Tree Stump Removal – A Review of Common Techniques

tree removal
Tree Stump Removal – A Review of Common Techniques

Here is a comparison of the different methods of tree stump removal

Stump Grinding

Stump grinding is a stump removal technique using a machine with a circular wheel and teeth that shaves away a stump in a lateral motion. It cuts out the roots and organic material to six inches or more below grade level.

I reccomend this method 99 times out of 100. Here’s why.

Chemical tree stump removal takes a long time. Years, if you allow the stump to decompose naturally. Months if you burn or chop it out. Stump grinding takes a day.

Chemical removal isn’t effective when temperatures are too cold because the tree stump won’t react to potassium nitrate, the active ingredient in chemical stump removers. On the other hand, grinding the stump can be done anytime of year. 

Finally, chemical stump remover only works for a seasoned stump. For a freshly cut tree stump, you will have to wait for a year or apply Round Up to accelerate the seasoning process. Again, stump grinding can be done right away.

If you do the stump grinding yourself, ask the rental shop for the number to the local utility line locating service. This service is provided by local utilities and they will come mark any underground lines.This prevents damage or even explosions while grinding the stump.

It is also important to mind any underground sprinkler lines. Use a plywood shield to protect surrounding car windows, home windows and wear safety goggles and a hard hat. The stump grinder will kick up rocks and other debris that can break glass and heads!

Sometimes, the stump will be to close to sprinkler lines or concrete patios and walks. This will force you to use another method.

Burning a Stump Out

Chemical tree stump remover will accelerate the natural decomposition of the stump and prepare the stump to be burnt out. I’ve seen this method used mostly by farmers. Be sure to for residential restrictions on burning.

The active ingredient in chemical stump remover is potassium nitrate, commonly known as saltpetre. Popular brands include Bonide Stump-Out, Spectracide Stump Remover and Green Light Stump Remover.  Reviews vary for each product but I tried to link to retail sites that offer feedback from users of these products.

Here are the step for burning a stump out.

1. Drill several 1 inch holes in the top and sides of the stump. Make sure the holes in the side meet the holes drilled from the top and are drilled at a slight downward angle. This will allow the potassium nitrate to not leak out.
2. Fill each hole with 4 to 6 oz. of  tree stump remover and the remaining space with water.
3. Let the stump stand for 4 to 6 weeks. You will notice the stump softening.
4. Fill the hole with kerosene or fuel oil. Never use gasoline!
5. Let it stand until the fuel oil is completely absorbed into the stump, about 4-5 weeks, depending on size of stump.
6. Ignite the stump with charcoal briquettes. The stump will now burn with a smoldering red glow clear down to the roots. It may take several    days.

Chemical Stump Removal

You may not be able to burn a stump in your neighborhood so natural decomposition may be your final choice.

After the stump has seasoned for a year, you follow the steps above for treating the stump with the chemical stump removal product of your choice. You can double the amount of holes and product to increase the efficiency of decomposition.

After waiting 4 to 6 weeks, you can then start to chop out organic material using an axe and shovel. Keep in mind that this process is only effective in the warm months of the year.

There are other stump removal methods I’ve seen such as digging it out with a backhoe. In my experience, unless there is a serious mitigating circumstance, stump grinding is the best method for removing a tree stump.

tree removal