Tree stump removal

You’ll want to know the easiest and quickest method to remove a stump; but often, the best option comes down to the stump itself.

For example, a small, low density or shallow stump is a lot easier to remove than a large stump with long and deep roots and different methods are best suited for each.

The best method will also depend on the number of stumps to be removed, as well as how much physical labour you’re willing to do.

In this guide, we cover:

  • The difference between tree stump removal and tree stump grinding
  • The different types of tree stump removal methods
  • What you need to consider when making your decision

What is the difference between stump grinding and stump removal?

The terms ‘stump removal’ and ‘stump grinding’ are used interchangeably to refer to the physical excavation of a stump after a tree has been felled. But there’s a slight difference between them.

Stump removal involves the extraction of the root system, as well as the stump; while stump grinding only removes the tree stump.

If you want to plant a new tree where the removed tree once stood or simply want a clean slate to design a new landscape, tree removal is the better option. The reason being, if you grind the stump, the remaining roots from the old tree will take up the space where the new roots need to take hold.

What’s more, the decomposition of the old roots will change the acidity levels of the soil, making it harder for the new tree to grow.

Aside from that, stump grinding tends to be the more popular method because it is less intrusive and labour intensive.

If you’re unsure which method to go for, consult a tree surgeon who will be able to advise you on the right choice for your needs.

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How to remove a tree stump

If you’re ready to have a stump removed but unsure which method to use, there are a few questions you can ask that will guide you in the right direction. For example;

  • How quickly does the stump need to be removed?
  • How labour intensive can the process be?
  • How many stumps need to be removed?
  • Do the roots need to be removed?

Below are the four most common methods of stump removal, all of which can be done professionally or by yourself. We’ll explain the process, as well as offering some advice on when it is best used.

Manually remove a tree stump

Manual removal is the most labour intensive method of getting rid of a stump. The physical demands of the process mean it is best for small, shallow-rooted stumps, if you only need to remove one stump or if you want to excavate the root system as well.

Tools and materials:

  • Chainsaw
  • Shovel
  • Mattock (similar to a pick axe)
  • Digging bar


  1. Dig around the stump and loosen the dirt. Keep digging until you expose the roots as much as possible (ideally to their tips).
  2. Once the roots are exposed, begin to cut or sever them from the stump.
  3. Continue to dig and chop until as many roots as possible have been removed.
  4. After you’ve cut as much as you can, pull the remaining roots out.
  5. By now, you should be able to dislodge the stump and pull it out of the topsoil. If not, keep
    digging, cutting and pulling until you can.

Grinding a tree stump

Tree stump grinding and removal

A stump grinder ‘chews’ away at a stump by using a rotating blade that rips the wood as it turns, reducing it to small, wooden chips and taking the stump down to below ground level.

If you need multiple stumps removed, have a medium or large stump or are happy to let the root system decay naturally, it is the better option due to its quick and straightforward nature.

Tools and materials:

  • Stump grinding machine
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Ear protectors


  1. Clear any rocks, dirt or debris away from the stump. This is a health and safety precaution to
    prevent something from becoming lodged in the grinder’s blade.
  2. Trim the stump as close to the ground as possible.
  3. Position the stump grinder as per the manufacturer’s instructions, engage the power lever and lower the blade into the stump.
  4. Using the lever, move the blade from side to side to break down all the wood within range.
  5. Repeat this process until the perimeter of the stump is approximately four inches below the
  6. Fill the hole with the wood chips created by the grinding process, then cover with topsoil and landscape the area as desired.

Stump removal chemicals

If you have a tree stump that is too large to be removed by hand, or you simply aren’t up to the task of manually removing it, using chemicals is the least labour intensive method – but it’s also the slowest.

Chemical removal can take anywhere from a few months to a year depending on the size of the stump because you’re effectively speeding up the natural decomposition process.

You’ll also need to top up the chemical solution over that period to keep the process going, so it involves a level of commitment that the other methods do not.

Tools and materials:

  • Chainsaw
  • Drill
  • Chemical stump remover
  • Tarpaulin
  • Mulch
  • Axe or shovel


  1. Use a chainsaw to cut down the stump as much as possible.
  2. Drill a number of holes in what is left of the stump. The stump will absorb the chemical solution through these holes so the wider and the deeper the holes are, the better.
  3. Fill the holes with water, then add the chemical solution as per the instructions.
  4. Soak the ground around the tree stump with water and then cover with tarpaulin. This covering acts to retain moisture in and around the stump, which will accelerate the decomposition process.
  5. Weigh the tarpaulin down to hold it in place. You could use heavy items such as rocks or concrete blocks. Mulch is another option and may help to hide the covering.
  6. For the coming weeks and months, you’ll need to monitor progress. Add more water and chemical solution to the stump and recover it. This part of the process requires patience as it can take some time for the stump to rot.
  7. After around six weeks, the stump should be soft and spongy in nature. If so, you can begin to break it apart with an axe. Any wood that is still tough should be treated again as above until it reaches the same point.

Burning a tree stump

Another easy (and quick) method of removal is to burn the stump.

The obvious downsides of this process are that it is disruptive and potentially dangerous. On top of this, you may find that it is not permitted in your area.

For these reasons, it is the least favoured choice among homeowners.

Tools and materials:

  • Drill
  • Stump removal product
  • Fuel oil


  1. Drill holes in the stump and sprinkle the removal granules inside. This will break down the wood fibres of the stump, making it more porous.
  2. Pour fuel oil in the holes.
  3. Set the stump alight and keep an eye on it. The aim is a low, smoldering flame.

DIY vs hiring a professional

Deciding whether to remove a stump yourself or hire a professional comes down to the nature of the job, what you’re comfortable with and the amount of time (and money) you have.

For example, while a stump grinder is relatively straightforward to use and easy to hire, it is ultimately best left to a specialist who is trained and certified to use one.

Similarly, if you’re dealing with multiple tree stumps, want the root system removed or the stump’s in a difficult to access location, you may find the cost of hiring a professional outweighs the inconvenience of having to do the job yourself (which includes sourcing and hiring the equipment).

At the end of the day, it comes down to ease and peace of mind. While stump removal is certainly
DIY-friendly, any form of tree surgery work is highly skilled and technical, meaning a lot could go wrong. It is best left in the hands of a specialist.

For more information on how much it costs to have a stump removed professionally, head over to our tree stump removal cost guide.

To get quotes from tree surgeons near you – post a job now.

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