Need to know how to remove a tree stump in a painless, easy way without the use of a grinder or fancy equipment? In this step-by-step guide I cover 2 simple methods that are safe, cost effective and more importantly work!

If you only have one or two stumps to remove, it’s quicker to do it by hand. And trust me, if I can do this, anyone can! 

The first method is the easiest method, and involves letting the roots decay naturally over time. You DO NOT have to dig up the roots system with this method or use any nasty chemicals. 

The second method I cover is the old-fashioned method. It involves exposing the tree’s root system and fully removing the stump from the ground. It’s hard work, and more time intensive, but I know many people want to get rid of the full stump.

how to remove a tree stump infographic

In this post, I also discuss other popular methods e.g. using chemicals to rot the stump and if they really work!

METHOD #1 – THE EASY WAY TO REMOVE A TREE STUMP

Greg’s video shows the step-by-step method I used.

Unless you’re plowing a field, you don’t need to dig down a few feet to remove a tree stump. This is an old-fashioned and frankly, laborious method. 

Even arborists and tree specialists only grind down the stump a few inches below soil level. You don’t need to remove the entire stump. 

To see this method in action, take a look at the video above.

  1. Dig away soil, grass, dirt around the stump.

The last stump I removed was in dry soil in a woody area of my garden. I removed the dirt around the stump, approx 1.5-2 feet in diameter. In terms of depth, I only dug down maybe 4-5 inches.

  1. Cut the Stump

I used a simple handsaw to cut across the stump across its base. I dug down 4-5 inches, so therefore was cutting 4-5 inches below soil level.

If you’re comfortable with a chainsaw or reciprocating saw, then by all means use that instead for a quicker finish.

With a chainsaw, make sure you’re not catching dirt or rocks or other lumpy bits, this will blunt the saw quickly.

  1. Knock the Stump Away

Once you’ve cut deep enough, you’ll be able to knock the stump away. I used a hammer to nudge it out. You can use a sledgehammer or other tool if you need more force.

  1. Replace soil, grass or dirt

Throw some soil or dirt over the remaining stump. Replace grass if needed. Throw some seed down and water if preferred.

That’s it! Super simple, fast and easy, even if you’re non DIYer.

Will the Roots System Die With This Method?

Yes. Over time, the natural fungi in the soil will kickstart the decaying process. As the stump decomposes it will release nutrients often needed by soil, so it’s a best of both worlds scenario.

METHOD #2 – OLD FASHIONED WAY

Quick Summary of What to do:

To fully remove a tree stump, you’ll want to:

  • Expose the major base and roots by digging around the stump
  • Use a saw to sever the roots you can see. 
  • For large stumps, pull it out with a recovery strap and vehicle (slowly).
  • For small stumps, a crowbar works fine.
  • Fill in the hole left over with soil, pat down and get rid of stump.

Step 1 – Dig to expose the major roots

Expose the major roots by digging up the soil with a shovel. You’ll need to dig down all the way until you can see the major roots system e.g. the bigger, thicker roots. To help loosen soil, you might need a pick. 

Step 2 – Sever the Major Roots

To save time, you’ll want to use an electric reciprocating saw to do this. A handsaw will be pretty pointless at this stage.

In terms of how many roots you need to cut? Cut the major ones keeping the stump ‘stuck’, and then sever minor ones until you can pry the stump out fully.

Step 3 – Remove the Stump

As a little kid, I remember my dad using a reinforced heavy duty crowbar to remove the stumps in our garden. Boy, did that look hard work!

For larger stumps, he attached a recovery or tow strap and pried them out with the help of a vehicle. Sometimes you’ll need to rev the car a bit to wiggle the stump free. 

Once the stump is free, simply recycle or grind up to use as mulch for your garden. 

I’ve Heard You Can Rot a Stump with Chemicals. Can I Do This?

You can. Some methods seem promising, but from what I’ve seen others are a bit hit and miss, depending on the chemical used. You’ll need a lot of patience for this to work. Rotting a stump naturally using the likes of epsom salts can take weeks or months to see results. 

Here’s what you need to know about each method:

HOW TO ROT A STUMP NATURALLY

If you’re not a fan of using chemicals in your garden, you can opt for a more natural method. Simply pile some compost over a freshly felled stump.

The fungi and bacteria in the compost will naturally start decomposing the stump. This is what mother nature does, so it’s an effective method. You’re likely looking at 9-12 months before you’ll see a rotted stump.

HOW TO ROT A STUMP WITH CHEMICALS

I’ve seen lots of DIY tutorials floating around the internet on how to rot a stump with various chemicals including epsom salts, potassium nitrate and muriatic acid amongst others. 

