19 Ways To Remove A Tree Stump


Owning and managing several rental properties I’ve had my fair share of tree stumps to remove.

How to remove a tree stump? A tree stump can be removed by grinding, pulling, burning or rotting. Grinding is fast but most expensive. Pulling a tree stump out is the most work but inexpensive. Burning is the easiest but can take days, and rotting takes years. So let’s dive into finding the best approach for your situation.

There are pros and cons to each method of removing a tree stump. Depending on your budget and where the stump is located will determine the best approach to take. 

In this comprehensive guide, you will find over 19 different ways to remove a tree stump. Here they are:

Grinding

  • Hiring a stump grinding service
  • Renting a stump grinder
  • Grinding with a chainsaw
  • Chainsaw grinding attachment

Pulling

  • Dig and cut
  • Using a pry bar
  • Using a Handyman Jack
  • Pull out with a tractor
  • Pull out with vehicle
  • Pulley system

Burning

  • Fire Pit
  • Burn Barrel
  • Charcoal
  • Swedish Candle
  • Rocket Stove

Rotting

  • Compost
  • Stump Remover
  • Stump Out
  • Salt and Epsom Salt

I have tried a lot of these ideas or personally talked to people who have tried them. Many sound great but after actually doing it, you’ll quickly realize which ones are practical and which ones are totally a waste of time.

Also, I discovered some tricks to doing it right. Many of the Youtube videos you’ll watch don’t actually show all the work that is involved.

After watching a very popular video on YouTube on how to remove a tree stump I decided to try it myself. I followed all the steps and it just didn’t work for me. Thats when I discovered some of the most practical ways to do it.

But before we jump into each of the ideas let’s talk about the cost to remove a tree stump.

Tree Stump Removal Cost

The biggest factor in determining which approach to take is the cost to remove a tree stump. Grinding is the most expensive. If you hire stump grinding out it can be $3.00 to $4.50 per inch.

Renting a stump grinder is cheaper but can be a lot of work and is harder than it looks.

Pulling a tree stump out is very inexpensive if you don’t have to buy tools to do it. Most people already have a shovel, chain or jack on hand. Just plan on getting several blisters if you decide to pull it out by hand.

If you can get a tractor or even a vehicle and hook a chain around the stump you won’t have to break your back so much. 

Burning is basically free except it takes a large investment of your time. Just ask yourself, What is your time worth?

Generally, you can’t or at least shouldn’t just leave a fire burning without being attended. It would be very costly if you end up burning down the neighborhood.

I will talk about a few approaches that can speed the process along or make the time investment worth it.

The only cost in rotting a stump is if you buy a stump remover like stump out, stump remover or salt. These cost less than $15.

From everything I have seen rotting a stump is not a practical method and these stump removers don’t actually do much and may even slow the rotting process down.

4 Ways To Grind A Stump

Grinding a stump is probably the most reliable, tried and true method for removing a stump. If you choose to grind a stump there are basically four options.

You can hire a stump grinder service, rent a stump grinder, use a chainsaw, or use a stump grinder chainsaw attachment. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each of these. 

I have also seen people build their own DIY stump grinder like converting an edger into a stump grinder. These don’t work because they lack the horsepower to get the job done. You might as well us an angle grinder.

Stump Grinding Service

Hiring a stump grinder service takes the least amount of your time so if you have more money than time hiring it out is a good idea. The nice part about hiring someone to grind your stump is that if sprinkler pipes get damaged they will generally fix it.

A stump grinder service use stump grinders that are way nicer than the ones you can rent. The job will get done better and faster than if you were to do it yourself. 

After a stump has been ground, a pile of wood shavings is all that will be left. The will remove it for you but I recommend keeping it for your flower beds or garden. It makes a great mulch for hindering weeds and building your soil.

Estimating The Cost of A Stump Grinding Service

One thing that most people don’t realize is that a stump grinder service doesn’t measure from the top of the stump. They measure the stump from widest point to widest point of exposed stump or root at ground level. 

