Everyone needs to know how to get rid of tree stumps at some point or other.
Whether it’s a small stump only a few inches wide or a large 10-foot wide stump, there are things you can do to remove it immediately or cause it to rot away faster than it naturally would.
We have literally hundreds of tree stumps on our property. That’s because our land was covered in pine, gum, and macrocarpa trees less than 10 years ago. Most of the stumps we’ve left to rot, but some of them we wanted out quickly.
Here’s how we removed a range of different stumps.
How To Remove A Tree Stump
Before we get started, always consider whether or not the tree stump really needs to come out immediately.
If it’s not an eyesore in the middle of your lawn, it will rot away in time, no matter how big it is. And in the meantime, it will become a great habitat for many creatures.
We have left many of our stumps to simply rot away with time. They are now full of spiders, lizards, huhu grubs (pictured below), and all sorts of other creepy crawlies. Not to mention funguses and mushrooms.
Also, the naturally broken down stump and roots return to the earth and become good fertilizer. The other benefit ours had, because many were on slopes, was continuing to hold up banks and prevent slips.
BUT, if you want them gone, here are 7 great methods for doing so, from fastest to slowest (or thereabouts)!
The quickest way to remove a tree stump is to have an excavator pull it out.
Usually, in order for this to be possible, you need to leave a taller-than-usual stump for the excavator to grab onto and pull. However, some can be fitted with a different bit for digging stumps out of the ground instead.
Depending on the size of your tree, this may require a heavy digger, rather than a small one that anyone can hire out.
We recently had a heavy excavator remove a large stand of trees. The trees were a good wind break but they were blocking the sun from the house.
We hired some contractors to do the job, and the machine was able to very quickly put the trees down with a pinching device, and then rip the large stump out from the ground.
This is by far the fastest way to remove a stump, as the job is done in a matter of minutes, or even seconds, depending on the size of the stump.
2. Stump Grinder
A stump grinder is the next fastest way to remove a tree stump.
These machines tear into tree stumps with a spinning wheel of carbide-tipped teeth. They turn tree stumps into sawdust and woodchips.
A stump grinder doesn’t just take the stump down to ground level but will go as deep as needed. It will remove the stump, the roots, and any other debris.
How long does it take to remove a tree stump with a grinder?
That really depends on the machine you’re using and the type of stump.
Softwood stumps will be removed far faster than hardwood stumps, and a top-of-the-line stump grinder will work faster than a cheap stump grinder.
However, even a difficult stump can be removed within a matter of hours with a small stump grinder. A professional will have the stump gone much quicker than that.
Check out these tips on how to grow grass after stump removal because it’s not as straightforward as you might think!
A chainsaw can be used to cut a stump down very close to the ground.
Then, if you have an old bar and chain you don’t care too much about, you can dig out around the stump as much as possible, and even cut the stump below the ground.
Dirt, stones, gravel, etc. ruins chains, so it’s not something you want to do with good gear, but if you’ve got an old chain, you can get a lot of a stump out with a saw.
Once you’ve removed as much as you can with the chainsaw horizontally, cut down into the stump vertically to allow water down into the stump. This will cause the stump to rot out very quickly, especially if it’s below the soil line.
The problem with this method is that you’ll be unlikely to grow grass or anything else on top for quite some time. The stump hasn’t been removed, just lowered, and a lot of the roots will remain.
Another method is to burn stumps out with fire!
We did this with some of the stumps on our property, and while it wasn’t always that successful, it speed the removal process up a lot. The stumps that were burnt ended up rotting away far sooner than those that weren’t.
There are many ways to go about burning out a stump. It’s worthwhile watching a few videos on YouTube before giving it a go.
The best way seems to be as follows:
- Drill down into the stump (requires a large, long drill bit)
- Drill into the stump horizontally from the sides
- Pour a flammable substance down into the hole
- Light the stump
You can then put other branches, logs, and flammable debris on top of the stump to keep the fire burning well.
Fire needs fuel, oxygen, and heat to continue burning, so do what you can to provide those elements.
The downside of burning out a stump is that it won’t work for a fresh stump, as it will likely be too full of sap and the wood will be very wet. Also, you need to closely monitor the fire and they can burn for days.
The benefit is that even if the stump isn’t completely burned out, it will be far less likely to try and regrow – one of the most annoying things with some stumps.
5. Axe/Maul And Digging Bar
I’ve removed many small tree stumps using only an axe and a digging bar.
While it’s not the best application for your axe or maul (because it dulls them), they are great at cutting roots in order to pry out the stump.
I have an old axe that’s past its best before. That’s what I use for these types of rough jobs rather than my splitting maul pictured above.
It’s not a method for removing large stumps, but with little ones, you just need to cut the roots which then makes the stump much easier to pry out with a heavy digging bar.
6. Shovel And Reciprocating Saw
Similar to the last suggestion, this video shows how to manually remove a stump using a shovel and reciprocating saw.
And, it’s not a small stump removal!
First, dig around the stump as much as possible and expose the roots. Once the roots are free and clear, cut them using loppers, a garden saw, an iron digging bar, or a reciprocating saw.
The latter will obviously be a lot faster!
Removing stumps is all about getting rid of the roots – they are what is holding the stump in there. Once the roots are gone the stump can be rolled out.
7. Drill Holes
Drilling holes into your stumps will cause them to break down very quickly.
The water can get inside the stump which will rot it from the inside out. They get to a point, as with many of our stumps, where you can kick them and they just crumble.
It’s a lot of fun!
Depending on the size of your stump, it can take years for them to break down. The tree stump pictured above lost its top (ie. the rest of the tree) about 5 years ago.
The holes in it are all natural – made by insects – so it would have got to that point far sooner if I’d made artificial holes in the stump when they were cut down.
Ultimately, whatever you can do to expose more of the stump to the elements, do that. It will hasten the stump’s demise.
Other ideas include:
- Using a chainsaw to make cuts in the surface of the stump
- Banging copper nails into the stump (copper is said to speed up the process)
- Removing the bark from around the outside of the trunk
Or even damaging/removing roots without touching the stump will also make it rot away faster.
8. Chemical Stump Killer
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If you search on Amazon or go to your local hardware store for stump killers or tree root killers, you’ll discover there is a huge range of products available.
Some are biodegradable and more environmentally friendly, while others are straight-up toxic for everything and anything.
These stump killers both prevent new growth from sprouting again AND cause the stump to break down faster than they ordinarily would – though check the claims of each product.
Personally, I don’t think this is a good method. You can achieve the same things without needing to use poisons and other chemical contaminants.
Best to simply drill holes in the stump and let the water do the job for you – it might take a little longer, but it’s better for our land.
How To Kill A Tree Stump
We’ve killed, removed, or gotten rid of many tree stumps on our property, and the primary method has been by letting nature do its thing.
When necessary we’ve used many of these methods:
- An excavator to remove stumps
- Burning stumps
- Removal with an axe, shovel, digging pole
All of the methods on this list are good (other than the toxic method IMO), but some are just faster, and perhaps more expensive, than others.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions down below and I’ll get back to you asap.
Next up, check out all of these different types of axes – some are better than others for stump and tree root removal. A pick axe, for example, could be very helpful!