How to Remove a Tree Stump from Your Yard


While tree stumps can be painful to look at, that does not mean that removing them needs to be painful. This article not only intends to inform home and property owners how to remove a tree stump but to highlight that there is more than one way to go about the process. Considering this article will handle the question of “how to remove a tree stump” from multiple directions, it is my hope that at least one of these approaches will seem feasible enough for my each of my readers’ abilities, budgets and time.

Approach #1: Digging Up the Stump

Get yourself a shovel and start digging up the dirt surrounding the stump. Your goal at this point is to expose the tree’s roots to the environment. Once you have sufficiently exposed the roots, you want to use a lopper or a saw to cut them up; while you might be able to use an axe, axes run a risk of shattering should they come down on stones within the soil. Remove the roots, ideally with a “grub hoe.” Once you have sufficiently dismantled and dismembered all of the stump’s root systems, you should have little difficulty in removing the stump with your hands.

When Is This Method Unwise?

Consider another method if you lack the recommended tools or if the tree’s roots are notably large and deep-running.

Approach #2: Use a Stump Grinder

A stump grinder is a power tool that does exactly what its name would lead you to believe and can reach about a foot below the surface. You can either rent a grinder to use yourself or hire a professional to operate the device. After reading over the manual’s explanation of how to remove a tree stump with your chosen grinder and running it, the stump and its many roots systems will have been effectively mulched and will need to be removed from the space the stump used to occupy; feel free to use the mixture in a compost bin or bag it up for the trash can.

Do Not Forget to Use Protection

Stump grinders are loud and powerful machines; remember to use ear, eye and hand protection at all times while operating one.

Approach #3: Fire

When considering approaches of how to remove a tree stump, this is one of the oldest in mankind. Simply make a fire atop the stump, likely using the lumber you have on hand from the tree that used to stand upright. The fire should remain going for several hours; eventually, you will be able to see that the stump has caught on fire. At this point, you simply need to keep the fire going until the stump completely burns up. Make sure to have some water on hand in case the flame spreads far beyond the stump. Once the stump and your starter wood have been rendered nothing but ash, shovel out the ash into a trash bag.

Do Your Research on Burning

When considering fire as a solution to the question of how to remove a tree stump, there are a variety of factors that may prevent you from pursuing such a solution. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the local laws, ensuring that your activities will not violate any local bans regarding burning on your property. Make sure to contact your local fire department for a permit.

Approach #4: Chemical Warfare

While this approach to remove tree stumps is the most involved and longest of the ones on this list, it can also be the most satisfying to pursue. Begin by affixing a large drill bit to a power drill and use it to augur several holes into the stump evenly along the stump’s top. Apply your stump-removing chemical of choice to the stump, making sure to follow the directions on the product. The holes you previously drilled will expedite the chemicals’ efforts to saturate the stump. Rather than cause stumps to vanish, chemical stump removers feature a powdered form of potassium nitrate, a chemical compound that expedite the decomposition of wood.

That’s It?

For the most part, this is all of the prep work required to remove a stump through this method. Regularly check the treated stump and you should notice the chemicals’ effects in a month or two. Once you have determined the stump to be soft enough to extricate, take an axe or a shovel to the rotted mass of lumber and pile it up. Once you have leveled off the land, take a cue from Approach #3 and burn what remains of the stump and its root system. Finally, swap out any ashes for a filler material like loam or sawdust, trash whatever bits of stump remain.

Are There Any Safety Hazards to This Approach?

Keep small children and animals far away from any stump once you have applied the chemical treatment. Potassium nitrate is harmful if ingested and the utmost care should be taken in its proximity. Additionally, while there may be issues with setting a fire, as mentioned in Approach #3, you should require far less time to burn out any remnants of stump than only using fire.

In Conclusion

After explaining how to remove a tree stump in multiple ways, it is my hope that you finally have the means and equipment needed for removing stumps. Although not mentioned in each of these four approaches, it is important to always fill in the empty space that your stump once occupied, preferably with loam and sawdust, and to continue to do so every few months until the land has fully recovered. While fire, power tools, chemicals, or a combination of all three can do the job of removing a stump, feel free to share your own approaches in the comments.

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Jonathan E. Bass

Graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. I am currently a gardener. I have a small garden behind my house. I love it.

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