Kellan is a content writer who specializes in everything DIY. When he's not behind the keyboard, he enjoys spending time with his pets, playing music, and geeking out about basketball. He hopes to make your home improvement projects a little bit easier to accomplish.
How To Remove A Tree Stump By Hand (5 Ways To Do It!)
Trees are a beautiful addition to any yard. They provide shade, enhance the yard’s aesthetic, and give your kids a fun landmark to play around.
Of course, trees don’t last forever. When they die, homeowners are often left with an unsightly stump that they’d like to get rid of as soon as possible. Thankfully, there are several ways you can remove a tree stump by hand.
Start by removing the dirt or grass around the tree stump. Then, use a reciprocating saw to cut the stump at approximately 3 inches below the grass level. Next, replace the dirt or grass that you removed. Finally, you can recycle the stump by burying it and planting things on top of it. Recycled tree stumps can help plants grow faster.
Table of Contents
- Why Do You Need to Remove Tree Stumps?
- Best Way to Remove a Tree Stump By Hand
- The Cut and Pull Method
- How to Rot an Old Tree Stump
- How to Burn a Tree Stump
- Will Bleach Kill a Tree Stump?
- What is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of a Tree Stump?
- Related Questions
Why Do You Need to Remove Tree Stumps?
If you’re just getting started with the stump removal process, you may be wondering whether you actually need to get rid of the tree stump in your yard or not. We can understand that it’s tempting to just leave the stump as is. However, removing tree stumps from your yard is a good idea for a few reasons.
First, and most obviously, a decaying tree stump just doesn’t look good. It can ruin the way your yard looks and even diminish your property value if it’s large enough.
Can’t Replant Trees
Additionally, you won’t be able to plant any new trees near the stump. This is because the stump’s far-reaching roots are likely still in the way, preventing new roots from flourishing.
Keeping an old tree stump in your yard can also damage your lawnmower. You may inadvertently run over either the stump itself or its roots while you’re mowing your lawn. Doing this could seriously damage your mower.
Finally, and most importantly, old tree stumps begin a slow decaying process the moment they’re separated from a tree. Over time, this rotting wood will attract all sorts of home-damaging pests. Your stump could become a literal breeding ground for pests like termites and carpenter ants.
You may not be too concerned about pests like these infecting an old tree stump. However, once those animals are in your yard, they can spread very quickly to the other parts of your yard or even into your home.
For all of these reasons, it’s a good idea to just remove old tree stumps as soon as you create them. Doing so will save you from having to experience any of the issues discussed above.
Best Way to Remove a Tree Stump By Hand
There are many different ways that you can remove a tree stump by hand. However, this method consistently rates as one of the best due to how easy it is to execute. Follow this step-by-step guide and you can remove an old tree stump from your yard in as little as 20 minutes.
- Remove the dirt or sod around the stump. Your goal is to create a 2-foot diameter circle that runs around the stump. You don’t need to dig down too far, just 3 to 4 inches should do the trick.
- Cut the stump. You’ll need a saw for this step. Experts recommend using a reciprocating saw for the job. However, you’re fine to also use a chainsaw or hand saw. That being said, if you do use a chainsaw, you may need to dig a deeper hole to ensure the dirt or rocks don’t dull your chain. Once you’ve chosen your tool, start cutting the stump about 3 inches below the grass level.
- Replace the dirt or grass. All you need to do now is replace the dirt or sod that you removed in the first step of the process. If you’re planting sod, you can just leave it and allow the grass to do its job.
Of course, no tree stump removal process would be complete without actually getting rid of the stump you’ve just removed. There are a few different options you have for this. However, we recommend recycling the tree stump by putting it back into your yard.
You can bury the stump in a location that you’d like to plant on top of. When you do, the buried wood will act as a sort of water sponge for the vegetation you plant. Additionally, it will continue to decay. As it does, the stump will feed the vegetation that you plant.
For these reasons, replanting an old tree stump is one of the best ways to get rid of it. Keep in mind that tree stumps and roots are typically not accepted at yard waste collection sites. That means you’ll need to come up with an alternative recycling plan if the one detailed above doesn’t work for you.
The Cut and Pull Method
The cut and pull method is another option you can use to remove a tree stump by hand. Fair warning, this option is a bit more difficult than the one detailed above. It’s the method that used to be popular back in the olden days, meaning it doesn’t take advantage of new technologies.
The start of the cut and pull method is very similar to what you just read. Here’s a step-by-step guide you can follow:
- Start by digging around the stump. Your goal is to expose the stump’s major roots. This may require a pick if your soil is tough to dig through.
- Begin cutting the roots that you’ve uncovered. You can use a few different tools to do this, including a reciprocating saw, hand saw, or even an ax if you want to make the process more difficult on yourself for some reason.
- Dig to uncover any additional roots and cut these. You may find that additional roots reveal themselves after you cut through the first layer. If that’s the case, expose the roots enough to cut through them and repeat step two.
- Pull the stump out. Most people use a 4-wheel drive vehicle to do this, as it’s the easiest way to get the job done. However, you can also use a digging bar or a sturdy 2X4 plank to leverage the stump if those are the only tools that you have available.
How to Rot an Old Tree Stump
Another option that you have for removing an old tree stump is to rot through its wood. This process requires less physical work and is, therefore, a popular way to dispose of old tree stumps.
Essentially, you’re going to be speeding up the stumps’ natural rotting process. By adding a chemical agent, you’ll make the remaining tree fibers and roots breakdown faster than they would have on their own. Here’s a step-by-step guide showing how to do it:
- Start working on a dry day if possible. The stump will be looking for more liquid and nutrients these days, which means that it will soak up the chemical agents you apply faster.
