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How to Remove a Tree Stump

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Did you know that positive curb appeal can increase the average selling price of a house from 7-14%? Having old, rotten stumps on your lawn can put a big-time damper on your purchase agreement price.

Learning how to remove a tree stump can save you time and stress in the future. It can also help when you’re ready to sell your home!

Read on to learn more.


This will generally be the cheapest way to go, but you’ll need to be in shape if you don’t like being sore for days on end after you remove a tree stump. If that sounds alright by you, have at it, Mr. Bunyan!

Gather Your Tools

For this method, you will need:

  • PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as safety glasses, steel-toe or composite-toe boots, and heavy-duty work gloves.
  • Ax
  • Mattock
  • Shovel
  • Bow Saw
  • Mulch or other organic fill material (such as dirt and sod, etc.)

Start Digging

Next, you’ll want to target the roots of the stump by getting in there with a shovel, ax, and your mattock. Try to dig or hack out as much of the root system as possible, as it is literally what is holding the stump in the ground.

It’s important to remember to consider the size of the tree stump you’re removing – no one wants to manually dig the root system out from under a 100-year-old oak tree.

Backfill or Cover Your Hole

This step is optional, but if the tree is in a highly visible area or high foot-traffic area, you’ll likely want to backfill the hole the removing the stump created.

If you reserved some of the soil from Step 2, great—just fill it back in! If not, there’s an endless variety of material that you can fill the hole with to keep it safe and tidy looking.


Okay, so this method sounds a little harsh but it is a fairly simple and inexpensive way to remove older stumps from your property. You will however need a bit more patience—if you’re looking for an immediate resolution, keep scrolling.

Gather Your Tools

You’ll need the same tools listed above with the addition of:

  • 1 in paddle bit
  • Drill (electric or cordless, grab an extension cord if electric)
  • Potassium nitrate (found at most hardware or lawn & garden stores)
  • Hot water
  • Patience

Drill Vertical Holes in the Top of the Stump

Using your drill and paddle bit, drill intermittent holes vertically around the perimeter of the cut end of the stump. Try to keep the holes 3 to 4 inches in from the edge of the stump.

Drill Angled Holes in the Side of the Stump

After you’ve completed your holes in the top of the stump, use the same paddle bit to drill downward angled holes (about 45° if possible) in the sides of the stump that meet up with the vertical holes that you just completed.

This will allow for quicker decomposition and better ventilation should you need to just end up burning the stump out.

Add Potassium Nitrate and Hot Water

Once all of your holes are drilled, fill the vertical holes with potassium nitrate granules.

This chemical will assist with breaking the stump down. Water once you’ve put your chemicals in the stump. This will activate your potassium nitrate.

Monitor and Continue to Add Hot Water

Here is where the patience part comes into play.

You’ll want to keep an eye on your stump for 4 to 6 weeks and continue adding hot water for at least the next several days after the first treatment. You’ll know that it’s time to bring in the big guns when your stump gets soft and a little rubbery in texture.

Hack Away

You’ve added water and waited and then added more water. Finally, the day has come to bring your ax, shovel, mattock, and 6 weeks’ worth of aggression out to your stump and just have at it!

If you’ve applied your chemical properly and maintained a consistent amount of hot water surfactant, this part should be relatively quick and painless.

Fill It In

Just as we mentioned before, this one is more up to your personal preference. Fill it in with whatever organic material you would like for safety and aesthetics’ sake.

Grind It Out

If you like loud toys and instant gratification, this is likely your DIY option of choice. A word to the wise—you’ll want to have some experience with heavy machinery, some technical know-how, and some extra scratch in your wallet for the rental (or purchase) of the stump grinder.

Choose Your Budget

To rent or to buy; that is the question.

If you have a property full of old dead trees that you want to fell or have felled, you might want to consider just purchasing a stump grinder if you think it might pay for itself in short order rather than renting one. However, if it’s a one or two stump job, just rent that thing and let someone else assume the maintenance costs.

Dig a Ditch

You’re more than likely going to want to clear out a good amount of “safe” space around the stump before you unleash the grinder on that puppy. This will decrease your chances of getting the teeth of the grinder into some previously unseen rock or other hard material and knocking them out—those things can get expensive!

In addition, this little stump moat will help catch the sawdust and wood millings from the stump and help to cover up the hole left by the excised chunk of the tree.

Take It Easy

Make sure that you are utilizing all of the necessary PPE—this includes safety glasses, steel or composite-toe boots, heavy-duty leather work gloves and a helmet with a visor isn’t a bad idea either t protect your face from flying debris.

To further ensure your safety, make sure that you read the owner’s manual carefully – regardless of your experience with similar machines and take your time—especially until you can find a good rhythm and get a decent “feel” for the machine.

Slow and Steady

Once you’ve gotten used to the grinder, try to remember to take your time going back and forth over the stump to make sure that you are getting a thorough and consistent cut.

Pay special attention to the stubborn knots and old roots that tend to stick up in gnarly angles so that you’re effectively eliminating the whole stump.

Cover, Seed, and Straw

In addition to just backfilling the hole, you can opt to fill it in, evenly distribute some grass seed over the scar in the ground, and lay down some straw to help protect the new growth. This is especially effective when using a stump grinder simply because you are much more likely to get an even and complete cut.

Burn It!

This DIY option is pretty s. Drill the same holes that you would for the Drill-N-Kill Method, but instead of chemicals just kill it with fire.

Burn It Low and Slow

Just like your favorite smoked ribs recipe, you’re going to want to burn that baby low and slow. No one wants a giant ball of fire just sitting in their yard for days on end.

Clear Leaves and Organic Materials Away From the Stump

This is another fairly obvious step, but get everything that can catch fire other than the stump away from the said stump.

Protect and Monitor

Protect your property from flying embers and windy conditions that could catch unintended areas aflame. Consider materials such as chicken wire to help keep the ashes and embers at bay and make sure that you’re keeping an eye on the progress.

Call in the Experts

Now that you’ve taken a look at all of the DIY methods of stump removal (minus just grabbing a chain, embracing your inner hillbilly, and pulling that thing out with your truck), you’re probably thinking “wow, that sounds like a ton of work. I just want that ugly thing gone.” Fair enough…it’s time to call in the experts at Dawkins Tree Care.

Shop Around

If you have decided to take the plunge and hire a contractor, you’re going to want to take into account several factors, such as your budget, their reputation as a reliable tree removal service, the location of the stump itself, and any number of other variables.

Make sure you’re communicating with establishments like Dawkins Tree Service (for your PNW folks) to get honest opinions, reliable service, and detailed workmanship.

Be Picky

Stump removal can be a pricey endeavor if you have an especially difficult setup, so make sure that the contractor is 100% clear on exactly what you want, your budget, and make sure that you agree on a solid timeline for the work to be done. Weather and the contractor’s fluctuating schedule can wreak havoc on even the best plans.

Make a Plan and Contact a Professional

Whether you decide on the DIY route or hire an expert tree removal service, it’s best to check your local regulations. Make a plan and get together with a professional as soon as possible if you need more than just a small stump removed.

Not only can a project of this size and scope quickly get away from you, but you may also have to contend with local wildlife conservation laws, burn bans, and many other local regulations that may catch you by surprise.

Searching for more tips? Check out our latest guides today.

The post How to Remove a Tree Stump first appeared on Weirdomatic. Weirdomatic is the place where all weird things come to life through the amazing world of photographs – a corner of our wild imagination or the whimsical face of the reality?


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