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How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump

Tree stump removal isn't a burden with these easy options that are ideal for any homeowner and contractor.

ByRachel Lee| Last Updated:06/27/2023
Tree stump to be removed in the middle of a homeowner's yard.

3 Ways to Remove a Tree Stump Yourself

Removing a tree stump can be one of the hardest property maintenance projects to take on, but in many cases, it’s necessary. You might be tempted to just cover the stump with dirt if you’re in a hurry, but a tree stump and root system can cause long-term damage to your property. Dying tree stumps may also attract pests, such as termites. If the tree stump stays alive and manages to sprout, weeds can grow out of control in the area.

People will often call professionals to get the job done, but if you enjoy taking a DIY approach to your yard work, there are plenty of stump removal techniques you can use. Here are three reliable methods for removing a stump. The first method, using a chainsaw and stump grinder, is a quick and direct method if you need to remove your tree stump ASAP. The second option involves applying potassium nitrate to kill the stump before breaking it apart, while the other calls for burning the stump using conventional lighter fluid.

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Pro Tip

Tree stumps and roots can be heavier than you think, so we're here to help you decide on the the best disposal option for yard waste if you're clearing a large amount of debris at once.

Tree Stump Removal FAQs

Can I cover up a tree stump instead of removing it?

How do I dispose of the waste from multiple tree stumps?

Are there eco-friendly ways to remove a tree stump?

Tree Stump Removal Methods

Remove a Tree Stump with a Chainsaw and Stump Grinder

Use a chainsaw and stump grinder if you don’t want to expose your land to chemicals, or when you need a quick and simple hands-on solution. Keep in mind that you need experience with using a chainsaw. You’ll also need protective gear to safely remove a tree stump with this method. Stump grinders are expensive, so consider renting from your local home improvement store.

 A chainsaw cutting a piece of tree stump for removal.

1. Gather Tools

Here are the essentials for this tree stump removal technique. If you don’t own these items, you can reach out to hardware stores to rent them.

Stump Removal Tools for Chainsaw Method




Chainsaw safety helmet

Stump grinder

Goggles and ear protectors


Chainsaw-resistant clothing

Heavy-duty gloves

2. Check for Safety

Some DIY chainsaw users might feel confident in gardening gloves and goggles, but wearing the right gear is always best when using a chainsaw to cut a tree stump. A helmet, ear protectors and chainsaw-resistant clothing are all recommended. Anyone assisting you while you use the chainsaw should also wear this gear.

Before you start, double-check there aren’t any obstacles in the work area, such as leftover tree branches or dirt crowding the stump. Use a shovel to expose the tree stump and allow the chainsaw easy access. You want to avoid letting your chainsaw touch dirt.

3. Cut the Stump With Your Chainsaw

Begin by creating deep cuts around the edge of the tree stump as close to the ground as possible. Don’t get too close, however, since dirt can damage your chainsaw. Remember that the edges of the stump are more difficult to cut through than the middle and can take some effort when starting a new cut.

Continue widening the cuts to create wedge-shaped indents around the whole stump. Slowly cut deeper until the whole stump has been severed. Tap the stump with your shovel to gauge how loose it is, and once it’s ready to be moved, use the shovel or your hands to tip over the stump.

4. Grind the Stump

Now that the upper part of the stump is gone, it’s time to handle what’s left in the ground using a stump grinder. This tool can often be rented from local tree service companies. Be sure to keep your safety gear on during this step, and keep any rocks clear of the stump.

When you’re ready, wheel the grinder up to the stump and start it up. Gently grind away at the stump. Going slow and steady is important. Keep a lookout for roots while working, since you'll also want to grind them away if possible.

5. Cover the Pit

With your stump gone, you’ll have a pit full of sawdust in its place. Clear the sawdust so that it's level with the ground around it, then cover it with topsoil.

 A tree stump on fire for removal.

Burn the Tree Stump

If the first method doesn’t fit your situation, burning a tree stump can be just as effective. Before you start this process, make sure that you’re allowed to burn a tree stump in your town or city. Look up local guidelines on burning yard waste and call municipal authorities when in doubt.

1. Gather Tools

Unlike the first method, you won’t need to rent a stump grinder. Many of these items might already be sitting in your garage.

