quite deep. If the area can not be left open then the site should be engineered to accommodate the situation. At times medium to large stones can be used to backfill the area insuring greater air circulation around the base.