6 simple ways to remove a tree stump


I get many customers who have cut down trees in their garden for many reasons, from a dead or diseased tree to just needing more light in their garden, with many of them actually cutting the tree(s) down themselves. What they didn’t take into consideration was how hard it was to remove the stump! So after removing some more stumps today, I thought it best to show you a number of ways that you can remove the tree stump yourself, although some options will be more time consuming and labor intensive than others.

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Tree stump removal by use of a stump Grinder

As a professional landscape gardener, a stump grinder would always be my first recommendation when it comes to tree stump removal as it allows for a fast removal of the stump. The benefits of using a stump grinder is that you could potentially have each stump ground down to a foot in the ground in no more than 30 minutes, although it does have its downsides too.

You see a stump grinder is very expensive to buy, meaning that unless you are paying a professional landscape gardener to do the work for you, then it will be financially unviable to purchase one for a one-off job. You can however rent one for around £90 for the day. They are very heavy, so a van will be needed to pick one up as well as an extra pair of hands, although many plant hire companies will offer a delivery option. But if you are good with your hands and are use to manual activities, then for the sake of £90 this machine will grind that tree stump a foot into the ground and have it out of sight! Compared to the £100 – £300 per stump when paying a professional, the £90 fee really isn’t that bad.

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Tree stump removal with nothing but a spade and a chainsaw

I’m not sure if you will find anything like this online as this is something we have picked up on ourselves when needing to remove stump for some of our projects, where a stump grinder wasn’t possible due to access.

Providing that all you are trying to do is hide the tree stump and have it out of sight then this could be a good option! Simply dig a trench around the tree stump and cut the stump from underground. Be sure to brush away any dirt that is left on and around the stump since the chain on a chainsaw will blunt instantly as soon as it comes into contact with the earth. A trick we use is to cut the stump into sections from above, and then use the spade to pry each section away, like using a chisel and hammer. The downside to this option is that chainsaws are dangerous so only someone with experience of using such machinery should give this option a try. As well as this and although we haven’t yet had any stumps re-sprout, as they are still fairly close to the earth level, I would imagine that this would still be a possibility.

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Digging the tree stump out by hand is always an option…

Yes that’s right! As long as the stump isn’t too large, then of course you can dig it out! We have had jobs where this was the only option, especially if the stump is against a property or drainage etc., then using machinery like a stump grinder would be out of the question. The first thing that I would recommend using would be a mattock, which I purchased from Screwfix. It is much like a pickax but with a wider head, making it our favorite digging tool, much better than using a spade alone! Saying that, I will write a review along with pictures of my mattock on my next post!

The first thing you will need to do is dig around the root by using a spade or mattock, whilst trying to pry it out as you go. Dig around any roots coming from the tree stump and if unable to break then you should be able to get through these with a hand saw, as long as they aren’t too large. You can use a sledge hammer to help weaken the fixture of the tree stump and once you can get beneath it, use a large metal bar, much like a scaffolding bar to help pry the stump from the ground. Depending on the size of the tree stump, in some cases this option just wouldn’t be worth the effort involved, whilst some stumps can come out within the hour, and some have taking us a hole day! But if you have the tools and the time, then it’s worth a go!

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Do tree stump killers that can be purchased in store really work?

I would say that this would be the most popular method for those not looking to hire a professional to remove the stump for you, and just don’t have the time to manually remove the stump themselves. There are many brands such as Roundup, Resolva, Job Done and many more that offer these root killers, but it would be hard to see how they compare to each other.

The best way of using these tree stump killers would be to drill holes into the root and pouring the liquid into the holes. Although there are no immediate affects like the options above, over time the tree stumps will start to rot and will be much easier to break away and remove from the ground. I have actually used these products before upon request for some garden maintenance customers, and have gone back a year later to find the stump breaking away by simply kicking it! But the length of time that it takes for a stump to rot away will very much depend on the product and size of the stump, as well as the health of the stump. A good product, but patience will be needed. It’s not an option for those in a rush!

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Another clever little trick is to use copper nails to kill your tree stump

Tried and tested by myself, I can assure you that this really does work! All you need to do is hammer copper nails (the larger the better) around the base of a tree stump and wait for the stump to rot away. How this method compares to weed killers that can be purchased in stores I have no idea, but if you are going to use a weed killer, why not hammer some copper nails in there too just for added peace of mind!

If all else fails…Try burning your tree stump!

Another popular way to get rid of your tree stump is by burning it. This is a great option as you could have your tree stump turned to ashes in a matter of hours, but if you need the stump out of the ground completely then this may not be the best option. Burning your tree stump will most likely remove the stump down to ground level and out of sight. To burn your tree stump, just follow these steps:

  1. Clear any debris such as dead leaves from around the tree stump that could also catch fire. To be extra safe, you should strim the grass around the tree stump down to ground level to stop the fire from spreading or even skim the ground with a spade.
  2. Using a 1 inch spade bit attachment on your drill, drill into the top of the tree stump at a slight 30 degree angle. You should drill your holes to a minimum of 8 inches deep. Continue this process so that you have several holes on top of your tree stump before continuing to drill holes around the outer edge of your tree stump. You should be left with a stump covered in holes!
  3. Using potassium nitrate, fill each hole but be careful not to fill to the top, as it’s best to leave 5-6 inches to the surface. As potassium nitrate is corrosive, make sure to use your PPE such as goggles and gloves and be sure to wash your hands after use. If you don’t feel comfortable using this, then you can always use charcoal as this will also burn well.
  4. If you have opted to use potassium nitrate, fill the holes with water until it has dissolved. By doing this, you will help contaminate the rest of the tree stump too. Of course this doesn’t need to be done if using charcoal.
  5. Create a teepee above and around the tree stump by using fire wood. This teepee will allow for a good airflow helping the fire stay well lit, although be sure to have more firewood to keep the stump burning.
  6. After a good couple of hours, your tree stump should be nothing more than ash, although the roots etc. will still be in the ground. You could try digging or chopping the roots if necessary. If the plan was to just remove the tree stump so that you don’t have to look at it, then the job is done! If you want to remove the tree root including the roots, then the stump grinder method would be a better option.

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