Stump Removal Tools for Burning Method




Kerosene and rag

Power drill

Heavy-duty gloves

Candle lighter

Protective goggles

2. Take Safety Precautions

Safety is very important when using chemicals in your yard. Keep flammable items and other plants away from the tree stump before you start burning it. Once you start the fire, don’t leave it unattended. For maximum protection, you should wear flame retardant gloves during the process. Also, make sure that your hair and your clothes stay clear of the flames.

3. Drill Holes for Kerosene

First, use a shovel to dig away anything near the stump and expose the roots. Next, drill holes into the stump. You’ll need multiple holes on the sides and a large hole down the middle of the stump. Holes all over the stump will help the kerosene to soak thoroughly for a good burn.

4. Add Kerosene

Pour kerosene into the holes. Don’t worry about completely soaking the stump. Just make sure that the kerosene travels into the holes you drilled. To speed up the fire, add a rag soaked in kerosene to the hole in the middle of the stump.

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Safety Tip

Kerosene is a good halfway point between gasoline, which would create a roaring fire, and other chemicals which might burn out quickly.

Using Charcoal to Burn a Tree Stump

If you want to burn a tree stump with charcoal, you can place the briquettes on top of the kerosene-soaked stump, then add more kerosene on top and light the fire. The charcoal will help regulate the flames and burn the stump quickly, but you need to keep the charcoal contained. Use an oil drum with the bottom cut out, or a similar fire-proof cylinder, to enclose the stump as it burns.

5. Light the Stump on Fire

Light the kerosene-soaked rag with a candle lighter and monitor the fire as it spreads through the stump. Don’t leave the fire unattended. Keep the fire going with kindling or small twigs as needed. The flame needs air to keep burning, so if you want the fire to grow, you can use a fan or even a leaf blower on a low setting to push air into the holes.

Get a Dumpster for Wood Scraps

Use Chemicals to Remove the Stump

Removing a tree stump with potassium nitrate (also known as saltpeter) will take longer than the previous methods, but is also the least labor-intensive. Potassium nitrate is available online as well as in home and garden stores. Application is simple and makes removal of the tree stump much easier.

Homeowner drilling holes into tree stump to remove it with chemicals.
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Pro Tip

Chemicals are only effective on stumps that have been sitting for over a year. Fresh stumps will not be affected enough by the chemicals, because they haven’t had time to fully dry out. To remove a fresh stump, a chainsaw and grinder is usually the best option.

1. Gather Tools

You’ll likely need to make a trip to the store for the potassium nitrate, but the other tools may already be in your tool shed or garage.

Stump Removal Tools for Potassium Nitrate Method



Woodcutter’s axe

Potassium nitrate

Power drill (with at least 6-inch wood drill bit)

Heavy-duty gloves

Protective goggles

2. Drill Holes Into the Stump

As in the burning method, start by drilling multiple holes in the tree stump. Use the longest drill bit you have to create deep holes in the stump. Aim for holes with at least a half-inch diameter.

3. Pour Potassium Nitrate Into the Holes

Start by adding the chemicals into the holes, then pour in hot water without letting the potassium nitrate completely spill out. You’ll need to wait and let the chemicals take effect over the course of three weeks, or longer if the stump is very large. During this time, the stump will decompose and become much easier to destroy.

4. Break Apart the Stump

Once the stump has had weeks to rot, it can be easily broken apart with an axe. As always, wear protective equipment while chopping up the stump. If you’re struggling to break apart the stump, consider adding more potassium nitrate, followed by hot water, and letting it sit for another week or two.

Consider Epsom Salt as a Chemical Alternative

Using Epsom salt instead of potassium nitrate is an eco-friendly way to rot your tree stump before removal. If Epsom salt is more readily available and you can use it in the same way as described for the potassium nitrate. Keep in mind that the effects may not be as potent and this option takes more time. You should also cover the tree stump to let the salt work without being disturbed by rain or snow.

Tree Stump Disposal

Consider repurposing your tree stump into mulch or firewood. Or, if you want to dispose of yard waste for free, you may take it to a composting center, local green landfill, yard waste collection site or simply rent a yard waste dumpster if you have multiple stumps and other yard waste from your project that you want to toss all at once.

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What’s Next After Your Tree Stump Removal?

Now that your tree stump is gone, what will you do with the new space in the yard? You could build a new shed, in stall a porch, re-route a path or plant a new tree to add a new dynamic to you yard. You’ve cleared the way for what’s next — now it’s your time to be creative and reshape your property.

As a final note, don’t be afraid to call the experts for help with removing a stump. There are also options if you want to get rid of wood or recycle it yourself.

What Do You Think?

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