DIY Stump Removal

Breaking up is hard to do, unless you have our tips for stump removal.

Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
April 22, 2020
Related To:
Chainsaw removing stump

Removing Stump with Chainsaw

Removing Stump with Chainsaw

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, 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 repurposed as the base for a birdbath. 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-inch bit eight to twelve inches long, drill deep holes in the top of the stump spaced three to four 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.

Next Up

Southern Favorite Moves North

Mini myrtles are a great way to brighten up beds and borders when many plants have ceased blooming.

Landscaping Trees

A look at the most popular landscaping trees for residential landscaping projects.

Zone 2: Deciduous Trees

These deciduous trees flourish in gardening zone two.

What to Plant Under Trees

Find out all you need to know about underplanting from a garden expert.

Ash Tree Guide: How to Grow This American Beauty

One of the most common native tree species in America, the ash tree is beloved by landscapers and homeowners. Find out more about growing ash trees from HGTV garden experts.

6 Colorful Plants for Fall

Discover six of the best native shrubs and trees for fall foliage.

Dream Landscape 2009

HGTV's Dream Home 2009 is a beautiful Victorian-style farmhouse in the Sonoma Valley, and its landscape is the perfect complement.

DIY Landscaping

Why pay others when you can complete a landscaping project yourself?

Natural Fences: Increase Your Home's Privacy With Plants

On the fence about what to do for privacy and yard division? Check out these ideas for natural fences to think beyond the picket fence.

Landscaping Plants

It’s easy to find landscaping plants and flowers that work well with your yard no matter where you live.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

What's New in Outdoors

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.