How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump – Top 3 Ways

How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump

It’s a bummer when you have to get rid of a large diseased tree in your garden. Or when the council asks you to.

Apart from being a labor intensive process, there will be the ungainly leftover which most professionals refuse to touch, the tree stump.

One tree stump smack bang in the middle of the lawn can be a minor hindrance that you’d like to get rid of as soon as possible.

Imagine if you have twenty of them, some of them a meter in diameter strewn all over the yard.

Apart from being eyesores, they can also be tripping hazards.

Not to mention the damage that they can inflict on your lawnmower blades.

Most people, at some point, would consider hiring a professional to get rid of the stumps.

It’s easier. You can sit back and watch your lawn being leveled for you to turf up in a matter of days.

But you are in for the shock of your life if you do not have an idea of what it costs.

Oh yes, the cost for professional tree stump removal can sometimes exceed the cost of removing the entire tree.

If you are dealing with multiple tree stumps, then that bill can quickly run up to a sizeable investment.

One that you might or might not be willing to make.

The good news is that despite what any professional would like you to believe, every tree stump, no matter how large or deep rooted it is, can be removed manually.

The method of removal might vary depending on the type and the age of the tree.  But it can be done.

So, if you have just decided against hiring the exorbitant tree-stump removal guy, then here’s a small guide that covers three ways in which you can completely remove one or more tree stumps yourself.

How to Determine Which Method to Use to Remove the Stump

It’s a little tricky as there’s no manual to refer to or preset rules to follow.

You just have to examine the stump and decide on whether it will be worth the effort and time or whether it would be a futile exercise.

Look at the type of the tree. Shallow rooted trees, like pine will be easier to get rid of as compared to deep rooted ones, like oak.

That doesn’t mean that you cannot remove a deep rooted tree stump. Only, the process will take a lot more time and effort.

The age of the tree is another important factor. Older tree stumps are usually easier to remove than ones that have recently been cut.

Similarly, a smaller stump can be removed more easily than one that’s almost 40 inches in diameter.

Tree Stump Inspection

Once you come to a conclusion about the method that you plan to use, spend some time gathering the tools you need for the job.

If you do not have some of the tools, you can rent them or borrow them from a friend.

Always ensure that you have the safety gear needed for tasks like these. Gloves, goggles, ear protectors and masks (if you are using chemicals) are the basics. We would even recommend steel toed boots.

Method 1: Manually Digging the Stump Out

Difficulty: Hard

Tools: Shovel, Pick mattock, Grub hoe, digging bar, Root saw, an axe (optional), power washer or hose, sawdust or loam, protective eye and ear wear, gloves.

Manually Digging the Stump Out

How to Dig out a Stump

Manually digging out a stump isn’t the easiest method particularly if you are dealing with a large tree stump or even worse, multiple large tree stumps.

However, it is probably the best way to get rid of it when it’s a small or medium sized stump, or one from an old tree.

There are multiple ways to do this. We’ll stick to the easiest and safest one.

Wear your protective gear and start digging around the base of the stump with the flat end of the mattock. Work your way through the soil loosening it as you dig.

Now use the shovel to clear the dirt and expose the roots. This will most likely be the backbreaking part.

Depending on how large the stump is, you might have to clear dirt for hours before you expose the root ball completely.

You can now use the root saw or the sharp edge of the mattock to sever the roots. Pull out the ones that are easily dislodged and toss them aside in a pile.

Use the grub hoe to dislodge and remove the roots that are embedded deeply. You might have to continue making cuts with the root saw as you work your way to the taproot.

Clean any excessive dirt around the taproot and cut it with the root saw.

Once you sever most of the roots, the stump should be dislodged pretty easily with the digging bar or even a shovel.

Chop it up or check your town/county rules for disposal.

Use sawdust or loam to fill up the large cavity left behind. In a few days, it will settle and sink in a little. So you will need to keep adding more material until the ground is level.