- Use a chainsaw to cut the stump as close to the ground as possible. This will give the chemicals less material to eat through, making the rotting process more efficient. If you aren’t able to use a chainsaw, no worries. The rotting process will just take a bit longer to finish.
- Drill holes into the top of the stump and along the sides in a downward direction. These holes will give the chemical agents you apply easier access to the heart of the tree stump. For the best results, muse as large of a drill bit as possible. Additionally, try to make each of the holes that you drill at least a few inches deep.
- Apply the chemical agent you select. There are several different options you can use. The ideal choice is any commercial fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen. However, you can also use cow manure or even Epsom salt. Pack the holes that you’ve drilled with as much of the agent that you’ve chosen to use as you can.
- Apply water both on top of and on the ground surrounding the tree stump. Then, cover the stump with a plastic tarp. The goal of this is to trap the moisture around the stump. Moisture is needed to help the chemicals that you’ve just applied break down the wood as fast as possible.
- Place mulch on top of the covered tree stump. Any kind of organic mulch, like hay or tree bark, will do the trick. This step simply helps the stump retain the moisture you’ve created, speeding up the process even more.
- Use rocks to weigh down the plastic tarp. This step is optional but can be used to ensure that the plastic doesn’t go anywhere.
That’s it! Once you’ve finished these seven steps, all you need to do is wait. Your tree stump will start rotting on its own. That being said, this is a natural process occurring that will still take some time to complete.
How to Burn a Tree Stump
Burning is another way that you can remove a pesky tree stump from your yard. The only requirement for this process to work is that your stump needs to be dry. Additionally, you need to live in a place where it’s okay to light a noticeable fire in your yard.
As long as those two requirements are met, burning your tree stump can be an effective way of removing it. There are actually several ways you can do this. Here’s a brief overview of each of them.
Use a Burn Barrel
If you have any large metal drums lying around your yard, consider turning one of them into a burn barrel. This is one of the easiest ways to burn an old tree stump. All you need to do is cut out the bottom of the barrel and place it over the top of your stump.
You can even add charcoal or kindling wood to get the fire going. Either your stump will burn completely or it will turn into charcoal. You can remove the charcoaled remnants of a stump by just chipping away at it and covering it with dirt. This will actually turn into an ultra-effective fertilizer as well.
The Swedish Candle
This is another easy way to burn through an old tree stump. All you need is a chainsaw. Use it to cut a hashtag pattern on top of the stump.
Next, simply light the stump on fire. As long as it’s dry, the wood should continue burning until it’s gone. Just make sure that you’re taking steps to contain the fire before you get started.
Create a Fire Pit
This is maybe the most fun way to get rid of an old tree stump. Essentially, you’re going to turn the tree stump into a fire pit that you can use to enjoy time with your families outdoors. After a few uses, the stump will have been burned to nothing but ash, making it incredibly easy to remove.
This is fairly easy to do. In fact, all that you need to do is put a ring of rocks around your tree stump. That’s it. Once you’ve done that, you can light the stump on fire and treat it like you would any other fire pit.
Will Bleach Kill a Tree Stump?
Yes, you can also use bleach to kill a tree stump. The process for doing this is similar to the one that you would follow if attempting to rot away a tree stump.
It’s important to note that simply applying bleach on top of the stump that you have won’t do much. First, you need to expose the living parts of the tree. Doing this will ensure that the bleach gets where it’s supposed to go instead of simply harming the surface level of the stump.
How to Use Bleach to Kill a Tree Stump
Start by cutting away parts of the stump to reveal the live tree. You can do this in a few different ways. For example, you might want to cut a top layer off of the stump with a chainsaw to expose the heart of the tree to the bleach immediately.
Or, you can also drill holes throughout the stump by using the method described in the tree stump rotting instructions. Either way, you’ll ensure that the bleach you apply is able to do the job you want it to do.
After exposing the live tree, all you need to do is apply the bleach and wait. Some experts recommend reapplying bleach every day, but this isn’t really necessary. Your stump should be dead and ready for removal within a few weeks.
What is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of a Tree Stump?
If you value speed above all else, then you’re going to want to use a grinder instead of trying to get rid of the stump by hand. Grinding a tree stump away is far and away the fastest way to dispose of an old stump.
You won’t even need to purchase a grinder to do so. Instead, you can often rent one for the day from an equipment rental business in your area. Once you get your hands on a grinder, just make sure that you have protective gear like goggles, ear mufflers, and gloves to keep yourself safe.
Removing a Stump with a Grinder
Make sure that you read the instructions carefully before getting started. It’s essential that you understand the controls of the grinder well before trying to use it. This will both keep you safe and ensure that you’re attacking the tree stump in the right way.
Once you’re ready to go, start by moving the grinder into position. Then, lock one of the wheels in place and swing the spinning wheel back and forth over the stump. As you do this, you’ll be chopping a thin layer of the stump off each time.
It’s important to note that you should refrain from trying to grind away too much of the stump at once. Doing so could cause the whole machine to jump forward as it catches. This creates a dangerous situation that could seriously harm you.
When you finish, you’ll find that you’ve created a substantial amount of wood grindings. You’ll want to remove these if you plan on planting a new tree in the old one’s place. If not, you can simply spread the grindings out across the top of your garden.
Will vinegar kill a tree stump?
Yes, you can use a spray bottle filled with undiluted white vinegar to kill a tree stump. You need to spray the vinegar thoroughly across the leaves of shoots that are growing from the stump. This process kills the leafy growth that is supplying the roots and stump with nutrients.
Will boiling water kill a tree stump?
Yes, boiled water can be used to remove tree stumps. You need to drill holes into the stump and then pour the boiling water into those holes. This will shock the root system and keep them saturated.
That being said, this process may take up to two to three months to actually kill your stump. Other methods are faster.
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