Now you can estimate the cost yourself. Take a measuring tape and measure from the widest points of exposed stump or root at the ground level. Then times the number of inches by $3.50.

Depending on where you live it may be more or less than that but $3.50 the average in the United States.

  • 24 inch stump = $84
  • 36 inch stump = $126
  • 48 inch stump = $168

Most stump grinder services have a minimum charge of $200. If you have a lot of stumps it may be cheaper just to rent a stump grinder and do it yourself.

Rent A Stump Grinder

Renting a stump grinder costs an average of $190 a day.

At a local equipment rental store, it was a 2-hour minimum of $106 and $58 for each additional hour. The day rate was $275. Add $20 to all those prices if you need to rent a trailer to haul it.

It can really make sense to rent a stump grinder if you have multiple stumps to remove or if you have a neighbor who wants to split the cost with you. If not it may be cheaper to just hire a pro.

Grinding a stump definitely can be a lot easier than pulling your stump out by hand which we will discuss later. 

How To Remove A Tree Stump with A Chainsaw

You can grind your stump out with a chainsaw but there are some definite drawbacks to trying this.

Getting your chainsaw in the dirt will definitely dull your chain. Sharpening a chain takes time and money. There may be rocks in the stump that can break your chain.

However, buying a new chain is cheaper than renting a stump grinder. With that in mind here is how you can grind a stump with a chainsaw.

  • Dig around the stump so you can cut it below the ground level.
  • Cut the stump as low as you can.
  • Cut slices into the stump in a crisscrossing pattern until you have ground down the stump at least a 4 to 6 inches below ground level.
  • Go buy a new chain.

It really doesn’t need to be too deep if you are going to grow grass all it needs is a few inches of dirt to grow.

Chainsaw Stump Grinder

This is actually pretty cool I have seen a guy make one himself and I have seen where you can buy them. It’s not really worth it though unless you have a lot of small stumps to remove every year.

In this case,  just want to invest the money into buying a small stump grinder.

6 Ways To Pull A Tree Stump Out

Pulling a tree stump is a lot of work and may break your back. Having removed a few stumps by hand my hat goes off too early settlers who cleared forests to plant fields before modern machinery.

There are a few ways I will mention however that may be the perfect solution to removing your tree stump and the great part is you will save a lot of money pulling a tree stump out. For smaller stumps, this might be easier than you think. 

Dig and cut

I had an Aspen tree that died in my yard this summer and after cutting it down I decided to remove the stump by hand. What I realized is that I only needed to get the stump a few inches below the grass.

I dug out the grass around the stump and used my reciprocating saw to cut the stump off. My Aspen tree was only 8 to 10 inches in diameter so after about 25 minutes the stump was gone and I put the grass back.

You would never know it was there. Even using a stump grinder they only grind the stump 5 or 6 inches below the surface. You can find even more detail instructions in my article on how to remove a tree stump by hand.

Pry bar

If you are laying cement or are planting a garden over a stump you may need to remove the roots and all.

This is definitely a ton of work and can take a while but it may be your best option. If that is the case here is how to use a pry bar to remove a tree stump.

  • Dig around the stump.
  • Cut each root with a hand saw or a reciprocating saw.
  • Use a metal pry bar to leverage the stump out the rest of the way out.

This is a good test of your manliness. If you can do this without taking a break you are a total mans man.

Save Your Back Use A Hi Jack

You can use a Hi Jack or Handyman jack to remove a tree stump. All you need is a chain, handyman jack, two 2×4’s and a bolt.

  • First cut the 2×4’s to 6 feet and drill a hole in the top of each.
  • Bolt the 2×4’s to the top of the jack so it makes a tripod.
  • Wrap a chain several times around the stump and hook it around the jack’s arm.
  • Lift the stump out of the ground.

You may still need to dig around the tree stump and cut several roots but this method definitely beats using a pry bar, seriously. 

Pull Tree Stump Out With A Tractor

If you have access to a tractor it really is a no-brainer to just use a tractor. You also could even rent one. For less than $300 a day you can rent a mini excavator.