Not Recommended: Messaging boards are crammed with information on removing large tree stumps with a chain and a four-wheel drive pickup truck. We do not recommend this lest you want to end up with a severely damaged truck.

Method 2: Chemically Removing the Tree Stump

Difficulty: Easy

Tools: Chainsaw, drill with a 1-inch spade bit, chemical tree stump removal or any high nitrogen fertilizer, tarp, kerosene, garden mulch

How to Chemically Remove a Tree Stump

Wear your protective gear and grab your chainsaw.

You have to cut off as much of the stump as you can without hurting yourself or damaging your saw.

The closer to the ground, the better.

Use the 12-inch bit and drill random holes in the stump approximately 3-4 inches inside the edge.

Some professionals also recommend making a series of angled holes on the vertical surface of the stump so that the holes interconnect. But that’s optional.

Fill the holes with the tree stump removal granules (potassium nitrate) or with any high nitrogen fertilizer and then add water to it.

That’s it. You have just put nature’s own tree-stump removal on steroids.

Now use a hose to soak up the entire area around the stump. The wetter it is, the sooner the stump will start to rot.

Cover the stump with a tarp or surround it with stones so that curious pets and kids don’t go too close to it.

Keep monitoring the stump. In a span of weeks, it will become so soft and spongy that you can easily chop it up with an axe or even a shovel.

You can put glyphosate to prevent the roots from sprouting again or just build a bonfire over the remainder of the roots and allow it to burn down.

It might smolder for days and you will need to clear leaves and dry debris from the area. Cover the stump with a makeshift chicken wire fence while it’s smoldering.

Don’t forget to fill the cavity with loam.

Method 3: Grinding the Stump with a Stump Grinder

Difficulty: Very hard

Tools: Protective gear, stump grinder, mattock, shovel,

Grinding the Stump with a Stump Grinder

How to Grind a Tree Stump

A stump grinder is an extremely heavy piece of equipment (almost 1000 pounds) that grinds tree stumps and roots to almost one feet below the ground.

It’s undoubtedly, the fastest way to get rid of a stump. But by far, the most difficult method especially if you have never handled heavy machinery before.

To top it off, stump grinder rentals are expensive.

You are looking at spending at least $200 a day.

So, we only recommend this method if you have multiple tree stumps that need to be disposed quickly.

Wear protective gear and start off by clearing the ground around the stump with the mattock. Remove any rocks or other debris.

Use the chainsaw to cut the tree stump as close to the ground as possible.

Now read the instructions carefully that came with the stump grinder.

There will be a hydraulic lever that allows you to raise or lower the main grinder wheel. Use this and position the grinder wheel two inches above the stump. Now lower it slowly and start grinding.

You will need to move the grinder side to side as well as in the forward direction until the entire stump is ground to pieces at least 6-8 inches beneath the ground surface.

Move it around the perimeter of the stump to chop off any remaining roots.

Use the shovel to remove the grindings and fill the cavity with sawdust.

Also, at any point of time, if you feel that the machine is too cumbersome or heavy for you to operate, then hire a professional to do it.

That will cost you more money. But it’s better than the risk of serious injury.

Moreover, most grinder rental companies will haul off the stump.

To Sum It Up

Some people recommend burning a tree stump down. But it can be very messy if you don’t know what you are doing.

Moreover, why mess with gasoline and fire when there are easier ways to get rid of the stump?

Removing a tree stump can be difficult. But it’s not as hard as people often tout it to be.

We hope that this guide helps you make an informed decision about what method to use to remove the stump.

Also, consider the fact that if you do not have some of the tools needed for completing the job safely, then the cost for renting those might add up to the cost of hiring a professional do the job for you.


  1. Hi Rob, I was looking for some of the easy ways to remove the tree stump and after comparing all the three methods mentioned in the article, I will be opting for the chemical one. Thanks for sharing this comprehensive guide and it will be of great help for me.


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