How to Remove a Tree Stump

If you are eight years old and in need of a large beetle for a bug collection or if you need a place to sit outside, and you are not too picky, a tree stump has its uses.   Otherwise a stump is not good for much of anything.  Let’s get rid of it.

The ”Hands Off” Methods for Stump Removal – AKA “The SMART Way(s)”

If possible, leave a job like this to a reputable professional.  Unless the stump in question is less than 6 inches around you can expect to spend extended periods of time chipping away with an axe or destroying your yard by digging around the stump and lifting it out.

A professional will often have an industrial quality machine that can remove, even the largest stumps with ease, in a matter of minutes.  Check your local BBB or websites like AngiesList. for reliable companies and contractors.  When getting quotes make certain that whatever price you agree to includes clean up unless you plan to make use the pile of wood chips that WAS your stump.

While letting someone else do the work is ALWAYS the easiest way, there are still a few options before resorting to strictly chopping and digging.

How to Burn a Stump

BURN IT!  Check with your local authorities so you do not end up paying fines and make sure that all precautions are taken before doing so to prevent collateral damage.  Cut an “X” about 6 inches deep across the top of the stump and fill the cut 1/3 full with whatever legal, carefully handled and portioned accelerant you choose to employ.  After taking care to prevent collateral damage to yourself or anyone else’s property… light it up.  Allow it to “smolder” for as long as it will go.  Once the coals have cooled, clear them away and repeat this process until the stump is thoroughly burned and reduced in size. The less dense, smaller, burned up stump will be easier to extract if you choose to chop it or dig it up.  After ensuring that there is no longer any danger of a spreading fire the stump in its reduced size might be possible and you might consider attempting to simply cover what is left of the stump with other landscape features.

Using Chemicals to Remove a Stump

If you cannot afford to pay a professional and you are not comfortable or legally able to burn the stump, you may consider a Chemical Removal.

As you have surmised, this method involves the use of caustic chemicals to accelerate the decay of the stump and make it easier to remove.  With a heavy duty drill and a 1 inch by 12 inch bit create a series of vertical holes on the top of the stump.  There is no set amount as stump sizes and compositions will vary, but one every 4 to 6 inches should suffice.  In addition to the holes drilled on top, create series of holes on the outside at 45-70 degrees that will meet up with, at least a few, of the vertical holes.  After donning all necessary protective gear as recommended by the manufacturer of the chemicals you pick (nitric or sulfuric acid, lye or other available combinations) pour your mixture or acid into the holes.  This process is not instant and may require repeating but it should rot out the bulk of the stump in a matter of weeks or months rather than years and should make the final removal process much easier.  You may also choose to burn what remains.

Now, if this stump has caused you or a loved one some personal harm or has wronged you in some way and the methods mentioned above are not satisfactory to punish the offending  stump, there is always…the old fashioned ways.

How to Remove a Stump By Hand

These are the sweaty, back breaking ways alluded to in previous paragraphs.

Start by digging out an area about 18 inches deep and about 12 inches wide around the stump to expose a large section of the root system.  Depending on the size of the tree and of the roots, use the shovel or axe to cut and remove as much of these roots as possible.  If after removing the exposed roots from all the way around the tree you are still unable to force the stump loose by hand or with the shovel you may need to repeat the process.  If you have had enough of digging and chopping you may decide to employ either the chemical or fire method listed above to the exposed and now weakened and vulnerable root system.

You now have a couple of options to consider when removing a tree stump, but here are a few reminders.

  1. Make certain to always handle tools safely and wear protective gear such as eyewear and gloves
  2. When using chemicals follow manufacturer directions and make sure children and pets are not exposed to hazardous substances.  Also be certain to follow disposal protocols.
  3. When burning take steps to ensure fire does not get out of control such as soaking nearby ground with water and keeping an extinguisher nearby.

It is always satisfying to complete a project around your home with requiring help and without spending money but if you are not certain  you are able to safely physically  handle this potentially difficult task without injury you should enlist aid, save up to pay a professional or just get used to seeing the stump.

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