How To Cleanup After Stump Grinding (The Ultimate Guide)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

Keeping a tree stump in the yard can be a physical hazard and just get in the way. Decaying stumps also attract termites and ants, and then they migrate to gardens and the house.

To clean up after stump grinding, begin by removing chunks of wood, debris, and smaller chunks with a rake. Next, dispose of the debris, and pave over the area. It is important to properly clean up after stump grinding to avoid any decaying growth, termites, ants, or leaving a dangerous stump people could trip on.

Using a stump grinder is an effective way to get rid of a tree stump and the shallow roots. The grinding generally leaves a hole that can be an uneven 6 to 8 inches deep. The size of the stump and the extent of the shallow roots will determine the length and width of the hole.

Paving over the excavated area or replacing it with grass requires a thorough cleanup. The wood chips, sawdust, and loosened soil in the hole need to be removed. If not done properly, it will guarantee the need to repair the eventual unsightly result again.

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Gather the Tools Needed

Renting a small mini skid is probably fastest way to scoop up the chips, sawdust, and loose soil in the excavated area. However, the job can be done by hand at far less expense.

The more tools you have handy, the easier and faster the job is done. The basic tools are:

  • A sturdy flat shovel or scoop shovel
  • A garden rake
  • A leaf rake
  • A large container(s) or wheelbarrow for removal of the collected material
  • A metal sifter if reusing the loosened soil
  • Leather gloves

Begin the Cleanup

The first task is to remove the ground chunks of wood scattered in the hole and the area surrounding it. Raking the excavated area with a garden rake will loosen the chunks embedded in the soil from the grinding process. It will also gather up the larger chunks.

Next, a leaf rake can be used for cleaning out the smaller chunks in the area. If the excavated hole is in a lawn, use the leaf rake on the surrounding area as well. All piles of chunks are then shoveled up for disposal or other uses, such as landscaping or as compost.

You also want to clean up the soil loosened by the grinding process, which will have smaller chip particles or sawdust in it. While it might be tempting to use this soil to fill holes from ground up roots in the excavated area, it is not a good idea.

Wood, even as tiny particles, shrinks over time (to as much as one-third its size) and settles, leaving an uneven surface. If seeding or sodding, fresh wood particles also suck the nourishing nitrogen out of the soil.

Paving over the Area

If you plan to pave over the excavated stump area, remove as much of the particle-rich soil as possible. You don’t want the ground to settle as a result of wood particle shrinkage. This would eventually cause problems with the material used to pave the area, even concrete.

Filling the Excavated Area

If flagstone is a consideration in the area, UpgradedHome has a helpful DIY article on the subject, “ How to Lay Flagstone on Dirt (In a Few Easy Steps).” Gravel is the best choice for filling the hole for other types of paving. Crushed stone is a good choice for a construction project.

Re-Seeding or Sodding

Decomposing chips and sawdust are heavy consumers of nitrogen. Embedded in the soil, they become acidic, lowering the beneficial average 5.5 to 7.5 pH level and burning the roots of new grass. The result is an undesirable sunken brown out where the stump used to be.

Like paving plans, be sure that you remove all the loose soil, and maybe a bit more, from the excavation. If you want to reuse this excavated soil, you want to be sure that the wood particles are removed.

A heavy-duty metal dirt sifter with a 1/4-inch mesh screen is recommended. The labor and time required to do this thorough sifting will depend on how much soil you have. If it rains before you can sift the soil, you want to postpone the job until the soil dries out completely. You want it to be loose and dry for sifting.

Filling the Excavated Area

To restore the area to match the rest of the lawn, use a layering system to fill the excavated area. First, you want to rake the remaining soil in the excavation for some leveling and aeration. The added soil should do the rest. After depositing a first layer of the reused soil, fresh grass cuttings and leaves can be spread over it. They decompose faster than wood particles, contributing nitrogen. They also attract worms to feed on the wood particles as well as the cuttings.

Sprinkle a small amount of agricultural lime on each soil layer. Lime raises the pH level that is lowered by acidity in the wood particles. The layering is done until level with the rest of the lawn’s soil. Depending on the size of the excavated area, additional topsoil may be needed to fill it.

Alternatives to the Excavated Soil

If you want to use fresh soil, below are types of soils and sod to assure a successful lawn area replacement.

  • Topsoil can come in many varieties, but loam soil is often recommended by lawn care specialists.
  • Composted soil, a rich mixture of humus, acts as a natural fertilizer with its many nutrients released slowly. Composted soil helps to neutralize the acidity of any still remaining wood particles embedded in the excavated area.
  • Sod is the more expensive solution but can restore your lawn in 2-3 weeks, eliminating the need for seeding.

Ask your local lawn care specialist about the best solution or combination of soils for where you live. They may recommend a pH test to check the health of your lawn.

Choosing the Right Grass Seed

If you don’t know the type of grass in your lawn, cut out a small chunk beside the excavated area. Make sure that the chunk is deep enough to include the roots on up to the blades of grass. Then, take it to your local lawn care specialist for identification.

Types of grass vary by geographic locations and types of seasons. Below are some of the most popular grass varieties.

Cool Season Lawn Grass Features

Type ColorBlade Width
Fine fescueMedium to

dark green

Perennial ryegrassMedium to

dark green

Narrow to


Turf-type tall fescueMedium to

dark green

Narrow to


Kentucky bluegrassdark blue-


Narrow to


Traditional tall fescuelighter greenMedium to


Warm Season Lawn Grass Features

Type ColorBlade Width
BermudagrassDark greenNarrow
Zoysia grassLight to

Medium green

Narrow to


CarpetgrassMedium greenMedium to


Centipede grassLight greenMedium
BahiagrassLight greenMedium to


Spreading the New Grass Seed

After the excavated area has been filled in and leveled, grass seed is sprinkled over the soil. A lawn spreader is the uniform way to do this, but seeding can also be done by hand. Very little soil is needed to cover the seeds. Lightly raking the soil with the seeds is sufficient.

Peat moss can be spread over the area, though not essential. It improves the germination rate of the grass seed. Water the area with a fine mist to keep it moist until the blades of grass are about two inches high. Enjoy your beautifully restored lawn.

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Related Questions

How long will it take for the grass to grow from seed?

Generally, it takes about two months with the right conditions, such as sunlight and favorable temperatures.

Will the deeper roots from the cutdown tree affect my lawn?

It depends on the type of tree that was removed. For some trees, the roots will start to naturally decay. However, it may take ten or more years for these roots to fully decompose. Chemicals can be used to accelerate the process.For other trees, such as fruit trees, the roots continue to grow. They have stored the food needed to do so. They can grow another 2 to 3 years before decomposing. These roots may create unsightly growing sprouts on the lawn.Generally, these sprouts can be controlled with mowing. They will eventually die off as the roots themselves start to decay. It is best to consult an arborist for the best solution in your situation.

 UpgradedHome has other useful articles of interest for outdoor projects:

“How to Stabilize Pea Gravel Walkways (In a Few Easy Steps)”“How to Stop Runoff from a Neighbor’s Yard”

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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