Is your yard cluttered with unsightly old tree stumps? Are you ready to remove a pesky stump but unsure how to start?

If so, you’ve come to the right place!

While you can enlist a tree service to perform a total land clearing of your property, sometimes it’s easier to just remove an individual stump yourself.

This article will take a look at five of the most efficient methods for removing stumps–from chemicals and boiling water to manual digging and grinding with a stump grinder. 

After reading this article, you will know which stump-removal method will work best for your particular situation.

How To Remove Old Tree Stumps

Tree Removal Project In Acton, MA

Old tree stumps are an eyesore, a tripping hazard, and even a breeding ground for pests like termites.

However, removing old tree stumps can be a daunting task.

Not only is it challenging to physically remove the stump, but there’s also the risk of damaging your property in the process. 

Luckily, there are several methods you can use to remove old tree stumps from your yard.

Keep reading to discover 5 ways to remove old tree stumps. 

1. Use Chemicals To Remove Old Tree Stumps

Chemical tree stump removal is one of the most popular methods for getting rid of unwanted stumps.

This method involves using chemicals to break down the woody material so that it eventually decomposes and rots away into nothing.

Two common chemical compounds used in this process are Epsom salt and rock salt, which will speed up the decomposition process and help break down the wood fibers faster.

Potassium nitrate is another option, as it provides more oxygen for the bacteria that naturally break down wood fiber. 

There are also multiple kinds of branded tree stump removal chemicals made by different manufacturers.

Let’s take a closer look at how to use Epsom salt or rock salt to remove a tree stump.

How To Use Epsom Salt Or Rock Salt

A stump with a hole in it

Use a power drill with a wide (at least 1 inch) drill bit to drill holes into the top of the stump, then fill each hole with either Epsom salt or rock salt, depending on which product you choose.

You can also sprinkle any excess salt on the surface of the stump.

Once you’ve filled all the holes with your chosen substance, cover them up with soil and mulch. (Alternatively, you can also use a plastic tarp.)

Then sprinkle the stump with water. This will help dissolve the Epsom salt and help it get absorbed quicker by the wood.

Keep watering the stump every few days to keep it moist.

Every four to six weeks, remove the soil and mulch and reapply the Epsom salt or rock salt to the holes and stump surface. Then cover it back up with soil and mulch and repeat the process.

The stump should be dead within a few months and completely rotted away within one year.

Wait until the stump has rotted away completely before digging out the remnants and removing them from your yard. 

How To Use Potassium Nitrate

Selective focus of a bottle of pure potassium nitrate chemical compound beside a petri dish with solid crystalline powder substance

The method for using potassium nitrate to remove a stump is similar to the Epsom salt/rock salt method but with a few slight variations.

First, use a wide (at least 1 inch) drill bit to drill several vertical holes into the top of the old stump.

Then, use the same drill bit to make several 45-degree angle holes into the side of the stump. These holes should intersect with the vertical holes you drilled into the top of the stump.

Now pour your potassium nitrate into the holes you drilled at the top of the stump.

Pour water into the holes, making sure not to wash out the potassium nitrate granules you packed into the holes.

The 45-degree angle holes will function as vents for the potassium nitrate to gas off, as well as help further saturate the wood with the chemical solution.

Cover the top of the stump with soil and mulch, and sprinkle more water on top. This will ensure that the potassium nitrate is easily absorbed by the wood.

This method takes approximately four to six weeks for the stump to turn soft and spongey. At that point, you should be able to dig out the remnants of the stump with a shovel.

How To Use Boiling Water

boiling kettle

Although not technically a chemical stump remover, boiling water can also help to accelerate the decay process of an old stump.

First, drill multiple 1-inch holes into the top of the stump. Also, try to expose as much of the stump’s root system as possible and drill some holes in those as well.

Next, pour boiling water into the holes you drilled on the stump’s surface and in and around the roots. The boiling water will shock the stump and ensure that it is dead, so the decomposition process can begin.

This method typically takes longer than a year since you are basically waiting for decomposition to naturally take its course.

The boiling water just ensures that the stump is dead and allows the rotting process to begin.

2. Manually Remove Old Tree Stumps

If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, another option is to manually dig out old tree stumps from your yard.

This method will require a bit more effort than using chemicals, but it’s much faster than waiting for a stump to rot away naturally over time.

Be prepared—this method takes some serious muscle power!  

How To Dig The Tree Stump Out Of The Ground

Workers digging out stump with hand tools.

