Although cutting down a tree may seem like a major project, it’s actually straightforward when compared with removing a stump. Stump removal is a lot more involved, which is why it’s not usually included in the cost of tree removal. It’s also why many people have old stumps in their yards. Stump removal isn’t easy, but it is doable.
Reasons to remove a stump
After going through the trouble to have a tree removed, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to leave the stump sitting there. A few of the top reasons to remove stumps from your yard include:
- They can be hazardous – Some stumps are obvious, but others get camouflaged by grass, weeds and other plants and become tripping hazards. Or hazards to your machinery.
- They take up space – if you took down trees so you can plant a garden, create a pasture or farm crops you need clear ground.
- They can harbor pests – depending on where you live they can harbor pests like termites, rodents or snakes that you may not want taking of residence if the stump is located close to your house.
5 methods of stump removal
1. Digging it Out
If the tree in question isn’t too big, the simplest method of tree stump removal is just digging the whole thing out. Provided the roots don’t run too deep, you might be able to take care of the whole problem with some basic tools and plenty of elbow grease.
First, dig up the area surrounding the stump. The goal is to expose as much of the root system as possible, especially the larger roots. Once you’ve done that, start breaking the roots up into smaller pieces. A root saw is recommended here, as you’ll want precise control of where you’re cutting. If you use something like an axe, you run the risk of cracking into an unseen rock. After the roots have been loosened, you’ll need to pull them out of the soil. This will loosen the stump itself, allowing you to use a shovel to finally pry it up out of the ground.
2. Using a Stump Grinder
In the event that a stump’s roots run too deep, you may need to make use of a stump grinder. These heavy-duty machines are specifically designed for grinding old stumps up all the way down to the roots, making quick work of even the most stubborn customers. While stump grinders are available for personal rental, some homeowners prefer to hire a professional to operate the machine. Whether it’s you or a tree removal expert behind the wheel, a stump grinder is a very effective method of tree stump removal.
Whenever you work with heavy machinery, safety should be your first priority, and a stump grinder is no exception. Before you get to work, be sure to clear away any rocks or debris in the area around the stump. You’ll also want to employ the proper eye and ear protection, as well as a sturdy pair of gloves and boots. With your safety precautions in place, you can move the grinder into position and get to work. You’ll need to grind not only the visible stump, but also the root systems running out around it. As long as you cover a wide enough circumference, you’ll be able to dig up the stump debris easily.
3. Burning It
Should you decide that a stump grinder isn’t the right choice but you can’t just dig the stump out, you can turn to one of humanity’s oldest tools: fire. Obviously, there are a lot of risks when it comes to using fire for tree stump removal, so check with your local laws and fire conditions to ensure it’s both legal and safe. If you get the green light, you’ll be able to break the stump down with ease.
One of the risks is for the root system to catch on fire and spread it to roots of other trees. Root fires are not a common occurrence, but they can happen, especially in areas with dense root systems. The fire can pop up quite a ways from the original source.
The secret to removing a stump with fire is keeping the stump in the center of the heat. Build up wood around and on top of the stump, and be ready to keep feeding the fire. Burning a stump away will take hours, and you’ll need to be sure the fire is burning big and burning hot. Keep tending the blaze, and after some time, you’ll be left with just ash. Dig it out, replace it with new soil, and you’ll be done!
4. Rot It Away
If you’ve ever taken a biology class, you know that the natural world has some pretty potent waste disposal tools. Did you know, though, that you can use those very same tools for tree stump removal? Rot and decay are part of the cycle of life, and with some encouragement, you can utilize the same processes to clear out your yard.
To kick-start the process, you’ll need to make the stump more appealing to microbial life. Start by drilling holes into the top of the stump, approximately eight inches deep. Then fill those holes with warm water and a nitrogen-rich substance of your choice. Products like blood meal or even your own compost are great sources of nitrogen while still staying natural.
The water and nitrogen will get the decay ball rolling, accelerating the process and weakening the stump. As the stump begins to rot, it’ll become easier and easier to chip pieces of it away. With enough time, you’ll be able to remove the whole stump without any back-breaking labor.
5. Chemically Remove It
In addition to the more natural methods of tree stump removal, there are also chemical options available to make the process easier. They work on similar principles to organically rotting a stump but can come with risks if not handled carefully. When properly used, chemical stump removers are a highly effective way of removing unwanted stumps from your property.
Again, the first step is drilling holes into the stump. Once you have a good assortment of holes in and around the stump, pour in your chemical remover. From there you’ll need to wait for the chemicals to take effect, softening the stump. This can take a few weeks, so be patient and monitor the situation until it looks soft enough to remove.
It’s important to keep kids and pets away from the stump while you wait, as the chemicals can prove harmful. Once the stump is weakened, you’ll be able to chop it up and haul it away. Some homeowners find it helpful to also employ fire at this stage, after most of the above-ground wood has been removed, to further weaken anything underground. That way, you’ll be sure to remove the entire stump, as well as its root system.
Disposing of Old Tree Stumps
It may not be easy to dispose of an especially large tree stump. The city may not pick it up along with the rest of your yard waste. Contact your city to find out whether it will be picked up or not. If not, ask if there are any additional options. In some places, local recycling centers will take large tree stumps.
Large tree stumps are also prized by goat owners, so you can try listing them on places like Freecycle or Craigslist and get them picked up and removed at no cost to you. The bigger the better!
If you have several tree stumps to dispose of, but they aren’t large enough to tempt goat people, it may be worth it to rent a wood chipper and then use the wood chips for various projects around the yard. If it’s allowed in your area, you may also be able to burn your old tree stumps. If you do this, be sure to cover them with scrap wood first. If the stumps are especially large, it may take a long time for them to burn completely away.
Many companies will haul away old tree stumps for an additional fee or include it in the cost of the service, so make sure to ask before you hire a stump removal company.
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