Use it for some landscaping and it really would be worth it. I was shocked at how easy and fast it was to pull out several apple trees when I used a tractor.

The bigger the tree, the bigger tractor you will need. These apple trees weren’t too big so my Dad’s small Kubota tractor made quick work of those trees.

Pull Tree Stump Out With A Vehicle

Using a vehicle to pull out a tree stump can be a good option and can be a disastrous one. As a kid, we used our suburban to pull out some large evergreen bushes.

The good thing was it was a four-wheel drive but it still left pretty big tire tracks in the lawn.

More recently I pulled out a cemented pull with a two-wheel drive truck and I was surprised at how much digging I had to do for it to actually come out of the ground.

I can only imagine a tree stump being much harder than a close-line pole. 

Make sure when you pull a stump out with a vehicle you use a good thick chain or tow rope.

Don’t go cheap on this because if it snaps while you are pulling then your vehicle could get damaged or worse someone could get injured.

Depending on the stump you may have to do quite a bit of digging and even cutting some of the major roots before it will come out.

Also, make sure to hook on the metal frame of your vehicle. Hooking onto a tow package works best and sometimes cars will have hooks that are meant for when you get towed.

While this can work if you don’t do it right then it will be way more costly than if you just hired a stump grinder service in the first place.

If you do decide to go this route then make sure to follow these suggestions and think it through before starting.

Pulley System

This is one of those ideas that is cooler than actually being practical. I have only seen YouTube videos of this being done. The guy used a bunch of pulleys to maximize the pulling power of his tractor on a huge tree stump.

It must have felt like a great accomplishment but to have all the necessary equipment and the time to set it all up in hopes that nothing goes wrong.

I would say just watch the video and use another way to remove your stump like burning.

5 Ways To Burn A Stump

Burning a stump can work and but I am always surprised at how long it takes to burn an entire stump. I tried making my stump a rocket stove after watching a popular YouTube video doing it and it didn’t work for me.

I was bummed but it was a great learning experiment. One of the biggest things most people don’t consider before burning a stump is that it needs to be dry.

If you just cut the stump down then you need to wait at least a year before you should try burning it. Even then if the stump is on your lawn it is getting nice and wet every time the sprinklers go on.

The other things to consider is the time it will take and if it is in a safe place to burn. The last thing you want to do is burn a stump that is next to your house or a neighbor’s expensive vinyl fence.

With that being said I have listed five ideas for burning a stump in order of most practical to least practical. 

Fire Pit

This is the most practical and fun way to burn a tree stump. Simple put a ring of rocks around the stump and add some start a fire on top.

Roast hotdogs. Make smores. Stay up late in the night telling ghost stories. All summer long this tree stump is the designated fire pit.

Each time the stump will burn down more and more until it is completely gone.

At least this way you are making memories and having fun while getting rid of a stump and attending the fire to make sure it doesn’t burn down the neighborhood.

Most of the other methods of burning people end up adding logs to help the stump burn anyway.

Burn Barrel

Using a burn barrel is probably the safest and least maintenance to burn a tree stump.

All you need to do is:

  • Get a 55 metal drum
  • Cut a pie slice hole in the bottom
  • Cut hole in the side on the top
  • Place it upside-down on the stump and
  • Put a ton of firewood in the barrel.
  • Lite it up and let it burn.

It is a good idea to keep an eye on it but the burn barrel will keep everything pretty contained.

Keep adding wood to the barrel as needed and within a day or so depending on the size of your stump you should have a nice black crater instead of a stump.

To speed the process up you can even add a leaf blower to the mix. Just place the leaf blower so it blows air into the bottom this will get the fire to go way hotter and burn even faster.

Charcoal

Using charcoal is a great way to burn a stump because it burns much hotter than wood.

  • Get a bag or two of briquettes.
  • Dump one bag on the stump
  • Squirt some lighter fluid on them and light it up.
  • Keep adding briquettes as needed and you might as well do some dutch oven cooking while you are at it.

