Stump Removal: How to Remove a Stump Without a Grinder

3 Methods for Tree Stump Removal

tree stump in a wooded area

The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 5 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 hrs - 6 wks
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $50

Whether you’ve hired a commercial tree service or cut a tree down yourself, removing the remaining stump in your yard is the last step—but this task isn’t always an easy one. If left alone, the stump may begin to sprout new shoots, and it can also be expensive to have a professional company grind the stump down (as much as $800 for large stumps or those in tricky locations). Thankfully, there are several ways to remove a stump that can be accomplished without hiring help.

The best ways to remove stumps include physical removal by digging it out and cutting away the roots, chemical removal to speed up the natural process of rotting, or using fire to smolder it down. Here, learn how to remove a tree stump at home.

Safety Considerations

how to remove a tree stump

The Spruce

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Manual Method

  • Digging bar
  • Bow saws
  • Shove
  • Ax
  • Steel-toed work boots
  • Work gloves
  • Mattock

Chemical Method

  • Drill with large bit
  • Chain saw
  • Plastic tarp

Burning Method

  • Drill and large bit


Chemical Method

  • High-nitrogen garden fertilizer or potassium-nitrate tree stump removal granules
  • Garden mulch

Burning Method

  • Stump Out chemical
  • Kerosene



Watch Now: How to Remove a Tree Stump Without a Grinder

How to Remove a Tree Stump Manually

shovel next to a tree stump
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  1. Dig Down Around the Stump

    • Dig around the stump with the mattock's broad end.
    • Shovel loosened dirt out of your way to gain access to all the roots that need cutting. The bigger the stump, the more earth you'll be moving.
    • Use a hose or pressure washer to help wash away dirt and expose roots as you dig downward.
    using an ax to split a tree stump
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  2. Sever Visible Roots

    • Use the other end of the mattock to start chopping your way through the tree roots. A bow saw can also be used to sever the roots as you uncover them.
  3. Expose the Tap Root

    • Dig and chop your way under the root ball to the taproot. 
    • Clean excess dirt off the taproot with a wet rag before cutting.
  4. Sever the Tap Root

    • Check that the area is clear of people, pets, and important objects.
    • Chop through the taproot with your ax or with a bow saw. Aim the ax carefully so that it does not strike dirt (which would dull the blade).


    It's best not to use an ax unless you have been educated in handling one properly. If you're not confident, try to use a bow saw for all your cutting. It may require more digging to expose the roots, but it will be safer.

  5. Extract the Stump

    • Pull the stump from the hole. This may require the use of ropes or chains, as well as the assistance of helpers or a vehicle to yank a large stump from the ground.

How to Remove a Tree Stump Chemically

  1. Cut Stump to Ground Level

    • Use a chain saw or bow saw to cut the stump down as close to the ground as you can, without allowing the chain saw's teeth to strike the ground (this will dull your chain).
  2. Drill Holes and Add Chemical

    • Drill holes a few inches deep into the stump in numerous places, using the biggest, widest drill bit you have. The wider and deeper the holes, the better.
    • Fill these holes first with water, then with a fertilizer high in nitrogen or stump-remover granules.


    Potassium nitrate is considered a hazardous substance, so use caution when applying potassium nitrate stump-removal granules.

  3. Water and Cover the Stump

    • Soak the ground all around the stump.
    • Cover the stump with a plastic tarp to help keep the stump and area around it moist.
  4. Apply Organic Mulch Over Tarp

    • Apply an organic mulch over the plastic tarp, and water it thoroughly. An organic mulch such as tree bark or hay will hold additional moisture, keeping the area even wetter.
    • Add some heavy stones on top of the tarp to keep it from blowing away, if you think the wet mulch won't suffice.

    Covered with mulch, the tree stump will be invisible as it begins to rot away. You can even cover the mulched area with various planted pots and container gardens.

  5. Tend the Stump While It Decays

    • Over the coming weeks, periodically remove the mulch and tarp and apply more water and nitrogen to the stump.
    • Re-cover the stump with the tarp, wet mulch, and stones.
    • Repeat and be patent. It can still take quite some time for the stump to completely rot away. But it will be considerably faster than the decay process normally occurs in nature.
  6. Remove the Pieces

    • After four to six weeks, the stump may become soft and spongy enough to begin breaking it apart with an ax.
    • Treat wood that cannot be broken up and removed with water and nitrogen.
    • At some point, you can bury what remains and let it complete the decay process underground.

