Stumps can be a downright pain to remove, especially if you don’t want to spend too much money doing so. You can hire a stump grinder and do the job yourself, or get a stump removal specialist to do the job for you, but if you are looking to save a buck, we’ve got you covered.

It’s always a good idea to know the cost to remove a stump through professional means just in cases it is in your budget, as it truly is the fastest and safest way to get a stump removed, but that being said, there are a couple of quick and easy solutions for removing a stump.

These methods of removing a tree stump are in order of fastest to slowest.

1. Burn it

burn out tree stump

You will have to check the guidelines1 of your local area to make sure you can actually light a fire in your backyard, as well as take the necessary precautions, especially if you are removing the stump in summer or fall.

Burning out a tree stump is a great way to go, but it’s a good idea would be to call the local fire department and get all the green lights you need.

What you will need: An ax or a chainsaw, a rake, firewood, kerosene (Note: gasoline cannot be used as a substitute), and a fire starter (preferably not a lighter.)

Estimated time of removal: Hours – 1 day

Method 1: Using the chainsaw, make several lines down the stump in an X-like fashion. You can use an ax, but a chain or bow saw will be faster.

Pour a reasonable amount of kerosene on the stump and light it on fire with a match.

The crisscross pattern would allow better oxygen circulation and help the burning of the stump.

burn out tree stump wih lines cut

Method 2: Build a fire around the stump. Place several logs of wood around the stump and set it ablaze. It’s like building a regular fire, but the stump is the centerpiece. You will need to keep adding timber logs around the base of the stump as it slowly burning down.

You will need to keep the fire going till the stump is reduced to ashes.

burn out tree stump with timber around stump

Method 3: For this method, you will need a 44-gallon drum or some sort of metal barrel that is open at both ends. This is like method 2 above but safer.

Place the metal barrel over the stump. Ensure it is open on both ends so the top of the stump can be viewed through the top of the barrel.

Fill the gap between the stump and barrel with firewood or charcoal and use your fire starter to ignite.

The reason for the barrel is it keeps the heat in. With more intense heat, you can speed up the time needed to burn it. This is also a lot safer as there is less chance of the fire spreading.

burn out tree stump with barrel

2. Dig Deep

This method is pretty self-explanatory and can be physically taxing, depending on how deep the roots of the stump are. I only recommend this for stumps smaller than 10 inches in diameter.

What you will need: A shovel and axe and a mattock.

Estimated time of removal: 2 hours – 1 day.

Procedure: Dig around the circumference of the stump till all the major roots are exposed. This can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day depending on the manpower available and how deep the roots go.

Next, using your axe, sever all roots connecting the stump to the earth including any taproot. This should then allow the stump to be easily dislodged and removed. Stubborn stumps can be tied up with a chain that is in turn hooked to a car or trunk and dragged out of the earth.

Fill the empty how with soil when you are done.

dig out stump by hand image

3. Grind it down

This is by far the quickest way to remove a tree stump. It is also relatively easy to do, saving both time and energy.

What you will need: A stump grinder (You can simply rent one from the closest equipment rental house), protective gear which includes eye goggles, ear mufflers, and gloves.

Procedure: Read the instructions carefully to limit the risks associated with using the stump grinder. It is important to understand the controls before use. Even ask the supplier for a quick demonstration before you try it yourself.

Move the grinder into position, lock one of the wheels in place, and swing the spinning grinder wheel back and forth over the stump taking off a thin layer of the stump each time. It is important you do not try to grind off too much at once as it can cause the whole machine to jump forward as it catches.

Once done there will be a substantial amount of grinding. If you wish to plant a new tree in its place, you will need to remove all grindings and replace them with fresh soil.

You can spread the wood chips through the garden, but keep it all above ground.

Important: Make sure you are aware of any underground services like power cables, stormwater, gas, or fiber optics before you start. In some cases, these are just below the surface and the grinding machine will easily sever them.

grind out stump with stump grinder

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4. Salt it

remove stump with epson salts

This doesn’t refer to the salt easily found in every household kitchen. The salt needed to getting rid of a stump is a magnesium sulfate compound more commonly known as Epsom salt.

Commonly used for soothing baths and foot detoxing, this inexpensive solution can be readily purchased at the nearest store or online.

Note: To speed up the process even more you can use Potassium nitrate or a fertilizer high in nitrogen. This will be faster again at removing the stump.

What you will need: An electric power drill, Epsom salt (Any form of salt containing magnesium sulfate will do), and Potassium nitrate cold or hot water (optional).

Estimated time of removal: 5 months – A year

Procedure: Using the electric power drill, make a hole through the enter circumference of the stump about 2.5 inches apart at least and 4 inches apart at most. Ensure that the holes are at least 6 inches deep to accommodate enough salt.

Next deposit a generous amount of salt in these holes, making sure to avoid spilling it on plants or grasses you want to preserve so as not to affect them too.

Boil a pitcher of water, and carefully pour it into the holes taking care to ensure it doesn’t overspill onto the surrounding grass. Cold water can be used as well, but hot water will help dissolve the salt quickly.

Repeat the procedure anywhere from one to three times per week and the stump will eventually break down.

Potassium nitrate notes: If you decide to use fertilizer or straight potassium nitrate I recommend you also cover the stump once you have added the chemicals. Use a tarp to cover the stump completely, then add some wood chips on top of that. This keeps the moisture in to speed up the process.

Like the salt method, you will need to repeat the procedure every couple of weeks until the stump breaks down. You will find with potassium nitrate that the stump will actually soften and become rubbery. For faster results remove this softened part before adding more chemicals and recovering. This will double or triple the speed of decomposition.

Extra resource: How to rot a tree stump quickly

Safety instructions: When handling any chemical extreme care needs to be taken so you are not directly exposed.

I recommend wearing long pants and a shirt, gloves, eye protection, and a paper gas mask. Make sure there are no children present.

1 Sources

  1. Trout Brook, (2022) Rules About Burning Tree Stumps. <> Accessed: 22-02-2024
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.