After a tree has been removed, getting the stump out can be quite a hard process. You either need to hire a grinding machine or you need to pay a professional to remove the stump for you.

A better option is to burn out the tree stump!

With three simple steps, you can burn out a tree stump:

• Prepare the stump for burning
• Ignite the stump and keeping the fire going
• Put out the embers properly when done

Note: An open flame is a constant fire hazard especially if you live in close proximity to the forest. You need to look to get the job done in the safest and most efficient way possible.

set the stump on fire

Step 1 - Preparing the stump for burning

Burning a stump isn’t as simple a process as just throwing some lighter fluid on it and setting it on fire. There are a couple of things you need to do before you even bring a flame near the stump:

Note: I am assuming your tree stump is dry/dead timber. You will not have much luck burning a green stump. Make sure it has been dead for a minimum of 12 – 18 months before attempting to burn it.

Clear the base of the stump of all flammable materials

Any pieces of trash or dead leaves or anything else combustible needs to be removed from the base of the stump before you begin.

A minimum safe distance would be 2m. Not doing so increases the chance of the fire spreading and getting out of control.

rake around the stump

Drill holes into the stump

Taking a power drill with a large wood-boring bit (a 1-inch spade bit would suffice), drill a hole into the middle of the top of the stump about 8 inches deep.

Drill a couple more holes on the top surface of the stump and then a few on the side of the stump.

Do your best to try and connect the lateral holes with the vertical ones to increase airflow. If you can’t manage to connect them up, don’t worry, it’s not a big deal as the stump will still burn.

drill holes in stump

Filling the holes with flammable liquid

The objective here is to fill up the holes with a flammable liquid that helps ignite the stump and burn much quicker than it would on its own.

IMPORTANT: Don’t use gasoline for this step. Gasoline is a little too flammable and burns really hot. In theory, it sounds like a dream for this job, but it can be a lot tougher to control.

Other flammables such as diesel or kerosene will do fine. Fill the holes with a generous amount and leave soak in for an hour.

Once allowed to soak in, top it up again with fresh kerosene and prepare to ignite.

Step 2 - Igniting the stump and keeping the fire going

Now that we’ve got our stump prepped and ready for burning, it’s time we set it on fire.

As the stump is filled to the brim with flammable liquid isn’t too wise to just walk up and strike a match. A better idea would be to leave a flame trail you can light at a safe distance or light the end of a long stick and use that to get it going.

Either easy, keep a safe distance.

set the stump on fire

How long does it take for your stump to burn out completely?

That depends on how large your stump is and how much of it sticks out of the ground, as well as the kind of fuel you used to set it alight. Typically, your stump should be completely burnt in around 12 – 24 hours, but it may take longer in some cases.

Note: If you are finding the whole process overwhelming, you can check out our cost guide for stump removal. It will be easier and safer to do so.

Reignite

Given how long this process takes, it’s important to keep an eye on the fire to make sure it doesn’t go out without completely burning the stump.

Keep a stack of dry wood handy to kindle the fire with every once in a while, and stoke it periodically.

As a precautionary measure, keep a fire extinguisher or hose nearby at all times, so you’re ready to put out the fire if it starts getting out of control.

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Step 3 - Removing the burnt stump

Once the fire has died out, and your stump has been completely burned, it’s time to remove the ashes from the ground and clean the place up.

Here’s how to go about doing so:

Make sure the fire is out and break up the ashes and roots

Though it may look like the flames have died out, the ashes are still probably smoldering. Working with these hot ashes can be quite dangerous since they can burn you or even start a fire, so we recommend you break up the ashes with a shovel to help them cool down first.

Maybe even take a hose to then to totally put it out. Once the ashes are completely cool, you can move on to removing them.

remove and dispose of ashes

Remove the ashes use them as compost

Ash is nature’s fertilizer and should be utilized in your compost to give it some extra kick or spread directly onto your garden.

Fill the hole with new soil

Once you’ve removed as much of the ashes as you can, fill the hole in with new soil. If it was on your lawn, the grass should grow over in time by itself or you can lay some fresh turf over that section.

Need more help? Check out these great YouTube videos to get a better idea of how to go about the process.

Safety tips

Do it in winter: The last thing you want to do is end up on the news for being the asshole who started the local forest fire. Embers from a fire can travel quite a distance and start new fires. Even if you are not near a forest, do it in winter just to be safe.

Don’t use gasoline: As mentioned above gasoline is EXTREMELY flammable and for this project actually a little too flammable. It has been specially engineered to burn really hot so the danger level increases drastically when you use gasoline.

You must be an adult: If you’re a youngling and looking to do your parents a favor, then you’re a champion! But make sure one of them supervise you so you don’t get in over your head. They’ll still appreciate the sentiment even if they need to supervise.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): When handling power tools or corrosive/ flammable liquids you really need to put safety first. The last thing you want to do is get hurt trying to burn out a dang old stump. Gloves, shoes, eye protection and if you can non-flammable clothes. Having a fire blanket or an extinguisher handy and someone to operate them at all times during the process is recommended.

Other resources: We also have a couple of other hand resources on how to remove a stump without a grinder which will give you some more ideas.

You can even benefit from the extra tips given in these videos:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVp4UJ9iNzI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZXMcGAwQ0A

Ben McInerney
Author: Ben McInerney - Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.