Here’s the problem: most of these will kill the fungi that naturally jumpstarts the decomposition process. This is probably why they’re so hit and miss.

I’ve included them anyway in case you’re feeling adventurous and want to give it a go. Feel free to get back in touch if it works – I’d love to see a true success story.

ROTTING A STUMP WITH TREE STUMP REMOVAL CHEMICALS

Here’s what you’ll want to do:

Step 1: Drill Angled Holes in the Stump

  • Using a 1 inch spade bit attached to a drill extension, drill holes on the top of the stump, around its perimeter. Each hole should be roughly 6-9 inches apart. 
  • Each hole should be around 12 inches deep and 3-4 inches away from the edge of the stump.
  • Next, you’ll want to drill 4-5 more holes in the side of the stump at a 45 degree angle. Make sure you’re drilling these holes further up the stump, and not at the base. The holes should meet the top holes you’ve already drilled into the top of the stump.
  • This prevents chemicals spilling onto the ground, and can speed up the decaying process.

Step 2: Fill the Holes with Tree Stump Removal Chemicals

  • Pour 2-4 ounces of tree stump removal chemicals into each of the holes. You can use a brand called Spectricide for tough removals.
  • Add some water to the holes to activate the mixture (either chemical or epsom). 
  • Wait 5-6 weeks.
  • Within this time, the chemicals will have sped up the rotting process. A rotting stump starts to become soft and almost sponge-like.

REMOVING A STUMP WITH EPSOM SALTS

Epsom salts are said to remove the moisture within the stump, thereby drying it out. You drill the holes, fill with an epsom salt and water mixture and cover with tarp.

I’m not sure this will rot the stump, more stunt its growth. I’m yet to see a ‘1 year later video’ where someone can remove the stump after filling with salt.

REMOVING A STUMP WITH BLEACH

Other than turning the stump a gorgeous white color, I’m not convinced removing a stump with bleach will work. Bleach kills fungi and bacteria, putting a complete stop to the decaying process.

ROTTING A STUMP WITH HIGH NITROGEN FERTILIZER

Adding high-nitrogen fertilizer to the stump is believed to speed up the general decaying process, but it’s more likely to dampen the process. Fertilizer can kill bacteria and fungi. It’s this fungi that decomposes stumps naturally.

DISSOLVING A STUMP WITH MURIATIC ACID

Not sure why this is ever recommended. Muriatic acid is extremely toxic and corrosive. Both the mist and solution causes a corrosive effect on human skin (yikes!).

It can cause permanent and irreversible damage to the lungs, eyes, skin and intestines. Absolutely stay away from this stuff. 

REMOVING A STUMP WITH POTASSIUM NITRATE

Potassium Nitrate is effectively a salt, it will act the same way as epsom salts. Spectracide is the most common brand I’ve seen people use.

Potassium nitrate is supposed to dry out the tree stump…but I couldn’t find a tutorial on Youtube. Maybe it doesn’t work? 

BURNING THE STUMP

Creating what we call a ‘Burning Candle’ works well. Using a chainsaw, cut a few lines into the top of your stump. A hashtag pattern works just as well. Providing the wood is dry, it will burn for a few hours until it’s gone.

WHEN TO REMOVE A STUMP

You can remove a tree stump at any time, but there are ‘better’ times to do it. A freshly felled tree stump will respond better to natural or chemical rotting. Whereas manual removal tends to be easier once the stump has had chance to dry out and age. 

WHY REMOVE A TREE STUMP YOURSELF?

  • Cost. In the US, professional stump removal can cost anywhere between $400-$800, even more if the stump has deep roots or is wedged in a tricky location. 
  • House Value. A decaying open stump can affect the value of your property, should you wish to resell.
  • Tripping hazard. Small children especially should be careful around tree stumps.

These DIY methods save on both time and money.

Common FAQs

What happens if I Leave the Stump in the Ground?

Other than being an eyesore, it can quickly turn into a breeding ground for pests. Shortly after separation, everything that’s left begins to decay. Termites and carpenter ants are very attracted to rotting wood.

Over time, these hard-to-get-rid of pests can spread to your home and wider landscape. Stump removal is the best way to prevent this from happening.

Can I use a Grinder to Get Rid of a Tree Stump?

Many DIY sites recommend hiring a stump grinder for a few days, but unless you have the technical know-how, I’d recommend staying away from this option. Without proper training, it’s not an easy or safe tool to use.

Will a professional remove a tree stump for me?

Absolutely. If you’ve hired a professional service from the outset, they’ll typically remove the tree stump for you for an extra fee.

The cost to grind a stump ranges from $100-$350, with each additional stump after that costing $40-$60.