I just made some killer dutch oven tinfoil dinners that were amazing. Peach cobbler would do the trick as well.

It is still going to take a while to burn the entire stump but the nice part about charcoal is you should have huge flames to worry about.

Swedish Candle

I first thought of this idea when a friend asked me if he have one log.

Chuckling I asked what he was going to do with one log.

He said to takes a log and puts a couple crisscross cuts down it and lights it up to keep him warm while ice fishing.

He said it burns for hours just sitting there on the ice. This works with a tree stump as well.

This is a fun way to remove a tree stump only if you have 24 to 48 hours to burn. No pun intended, haha. 

Rocket Stove

This is similar to the Swedish candle method but instead of making crisscross cuts just

  • Drill a hole down the center of the stump.
  • Then drill four holes that connect on all sides as close to the ground as possible.
  • Pour kerosene down the top hole.
  • Light up the stump.

The fire will pull air through the bottom holes and burn the stump from the inside out. I tried this and it didn’t work for me. Maybe I didn’t connect the holes right or maybe my stump was too wet.

I even pulled out my blow torch to help it along but it didn’t work. I’m sure it can but it just didn’t work for me. I ended up just putting a bunch of logs on top of the stump to help it burn until I had to put it out so I could put the kids to bed.

One thing to note is you definitely want to get a 1-inch auger drill bit that is a foot long. They are a bit pricey. Also, you will need a pretty powerful drill. A battery powered drill won’t cut it and even a normal plug-in drill will struggle. 

The best way I have seen to do this is to dig a hole on one side, down about a foot. Drill the top hole down the center and connect it with a hole at the bottom of your hole. Then use a metal pipe that connects to the bottom hole and bury it.

Connect a shop vac or leaf blower to the pipe and once you get the fire going turn on the shop vac this will dramatically speed the process up and burn the stump from the inside out. All you’ll have left when you are done is a 12-inch crater and some ash.

4 Ways To Rot A Stump…Or Not

This is the worst way to remove a tree stump in your lifetime. That’s how long it can take…a lifetime.

If you can’t tell I am pretty against rotting stumps because it doesn’t really work. I have tried salt and talked to people who have used stump remover and stump out and none of it speeds up the process of rotting a stump.

Although in all my research I did stumble on one way that would actually work. It will still take a while.

The part that makes me crazy is all the Youtube videos people have made showing people how to use salt to rot their stump.

None of these videos ever show you what happened one or two years later except me. Absolutely nothing…the salt didn’t even kill the stump.

The Best Way To Rot A Tree Stump

Look to nature for how she rots things. It’s all about fungus. The fungus is what breaks down wood and makes it edible nutrients for the next plants and trees.

Using salt, stump remover and stump out will only kill fungus so really you are slowing the process down.

The best way to rot a stump is to bury it in compost and let it sit for a couple years. Then stump may be broken down enough to chip the rest out with an ax.

Stump Remover by Spectricide

Stump Remover from Spectricide makes way better sugar rocket fuel then stump remover. Being 100% potassium nitrate if you just mix it with some sugar then you can literally make DIY rockets.

I had some fun shooting off hot wheels with my kids. 

Reading the directions you are basically supposed to drill a bunch of holes ten inches all over the stump and fill it with stump remover.

Let it sit for several months and then it says to burn it. You might as well do nothing and then burn it.

Stump Out

Stump Out is similar to stump remover but it doesn’t make rockets. It has similar instructions and gets similar results. This is really not worth the $10 bucks to buy it.

Salt, Epsom Salt

There are loads of Youtube videos on this one saying it is the easiest way to remove a tree stump but in reality, it doesn’t work.

Epsom salt or just salt won’t speed up the rotting process. It may dry the wood faster but still, it is not worth it.

If you have any other ideas on how to remove a tree stump then leave a comment on one of my Youtube videos I would love to hear about it and add it to this list. Good luck getting rid of your tree stump.

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