Start by digging around the base of the tree using a shovel or digging bar, and try to expose as much of the roots as possible.

Use a mattock, hatchet, or chainsaw to cut the larger roots connecting the stump to the ground. Smaller roots can be cut with clippers or a similar tool.

Eventually, you will expose the taproot, which is the primary tree root that grows down vertically out of the bottom of the tree. Cut the taproot with an ax or chainsaw, whichever is easier.

Once you sever the taproot, you should be able to pry the tree stump free of the ground.

There may be additional tree roots you will have to cut before you can pull the stump free of the topsoil.

Note: This is the most labor-intensive method for removing a tree stump, but it is also the most thorough method since the stump will be completely removed from your property.

3. Burn Old Tree Stumps

A smoldering tree stump

Another effective way to remove old tree stumps is to burn them out with kerosene or fuel oil.

The idea here is to create heat intense enough to destroy all remaining organic matter, including roots, bark, and wood fibers.

This method is often used in conjunction with the chemical method as a way to eliminate any remaining wood pieces.

Make sure you wear proper protective gear when attempting this method.

You should also check with your local fire department regarding open-flame burning before proceeding with this technique.

How To Use Kerosene Or Fuel Oil

First, drill several 1-inch holes into the top of the tree stump. (If you are using this method after using a chemical on the stump, you can reuse the same holes you drilled before.)

Pour the kerosene or fuel oil into the holes. Let the oil get fully soaked up by the wood before applying more. It could take several minutes for the oil to soak into the wood.

Try not to spill any fuel around the stump since diesel and fuel oil are both toxic to plants.

Ignite the tree stump and let it burn for as long as it takes to reduce the stump to a piece of charred wood.

the remains of a large burnt tree stump

Keep a close eye on the burning process and have a garden hose or other water source on standby for safety.

Once the stump has burned down, make sure the fire is completely extinguished.

Use a mattock or axe to remove any woody remains of the tree stump.

4. Grind Old Tree Stumps With A Stump Grinder

Man grinding a stump with a gas powered stump grinder

Stump grinders use blades or disks specifically designed for cutting through tough woods like tree stumps.

This machine provides an effective way of removing any remaining organic matter quickly and safely by grinding it down into small pieces until nothing remains but fine sawdust-like particles.

Although stump grinders require some skill to operate properly, they’re still widely considered one of the best options for removing large portions of stubborn roots and trunks from your property without causing any damage in the process. 

How To Use a Stump Grinder

A stump grinder reducing an old stump to wood chips

Many tree removal companies use stump grinders as their preferred method for removing old stumps. You can also rent a stump grinder from home improvement stores for around $100 to $200 for several hours.

The first step is to clear away rocks, soil, and other debris around the base of the tree stump. We recommend using a mattock.

Stump grinders work best on stumps that are ground-level. Try to trim your tree stump as low as possible.

Orient the stump grinder blades a few inches above the stump and start the motor.

Lower the grinding blades onto the surface of the stump.

Move the stump grinder around on the surface of the stump until the entire stump is ground down. Aim to grind the stump down until it is a few inches below the surface.

Once the top of the stump is below the surface of the ground, you can cover it up with soil and reseed it with grass or whatever plants you prefer.

5. Call A Professional Tree Stump Removal Service

Arbor Works professionals safely removing an old stump

Finally, if none of these options appeal to you or if they’re just not feasible given your current circumstances, then consider calling in professionals who specialize in tree removal services instead.

Professional services offer quick solutions without compromising on quality–making them an ideal choice for those who want to quickly get rid of their old stumps.

They take care of all aspects related to removing stumps from start to finish–including clean up after they’ve finished their work. Plus, they can also determine if a tree poses a risk to your home, or identify dead or dying trees that may need to be removed.

Be sure to ask exactly how the tree stump removal company will be removing your stump.

Most tree stump removal companies will use a stump grinder to “remove” a tree stump, even though this method technically leaves a part of the stump to decay in the ground.

Manual removal, as outlined above, is a much less common method for stump removal since it is so labor-intensive.

Call Arbor Works For All Your Tree Care Needs

Arbor Works employee using the new Vermeer SC40tx stump grinder.

When it comes time to remove old tree stumps from your property, there are plenty of different DIY methods available, depending on what works best for you.

Just remember to stay safe by following proper safety protocols, such as wearing protective gear and following proper instructions for operating machinery.

If you prefer to leave your old tree stump removal to the pros, we would be more than happy to help! Just give us a call or fill out our contact form today, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.