How to Remove a Tree Stump Like a Pro

When you have a stubborn tree stump located awkwardly on your property, you’ve got a big problem. You could just get used to it being there or use it for a low stool in the middle of your yard–or you can get rid of it. Here we’ll discuss the best ways to take out a tree stump without hiring a tree cutting and removal service.

Easiest DIY Techniques to Un-Stump Your Yard

When working with chemicals, landscaping tools, burning wood and/or heavy equipment, keep safety in mind. Wear protective gear, which may include: eye protection (goggles), gloves, earplugs and heavy-duty boots. (Even steel-toed boots will not provide complete foot protection around a stump grinder, but they are better than sneakers.) Keep pets and children away from the stump removal area. Consider fencing it in with chicken wire when using one of the slow stump removal options.

Use one of these methods to remove an annoying tree stump on your own:

Burning for tree stump removal: The smell may alarm your near neighbors, so you may want to notify them.

  • Check current local regulations with the Fire Dept. In certain wooded areas or during hot, dry weather conditions, burning may be prohibited.
  • Dig a small trench around the stump and clear away foliage to avoid anything unintended catching fire.
  • Place extra wood around and on top of the stump to help get the fire started. Do not use gasoline to start your fire.
  • Maintain the burn until the stump is burnt to the ground.
  • Since the stump will be smoldering for several days, keep a careful watch over it.
  • Once the stump fire has burnt out, shovel the ash from the hole and dispose.
  • If a large section close to the ground is still unburnt, you may need to burn again to soften the remaining part.
  • Shovel away the ashes of the burnt stump.
  • Refill the hole with sawdust or dirt. Keep filling as the ground settles over time.

Grind away your unsightly tree stump: This method is somewhat laborious and very noisy, but it works if your stump and roots are up to a foot below ground surface.

  • Rent a stump grinder from an industrial equipment rental.
  • Roll the grinder over to the stump, and move it as needed around the outer edge of the stump to destroy everything, including roots.
  • Remove ground-up wood and compost or dispose, and fill up the hole with dirt or sawdust. You’ll need to keep topping up the hole over time to keep the lawn/ground level.

Digging out a tree stump: This labor-intensive method works best if your tree has a relatively short and shallow root system.

  • Dig with a shovel to expose the roots
  • Cut roots into sections with a root saw or lopper tool. (Using an axe is hazardous and not recommended, since it might chip/shatter against a rock and injure you with flying shards. Also your axe can get stuck in the roots.)
  • Remove root sections and chip, compost or dispose. Pull out all sections from the ground, even smaller roots and tips.
  • Now, you should be able to remove the stump by prying it from the ground with a shovel.
  • Fill the yard hole with soil or sawdust. Check occasionally, and add more fill as the material sinks into the ground.

Chemical tree stump destruction: If you want to avoid manual labor, we’ve got a tree stump solution for you, which only requires a bit of patience. If you have a multi-week time frame in which to de-stump your back yard, this could be your perfect solution.

  • Purchase stump remover at the hardware or home store. You’ll use powdered potassium nitrate to help your stump soften and rot away.
  • Drill large, deep and evenly-spaced holes around the stump.
  • Pour in the powder and fill the rest of the hole with water, following package directions.
  • Keep adding water over time, to aid the stump rotting process. (If the instructions on your product differ, follow those, rather than these general instructions.)
  • Cover the stump with a tarp to help seal in moisture.
  • Don’t let anyone near the stump during the whole, several weeks long, chemical stump removal process.
  • Check the stump as it begins to soften over the next few weeks.
  • Once the stump seems soft and sponge-like, chop it into pieces and dispose.
  • You may need to repeat the drilling/powdering process again if the lowest part of the stump is still hard.
  • Fill the hole left by the removed stump and continue adding dirt as it settles over time.

Organic tree stump removal: Epsom salts are not just for soaking your feet, it turns out. Be prepared to plan ahead, however, since this method will take months.

  • Drill deep, large holes (3/4” diameter) in the tree stump, spacing them approximately 1” apart.
  • Add Epsom salts to the holes and spread it on the ground around the stump. Made of magnesium sulfate, epsom salts help to remove your tree stump by drying it out.
  • Pour in a bit of water to soak the epsom salts.
  • Protect with a plastic tarp.
  • Check progress during the coming months, as the salts draw water from the stump.
  • Chip away the dried, dead wood. (You may need to drill more holes, for more epsom salt and water, to continue the process until the entire stump is dead.)

Living with Your Tree Stump

This may be the easiest method of dealing with a tree stump. Rather than killing the stump and removing, simply find a clever use for it and work it into your life. Here are a few creative suggestions on how to use your yard stump–if you decide to keep it:

  • Stool or chair: Save money on patio furniture and take your gatherings to the back yard, by using your stump(s) as natural seating for outdoor get-togethers.
  • Table: If your stump is wide and tall enough (or if people don’t mind sitting on the ground or blankets around it) your stump can be a nice, rustic lawn table.
  • Platform: Display a ceramic squirrel or original artworks on the stump. If the stump is in the front yard of your home, you may attract a crowd.
  • Candle holder: Light up the lawn while you’re entertaining or just to be festive. Use battery operated candles or lanterns for safety. You could make this part of your Halloween or Thanksgiving decoration. Add a pumpkin or witch figurine to complete the look.

The downside of yard stumps: Stumps can ruin the appearance of your lawn—and they make an attractive home for insects or snakes as time passes. Stumps and exposed roots may also damage lawnmower blades, if you accidentally run over the area.

Professional Tree Stump Removal

Hopefully one of these methods will help you get rid of that annoying tree stump (or stumps) that have been getting in the way of your landscape re-design. Keep in mind, however, that there is an easier, quicker and still affordable way to get rid of your tree stump–hire a professional for the job.

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