When a tree has been cut down, you might decide to also remove the roots. There are several ways to go about this which we will look at below.

  • Stump removal
  • Surface root removal
  • Ground root removal
How to remove tree roots from the ground

Stump removal

This process is fairly straightforward. By hiring a stump grinder from Home Depot or getting a professional root removal service in, you can grind the stump about a foot below ground level. The root system will stay and rot away over time.

Surface root removal

Surface roots can be ugly and especially hazardous in high foot traffic areas.

Surface roots can not be removed if the tree is still there; this is only for trees that have been removed. See this article for more info.

Step 1 – Remove the stump from the ground using a stump grinder. This will sever the roots from the stump, allowing you to remove them easily.

Step 2 – You can either grind each root with the same stump grinder or dig them out by hand. They will pull out fairly easily. To remove by hand, sever the far end of the root with an ax and begin lifting the root. Little by little, sever the smaller radial roots connecting it to the ground as you go.

Step 3 – Repeat the process until all roots have been removed from the surface. Be sure to cover the holes to prevent a tripping hazard.

Surface root removal

Ground root removal

Removing the roots in the ground is a little more involved. If you have roots messing with your home’s foundation, I suggest removing the offending roots and leaving the rest in the ground.

If the tree has been removed already, tree roots will not continue to grow. They need the tree to continue growing.

Tree roots removal by hand

If you have chosen to go this way, first call the utility company to make sure you aren’t digging close to water, sewer, or other underground lines. Follow the steps below for a successful job.

But before we start with the step-by-step guide, let’s take a look at what tools you will need for this:

  • Spade
  • Loppers
  • Grub Hoe
  • Chainsaw

Step 1 – Use a spade to dig a channel around the tree approx 1 meter out front of the trunk.

Step 2 – Remove dirt

Step 3 – Cut the roots to disconnect them from deep underground roots

Step 4 – Use a chainsaw to begin removing sections. Be sure that all dirt is removed so as to not blunt the saw.

Step 5 – You might need a stump grinder on stubborn root balls…

Why remove the tree roots?

If you are reading this article I’m sure you already have reasons to remove the tree roots from your property, but I think a brief review of this subject will not be amiss.

If the tree is gone there is no reason for a stump to serve as a reminder in your yard. On the other hand, people are removing tree roots because they want to save the tree by cutting the roots that are cracking the sidewalk or clogging up the sewer line.

Chemically treatment of the roots

For this type of tree root removal, you have two options at your disposal, a chemical herbicide option and a more natural one such as using rock salt or Epsom salt. Avoid table salt because its effectiveness in dealing with tree roots is a myth.

The chemical herbicide option eliminates roots very fast, while the “salt” option is also very effective but takes longer.

Chemical herbicide treatment

As I mentioned above this is a fast and effective way to remove the remaining tree roots from your property. The best chemical compound for this treatment is a glyphosate herbicide with an active ingredient concentration of at least 41%. You will also need:

  • Saw
  • Garden hose
  • Garden sprayer or paintbrush.

Safety first. Wear all the necessary safety equipment such as safety goggles, a face shield, a dust mask, and hearing protection when working.

Step 1 – Make a proper cut across the tree stump using a saw;

Step 2 – Add water to the tree’s outer layer, behind the bark, because water will help in transporting the herbicide to the tree roots.

Step 3 – Create a 50/50 solution of water and glyphosate herbicide. Using a garden sprayer saturates the outer ring of the tree stump with the solution but avoids getting the solution on the nearby plants or on the grass.

Once chemical treatment is applied it will take about two weeks for the roots to be completely dead.

Salt treatment

Equally effective process but it may take a few months and several applications for roots to be completely dried off. The following are the necessary things that you will need:

  • A drill
  • Drill bit – 3/8 of an inch in diameter
  • Rock Salt
  • Water

When handling rock salt always wear gloves because it can cause “salt burn” on your skin.

Step 1 – Drill holes, about three to four inches deep, in the tree stump and in the exposed roots;

Step 2 – Each of the holes fills with rock salt and adds enough water to cover the hole completely, without spilling out and causing damage to other vegetation. Repeat this several times each month.

Within a few months tree roots should be dead because the rock salt will dry the roots.

Removing tree roots from plumbing pipes

Many homeowners are faced with clogged pipes due to tree roots. Protective measures can help you correct this problem using a small amount of rock salt. Here’s how to pull it off:

  • About half a pound of rock salt pour into your toilet and flush until it goes down the pipes;
  • Do this until you’ve used a full two pounds;
  • After this, close the bathroom and don’t use that pipeline for about 24 hours.

Repeat this once a month for ongoing maintenance.

Can I remove the tree roots without harming the tree?

Yes, you can. If your tree is healthy and you want to keep it but the roots are tearing up your sidewalk or clogging up the plumbing there is a way to eliminate those roots without harming the tree.

Start with loosening the soil and feel out the roots using the hand trowel, and remove all the soil in the end. Once the area is clean of all the dirt, cut the roots using a saw but be careful. Follow these steps so you don’t damage the tree:

  • Cut max one-third of the root;
  • Measure the tree trunk diameter and multiply it by three. That’s as close to the trunk as you want to cut;
  • Do not cut more than 25% from one side and cut only those roots smaller than the size of the fist.


Although it requires a lot of work, the easiest way often is to dig around the stump with the intention of exposing the roots. After that cut the large roots with a chainsaw or hatchet, and remove the smaller roots using gardening shears.

No. The roots will slowly start to deteriorate over time after the stump has been ground down. So, tree roots will not continue to grow after stump grinding.

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.