Tree Removal and Tree Cutting: Stump Removal Techniques

Part 6 - Tree Removal and Tree Cutting - Stump Removal Techniques

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Depending on the condition of the tree, stump removal can be a difficult part of the tree removal process. There are different ways to completely remove the stump and most of the techniques mentioned here have been known to be effective for expert arborists. 

The stump removal process may also need specialty tools that were not mentioned in previous article of this series related to Tools and Effective Tree Cutting Methods.

Stump Removal

What Happens to the Tree Stump After Cutting?

After a tree is cut what remains of it is the stump. In some cases, if the tree was already dead prior to cutting, the stump can be left in the ground and used as a picnic table or incorporated into the landscape design. Some people even hope that mushrooms can eventually grow on and around the stump, however the only thing that typically grows is mold or death caps, therefore beware and don’t get too excited about starting your own mushroom farm. Another issue that might arise if the stump of a living tree is left in the ground is the new growth. Some species of trees will grow new shoots around the stump and eventually those shoots will turn into brand new trees. In fact, it is one of a few common forestry practices that we discussed earlier in this article and might be very beneficial in some cases. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind having a bush for a few years and later a few young trees in the place of the old one, leave the stump be and let mother nature take over. However, if none of the things mentioned is a part of your plan, then you will need to remove the stump. 

Tree Removal and Tree Cutting: What Happens to the Tree Stump After Cutting

Technique used to remove the stump will depend on several factors, such as size, equipment at hand, and how fast you want the stump to be removed. Below are the most commonly used methods listed in order from the easiest to the most complicated process.


If you’re short on tools but have plenty of manpower, digging is the way to go. The process is pretty straight forward and can be done with just a pickaxe, a shovel, and other basic digging tools. Keep in mind that you might have to use an axe, a hatchet or an electric chainsaw to cut or hatch off a few roots that keep the stump in the ground in order to lift it up, especially if the tree was a large one to start with. Also, you will never be able to remove all roots, as the tree’s root system is very vast and goes very deep, therefore aiming to get them all out is an impossible task. All you need is to remove enough of them to be able to lift the stump off the ground, fill in the hole and even out the surface. This method is very effective, but requires time and hard labor.  


When you reach out to a tree removal company with a request to remove a stump, chances are they’ll be using this method, as it is the fastest and most effective way to get rid of the stump for good, without chances of regrowth. Nevertheless, this process requires a special machinery, called a “stump grinder”  that will grind into sawdust not only the stump, but also the roots, leaving a pretty even surface that can be covered with either soil and transformed into a flower bed or with grass turf to match the rest of the landscape.  

Chemical removal

This process takes the longest time to get the stump removed, as it allows nature to run its course, but at a faster rate. This process involves drilling many small holes in the stump and then pouring nitrogen based chemicals (typically potassium nitrate) in order to speed up the rotting process. The stump then will need to be covered with a plastic bag and left alone for about a year. After the time has passed, the stump can be manually removed by simply breaking it into smaller pieces and digging it out. By that time, the stump should be all spongy and soft, making it easier to deal with. If you are worried about the eco-friendliness of this method, rest assured, potassium nitrate is actually beneficial to plants and is often used as a fertilizer. Nevertheless, since the concentration of potassium nitrate in stump removals is much higher than what is used in fertilizers, you need to make sure that you are closely following the instructions on the label, as inhaling or spilling it on your skin can cause poisoning and chemical burns. Also, if you have small children and pets, you should probably put a fence around the stump treated with chemicals to prevent your loved ones from getting hurt. This method is typically used on stumps of very large trees, when grinding or digging is not feasible due to the massive size of the stump, or in the areas where the equipment cannot be used due to the limited space around the stump.  


Last on the list of stump removal methods is burning. This is the riskiest and most intricate process of all, as it can result in a fire, damaging not only the surrounding flora, but potentially your property and the neighbors property as well. Therefore, we describe this method for educational purposes only and do not recommend using it under any circumstances, as there are other safer and more effective methods available.  

Anyways, the process begins with drilling the holes in the stump, but instead of stump removal chemicals, a flammable liquid is poured inside the holes and the stump is ignited. At this point, the stump cannot be left unattended for any amount of time and must be closely watched until the fire runs its course and burns the tree’s remains down to its roots. After the fire ceases, the ashes should be covered densely with soil, to make sure no spontaneous re-ignition occurs. Again, we do not suggest using this method, as it poses real danger that can cost lives. 

Also, keep in mind that we do not handle fires or burned tree related services. If a fire occurred or you need to clean up after one, call your local fire department or dial 911. The content in this article is for general educational purposes only and does not intend to be used as instructional.

Recap & What’s Next

Congratulations! You have reached the end of the 6 part arboriculture tutorial, by now you would have gone through the following parts of our “Tree Removal and Tree Cutting” series of tutorials:

Stay tuned for more tutorials about tree care. If you need professional help, contact us for a free estimate or check out our list of services.

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