How to Remove a Tree Stump From Your Yard

The PropertyClub Team
Oct 25th 2020
Knowing how to remove a tree stump from your yard can save you quite a bit of money as stump removal can be relatively expensive. Here's what you need to know about doing it yourself.

So, you just chopped down that big tree in your yard that was becoming an eyesore. You are all set to enjoy the new space you have, but now you have a pesky stump in your way. You are going to have to take care of that before you can use all that extra space. 

As you might expect, removing a tree stump from your lawn is hard work. Tree stumps are typically deeply set in the ground with an extensive root system that makes removing them a huge pain. While you could hire a professional landscaping crew to do it for you, that can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars. 

Instead, you can remove a stump on your own for a fraction of the cost. Fair warning, though, no matter how you choose to go about DIY stump removal, it’s going to be tough and will require some specific tools. So we put together this article on some of the best ways to remove a tree stump and what kind of equipment you will need. 

Important Considerations for Stump Removal

Before you get started trying to get rid of the sump, make sure you know what you are dealing with. Specifically, you should have a good idea of how far the roots go and the overall size of the stump. Removing a larger stump will take more effort, and different methods are better suited for large and smaller tree stumps. 

Also, consider how quickly you need the job done. Some methods, such as chemical removal, can take almost a week to complete while others can be finished in just a day. If you need to get rid of that stump fast, then you might want to pick one of the heavier-duty methods we will outline shortly. 

Once you get these key details, you will be ready to pick your method and get rid of that eyesore. 

Chemical Removal

Chemical removal is probably the least labor-intensive method, but it usually takes a lot more time than other methods. With chemical removal, you dissolve parts of the tree stump until you can pull the remnants out of the ground. The chemicals help rot the roots and soften up the wood so you can easily pull it out of the ground. 

The most common kind of chemical remover for stumps is potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate accelerates the decomposition of wood by acting as a food source for microbes and fungi that eat it away. You will also need a chainsaw and drill to complete the process. Removing a stump with chemicals takes several weeks, so make sure you have enough time. 

First, use the chainsaw to take off as much of the tree stump above ground as you can. You basically want to get it flush with the ground. Next, take a drill and put evenly spaced holes through the stump. You want the holes to be as deep and as wide as possible. 

Next, fill the holes with the chemical remover. Don’t skimp on the remover. You want to put as much as possible in there. After applying the chemicals, soak the surrounding ground and stump with water and cover the ground with a plastic tarp. The covering will trap the moisture in the ground, speeding up the rotting process. 

Over the next few weeks, check back periodically and add more water, nitrogen, and fertilizer under the tarp. In 4-6 weeks, the stump should be decomposed enough to remove it. It should feel spongy to the touch when it’s decomposed thoroughly. From there, you can take an ax and start removing parts. Once you are done, fill the hole with topsoil and seed.

If the stump still hasn’t decomposed enough to remove, repeat the above process until it is. 

Remove The Stump Manually

If you do not want to use harsh chemicals or do not have a month to spare, then you can remove the stump by hand. This method is the cheapest as you don’t need any fancy equipment, but it will take a lot of labor on your part. 

To remove a tree stump by hand, you will need an ax, a digging bar, a bow saw, or a mattock. You should also have gloves, safety goggles, and steel-toed boots for protection. You should be able to complete the process in about 4-10 hours, depending on how large the stump is. 

First off, use the mattock or a shovel to dig up and loosen the dirt around the tree stump’s base. You want to remove enough dirt so you can see the roots of the stump. Trees can have long roots that extend to several feet from the base of the stump. 

When the roots are exposed, use the bow saw to cut through as many as you can. The more roots you sever, the easier it will be to pull the stump out of the ground. Dig as far as you can until the taproot (the root system’s long base) is exposed. Next, cut through the taproot using the ax or the saw. 

Once you do that, you can start to pull the stump out of the ground. It will probably help if you take pieces off with the ax first. The more topsoil you remove and the fewer connected roots, the faster this part of the process will go. Even so, removing a stump by hand can take hours and involves a lot of work, so make sure you stay hydrated and take frequent breaks. 

Use a Stump Grinder

If you are dealing with a larger tree stump, then you might have to rent a stump grinder. Stump grinders are large pieces of machinery that are explicitly designed for removing tree stumps. They look somewhat like a crossover between a wheelbarrow and a circular saw. These heavy-duty machines roll the stump up and grind it into tiny pieces. The circular saw is positioned over the stump, and the circular saw grinds it to bits. 

You will have to rent or buy a stump grinder from your local hardware store. A standard stump grinder costs about $100-$200 a day to rent. They also are very heavy pieces of equipment so make sure you can transport them to and from the store. You will also need a shovel, mattock, and a chainsaw to make the process go as smoothly as possible. 

First, clear away all large debris such as sticks and rocks from the area. Use the shovel and mattock to clear the debris and break up large clumps of dirt. Next, cut off as much of the stump as possible using the chainsaw. You want to try and get the stump to ground level before coming in with the grinder. 

You will then want to position the stump grinder directly over the stump and lower it until it’s about 1”-2” off the surface. Turn the machine on and slowly lower the saw blade onto the wood. Slowly move the instrument side to side, making sure you are covering the edges of the stump. You need to keep a firm handle on the grinder as it will vibrate and try to buck side to side while using it. 

After you have cut through an appreciable amount, turn the grinder off and lift it off the stump. You want the perimeter of the stump to be ground down several inches below the surface, preferably 4”-6”. If it is not that low yet, repeat the above process until it is. 

Once the tree stump has been ground down enough, there should be a large hole with the remnants of the stump below. You can then either dig this part out with a shovel, or you can just put a layer of wood chips and topsoil over the hole and fill it. The upshot of using a stump grinder is that you can finish the job in under a few hours, so you won’t be spending your whole day doing tough landscaping work. 

As we said, you can rent a stump grinder from your local home improvement store, but make sure you do your research before using one. Stump grinders are very heavy, large, and extremely dangerous if not handled properly, so you will need the right kind of safety gear such as gloves, goggles, and foot protection. If you have never operated any heavy machinery before, we would not recommend using a stump grinder and instead recommend using one of the other listed methods. 

Conclusions

Stumps can be a massive eyesore and ruin the setup of your yard. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to get rid of stumps without having to shell out hundreds of dollars to the pros. The three methods we talked about are not exhaustive either. 

So if you need to get rid of a stump in your yard by yourself, it is entirely possible. Either way, you should never leave a stump unattended. Rotting stumps can become havens for all kinds of pests like wasps and termites, so you will want to deal with them promptly.