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Tree Stump Removal

Gardening Information

By Lynsey Nielson, Red Butte Garden Horticulturist

There are a few options you may want to consider when ridding your property of a tree stump, each with its own set of pros and cons. Remember to call Blue Stakes (811) well in advance anytime you dig or grind a stump. Just because a tree was planted there does not mean there aren’t utilities buried there as well. After a tree stump is removed there may be some settling over the next few years as organic material rots and compacts, so you will likely need to add soil a few times to level the site. Options for tree stump removal are listed below along with some things to consider before you decide which method is right for your situation.

  • Stump Grinding Stump grinding can either be contracted through a tree care company or you can rent a stump grinder and do the work yourself. Stump grinders are large machines that can be cumbersome and even dangerous. Because of this we suggest leaving the grinding to a professional, however, there are companies who will rent out stump grinding machines to homeowners. If you decide to do it yourself, you will need to research the particular grinder you will be using and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Cost varies.
    Some important things to remember:
    • Keep in mind that the grinding hole will be larger than the actual stump in order to remove the buttressing roots and the stump should be ground to a depth of 12 to 14 inches.
    • As always, be sure you carefully select any company you hire.
    • Request a copy of the company’s liability insurance coverage and do not permit work to start on your property without verification.
    • Coordinate how the company will access the site in advance. Site access will have an effect on the size of grinder used, the time required to do the job, and can affect the price. If you agree to clean up the grindings and replace the soil yourself, you may be able to save a little money, but this needs to be worked out in advance.
    • During the actual grinding process, the grinder can catch on rocks or other debris in the soil and throw them at great speeds away from the machine. This can cause property damage or injury. Be sure to identify potential targets in advance and work out who is responsible for their protection. For your own safety, don’t watch nearby nor allow others to do so.

  • Physical Removal This usually involves digging around the stump and using various methods (ax, chainsaw, chain, and vehicle) to remove the bulk of the stump from the ground. This is a great method for smaller stumps (or people with a lot of energy). It can, however, pose several potential issues: soil around the cutting surface can ruin a chainsaw blade, the chain and vehicle method can be hard on vehicles, and serious injuries are possible. Unless you are planning to use the same site for another planting, there is no reason the stump cannot be left in the ground after grinding off the top or allowed to rot naturally.
  • Chemical Deterioration
    There are a few products available to help speed up decay of tree stumps, however their use must be exercised with extreme caution or should be avoided altogether. Tree roots spread much wider than previously thought and often graft with roots of other trees, particularly if they are in the same family. Therefore, chemicals applied to a live tree stump have the potential to spread to other nearby trees and cause injury. Trenching around a tree stump, to a depth of 18 to 24 inches, will minimize the possibility that any chemicals applied to the stump will not affect other nearby trees, but may itself cause damage to the roots of other, nearby trees. When desirable trees are nearby, stump grinding or allowing the stump to rot naturally really are the best options. Remember, any chemical strong enough to decay a stump is potentially dangerous to you, your family, pets and/or wildlife. As such, strict adherence to the manufacturer’s safety guidelines are paramount.

For some additional information, check out this helpful video: How to Remove Tree Stumps with Ask This Old House