How to Kill a Tree Stump 4 Different Ways

Removing a tree stump from your yard can be a tedious and time-consuming process. However, with the right tools and techniques, you can effectively kill and remove a stubborn tree stump. Here are 4 different methods to kill a tree stump for good.

Grinding the Stump

One of the quickest and most effective ways to remove a tree stump is by grinding it down with a stump grinder. Stump grinders are powerful tools that use a rotating cutting disc to chip away the wood until it’s completely removed below ground level.

Here’s how to kill and remove a tree stump by grinding:

  • Clear away any debris around the stump and expose the main trunk.
  • Rent a stump grinder from your local hardware store or landscape company. A heavier gas-powered model works best for large stumps.
  • Position the cutting wheel near the edge of the stump. Slowly move it back and forth across the stump, grinding down 4-6 inches at a time.
  • Once you’ve grinded down below ground level, sift through the wood chips and remove any remaining roots with an ax or saw.
  • Backfill the hole with fresh soil and flatten out. Grass seed can be planted to cover up the area.

Grinding down a stump completely removes it in just an afternoon, without chemicals. However, it requires heavy power equipment that must be rented or purchased.

Decomposing the Stump

For a chemical-free removal, you can accelerate the natural decay of a tree stump with a decomposing stump remover product. These contain natural ingredients like nitrogen, potassium salts, and bacterial strains to speed up the breakdown process.

Follow these steps for decomposing a stump:

  • Remove any loose bark from the stump with a hammer or chisel so the product can penetrate the wood.
  • Drill holes across the top and into the sides of the stump using a 1-inch bit. Space holes about 6 inches apart.
  • Fill or coat the holes with the decomposing agent according to product instructions. Refill as needed.
  • Cover the stump with a tarp to help retain moisture. Keep the area damp but not soaked.
  • Reapply the decomposer every 1-2 months until the stump softens completely. Chop with an ax and dig out the remaining pieces.

This organic method takes 6-12 months but avoids using harsh chemicals. Make sure to re-treat the stump as directed for best results.

Burning Out the Stump

For very large stumps, burning them out with charcoal can be an effective removal technique. This carbonizes and smolders the stump from the inside out.

Here’s how to kill a stump by burning:

  • Start by drilling holes into the top and interior of the stump using a 1-inch bit. Go down at least 12 inches deep.
  • Fill the holes generously with charcoal briquettes. Mound additional charcoal on top of the stump.
  • Light the charcoal and let it burn down completely until only ash remains. This may take several days.
  • Once cooled, break up the charred stump with an ax or mattock. Dig out the burned wood fragments from the hole.
  • Backfill the hole with soil and flatten out the area.

Burning works best for softer woods like pine. The charcoal method takes time but costs little beyond the briquettes. Make sure to monitor the fire until it’s completely out.

Applying Stump Killer Chemicals

For quick and effective chemical removal, stump-killing products contain potent ingredients that can break down even the hardest woods.

Follow these steps when using a chemical stump remover:

  • Remove any loose bark or debris from the stump. Also cut off any exposed roots.
  • Using a small drill bit, make downward angled holes around the outer edge of the stump about 6 inches apart.
  • Fill each hole with the stump remover chemical. Follow the product’s instructions carefully regarding ingredients, amounts, and process.
  • For faster penetration, also coat the top surface of the stump with the chemical.
  • Reapply more chemical every 4-6 weeks until the stump is fully decomposed. Chop up and remove the remaining pieces.

Commercial stump removers containing potassium nitrate or sodium hydroxide work quickly to accelerate decay. Take safety precautions when handling these caustic ingredients.

FAQs About Killing Tree Stumps

How long does it take to kill a tree stump?

The amount of time depends on the method. Grinding or burning may remove a stump in days. Chemical and decomposing methods can take many months to completely break down a stump.

What’s the fastest way to get rid of a tree stump?

Grinding a stump down with a power stump grinder is typically the quickest way to eliminate it completely. Stump grinding can remove a large stump in just a few hours.

What chemicals kill tree stumps fastest?

Potassium nitrate and sodium hydroxide are the most effective chemicals for accelerating stump decay. Combined with drilling, they penetrate and break down wood the fastest compared to other methods.

Will stump remover kill surrounding grass?

It’s best to avoid getting harsh stump remover chemicals on the surrounding lawn. They can discolor or damage nearby grass. Always use chemicals directly on the stump only.

What should I put in the hole after grinding out a stump?

Once the wood has been ground out, backfill the hole with fresh topsoil. Level it out before planting grass or flowers. Wood chips or mulch can also fill the hole.

Killing a Tree Stump: An Effective Process

Removing an ugly, protruding tree stump from your yard takes patience and persistence. But with the right approach, you can eliminate large stumps relatively quickly. Grinding, burning, decomposition, and chemicals all offer methods for killing tree stumps for good. Just be sure to take safety precautions and follow instructions carefully when using power tools, charcoal fires, or caustic chemicals. With the stump gone, you’ll regain a useable area of your landscape to plant and beautify.