How to Remove a Stump by Burning

Before you plan to burn a tree stump, check out local community ordinances regarding open burning. While it is generally allowed in rural areas, urban and suburban locations often do not allow open burning of stumps.

  1. Drill Holes and Apply Chemical

    • Drill holes into the stump with a drill and a large bit.
    • Apply Stump Out chemical granules, then fill the holes with water. Wait four to six weeks for the chemical to do its work.
  2. Soak With Kerosene

    • Slowly pour kerosene over the stump, taking care not to allow the fluid to run off and pool on the ground.

    Take your time to allow the kerosene to soak in. The more porous the stump, the more kerosine will be absorbed and the longer it will burn.


    Never use gasoline or motor oil to burn a stump—gasoline is dangerously explosive, and motor oil creates toxic smoke when burning.

  3. Tend the Fire

    • Ignite the stump and observe it from a safe distance as it burns.
    • Put up barricades to prevent people or animals from accidentally walking over the embers, since the stump may continue to smolder underground for quite some time.

When to Remove a Tree Stump

You can remove a tree stump at any time after the tree is felled, but manual removal is sometimes easier if the stump has aged and dried out somewhat. If you have the ability to let the stump remain in place for a full year or even two, the dried wood may be easier to cut out than when working on a new stump that is still green. Chemical removal, however, should begin immediately after you remove the tree.

How to Choose a Stump Removal Method

The best method of tree stump removal to use depends on the size of the stump and the kind of work you're willing to do.

A small- to medium-sized stump can be removed by good old-fashioned muscle work. But larger stumps can involve so much work that it's not practical—unless you can drag it out of the earth with a chain attached to the back of a pickup. For larger stumps, use the chemical method instead. A useful tool for manual removal is a mattock, which has a broad end for digging and a sharpened end for slicing. For larger stumps, you may want to enlist the aid of a helper or two to speed the work.

For those who are not up to the physical effort, or have a tree stump is too large to remove by hand, there is an easier — though much slower — method. You can speed up the natural decaying process by keeping the stump moist and adding nitrogen in the form of a high-nitrogen fertilizer or potassium nitrate stump-removal granules. It can take a matter of months or even a year or so before a stump vanishes completely, but it's an easy process.

There is a tree stump removal product that comes in a powdered form called "Stump-Out," which is designed to break down the wood fiber of stumps, leaving them porous. The porous wood then absorbs kerosene readily. After the porous wood is soaked with kerosene and ignited, it begins to burn away, and the fire soon becomes a low, smoldering flame. If the use of kerosene and flame is acceptable to you (and allowed in your community), this is another cheap and easy option to remove a tree stump.

Disposal of large tree stumps can be difficult. Contact your local waste disposal authorities for instructions on how and where to dispose of large garden waste items.

When to Call a Professional

No matter what method you use, a tree stump of any appreciable size involves quite a bit of hard manual labor and often the use of potentially dangerous tools or materials. If you have concerns about safety or the physical fitness required to do the work, it is best to call a professional removal service, who will have the tools and personnel to do this work quickly and safely.

  • What is a tree stump?

    A tree stump is the part of the tree that is left in the ground after it has been cut down. Depending on where the tree was cut, the stump might stick up or be flush to the ground.

  • Will a tree stump go away on its own?

    It might take three to seven years, or even longer, but eventually, a tree stump will decompose on its own.

  • How can you remove a tree stump?

    There are a few ways you can remove a tree stump in your yard, including manual labor, chemicals, and burning. You can also rent a stump grinder or make it easy on yourself, albeit at a price, and hire a professional to do the job.

Updated by Bryan Trandem
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. "Potassium Nitrate | Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet."New Jersey Department Of Health, 2004.

  2. Removing Tree Stumps. University of Illinois Extension

  3. "Chemical Control Of Unwanted Vegetation"Natural Resource Stewardship,