DIY Stump Removal


When I moved into my house five years ago, the dense stands of mature trees on the property was a huge selling point.

Of course, trees come down. Be it from age, disease or natural disasters (we’re no strangers to hurricanes or tornadoes around these parts), several stumps resided in prominent places around the yard.

Not a problem, I thought. I’ll get right on those.

Five years later, the stumps remained. One has been re-purposed as the base for a bird bath. Another serves as an anchor for a bluebird feeder.  Another large and poorly positioned stump reminded me that where a mighty oak once stood was now an occasional makeshift table when working in the yard.

Its time had come.

It turns out stump removal services do not come cheap. And renting a stump grinder to do the job would only make economic sense if I were taking out several stumps at the same time.

Our solution for removal may lack the convenience of hiring a service and misses the mark of speedy removal that comes with grinding. But a couple of months, thirty bucks and a bag of marshmallows later, that stump is gone and our landscaping fund remains intact.

Here’s how to remove a pesky stump when money actually is an object. Bear in mind, this involves burning, so check your local laws regarding open fires.

Lower Your Profile

I’m lucky to have a brother who is handy with a chainsaw. Cut the stump as low to the ground as possible before the process truly begins.

Soften the Stump

A commercial stump remover or plain ole saltpeter (aka potassium nitrate) will soften the wood and make it amenable to a slow and thorough burn.

Using a drill with a 1” bit eight to twelve inches long, drill deep holes in the top of the stump spaced 3 to 4 inches apart in all directions.

Fill each hole with stump remover/saltpeter and top each hole off with boiling water to dissolve the saltpeter.

Go on Vacation

OK, so you don’t actually have to leave town. But walk away and forget all about that stump for a month or so to allow the remover to do its thing.

Bring on the Kerosene

Now that the stump remover has been absorbed by the wood, it’s time to do the same thing with an accelerant. Depending on the size of your stump, a gallon or two of kerosene or lamp oil will do the trick. Gasoline is not recommended.

Let this soak into the wood for a couple of weeks, then repeat the process. The accelerant will distribute throughout the stump, including the roots, allowing for a thorough and complete burn.

Burn, Baby Burn!

Check with your local fire department regarding open fires and any restrictions due to drought conditions.  Once you have the go ahead, it’s time to burn.

Rake out the area around the stump to remove any flammable debris and, using bricks or rocks, build a fire ring around your stump. Place kindling and logs on top of your prepared stump, enough  to build a standard campfire. Keep a hose handy as a safety precaution.

Start your fire as you would any other. The idea here is to get things hot, but don’t expect the stump to disappear in a burst of flame.

Tend to the Embers

As the fire fades into glowing embers and the stump is still there, don’t be disappointed. This is going to take some time.

Depending on the size of your stump, those embers may keep glowing for several days or even a week. Be sure to check progress often and stir the embers up now and again, if necessary.  If they should go out, start a new fire hot enough to return to a hot ember state until the stump has burned out completely.

Rake out the Ashes

Fill the hole with your preferred soil. If the stump was situated in a grassy area, it’s time to seed.

Not a problem. I’ll get right on that.

Originally: DIY Stump Removal

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