Useful tips to consider about stump removal

By: Jay Barrow

I have been involved in this business in one way or another since about 1983. I have worked hurricane damage in the southern states, coastal wind storms in the Northwest, non-stop busy summers in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and seen just about any situation you never thought of regarding the removal of tree stumps. Here is some information that I hope you find useful or at the very least, entertaining.

Accessing The Stump

Our main stump grinding machine is a 4WD state-of-the-art beast customized to handle any job efficiently and precisely–as long as we can get it to the stump. When you contact us for stump removal services, you will want to be sure that we have a clear path to your stump.

Our machine measures 36″ in width allowing it to fit through most standard backyard gates. But if you’re unsure about access, you’ll want to go ahead and measure any narrow openings to be sure our machine fits, We’d like to emphasize the importance of measuring between the two narrowest points along the path.

If the path is restricted, it is also important to consider turns and angles along the path. In most cases, we’ll need to be able to maneuver the machine 180° around the stump for best results. We’ve found that comparing our grinder to a small riding lawn tractor is helpful when trying to communicate its size and maneuverability.

You will also want to make us aware of any hillsides or steep grades that we may encounter along the path to your stump. Though our stump grinder is 4WD and capable of handling many hillside scenarios, it has its limits. If you have doubts about whether your terrain is too steep, send us pictures from a couple of angles so we can offer an assessment.

In some cases, we have been able to climb stairs or remove fence posts or other hindrances, but not always.

If you’re in doubt as to whether we can access the stump(s) you’d like removed, please send us pictures of the area in question so we can offer an assessment.

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And Finally, The Entertainment We Promised…

DIY. For the do-it-yourselfer

Typically my most appreciative customers are the ones who have attempted to remove stumps themselves by digging, burning or drilling holes for poison. These techniques are rarely successful and generally require more sweat and commitment than most folks are prepared for. However, if you really want to try it yourself, here are some pointers to consider.

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Dig it out:

This is the only real alternative to grinding out a stump. If you need to build a foundation, plant a new tree or put in a fence post directly over the location of the tree stump; then this is  actually the only option. Grinding out a tree stump is essentially an over-milling procedure.  I can grind the stump down a foot or more below ground level, but the remnant of the stump is still down there. This is only a problem for the aforementioned situations.  As for the other 99% of situations this can be a time consuming, chainsaw-ruining, messy, back breaking procedure. Especially for stumps larger than even 6 inches in diameter (depending on the species). And don’t forget that after you manage to get the stump out you then must dispatch with the debris and there is still that hole that needs to be filled in. Using an excavator or back-hoe reduces the work, but one still must get rid of the dug-out stump (which costs $ to transport and $ at the dump) and the hole still needs to be filled (this costs $to transport and $ for the fill). The equipment needed for this procedure is much larger and will likely cost more than grinding.


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Renting a stump-grinding machine:

While renting a grinder will prevent or at least delay calling me; it comes with it’s own headaches. Ok….Here’s how it usually goes.  Find a rental store, drive there with your trailer (you do have a trailer….right?) wait your turn, pay for the rental (around $200 give or take) for the day, (are the teeth sharp? is it easy to use? will it flip over on a hillside? will it throw rocks toward my house? who pays if I damage the machine?)get it back home, learn how to use it without hurting yourself, find out it is not as easy as you thought, you find rocks in the ground around and under the stump that you hit and break cutter teeth, but you rented it and by-cracky you’re gonna finish the job before tomorrow when you have to return the machine or pay for another day. But with broken (or dull from the last guy) teeth it is not cutting so well. So thankfully just before dark , nearly a full day of your weekend spent, you manage to vanquish your enemy….three stumps about 24″ across. Ohh, and let’s not forget you still have to return the machine in the morning. Later that week you learn that Jay would have charged you $225 for the same job and you need not lift but a telephone.

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Stump-B-Gone: Fairy-tale Chemical Concoction

I am not sure why these companies are allowed to sell this product. If I ever saw it work as advertised I would be happy to admit it here. I have lost count of the number of stumps that I have been called to grind after they have been drilled and treated with this “product”. Many of these stumps were treated many times over many years and they were still completely intact. The only difference I noticed was the cloud of dusty chemical thrown up as I ground them out. I was not happy to be breathing whatever that stuff is. Please avoid using these products. In my opinion chemical stump removers simply do not work.

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“Yank it out with my truck”

Stumps are designed by nature to successfully resist being “yanked” out. There are small stumps that will yield to the F-250 bumper. Generally, the “snatch” method often ends with damage to your truck, broken ropes, and bruised egos. Think carefully before trying this one out.

Now that's REALLY ugly and the stump is still there!

Now that’s REALLY ugly and the stump is still there!

Burn that stump out!

This method is very time-consuming unless you plan to build a bonfire using a great deal of additional fire wood on top of the stump.  Soaking it in gasoline can create an explosion of the vapors in the air burning you and leaving the stump totally intact. Using diesel or kerosene is safer, but no more effective. The stump essentially becomes a wick which allows the kerosene to burn on top of the stump with 90% of the heat rising away from the stump leaving it alas, intact. The only way burning a stump would be effective is to dig a pit under the stump and then create a fire there using other firewood and kerosene.  Not the most efficient option to say the least.

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Dynamite: NOT RECOMMENDED!!!

My favorite of the DIY options. Unfortunately, it is generally illegal while still leaving a hole to be filled and an exploded stump to haul away….not to mention repairing neighbors’ broken windows and having to answer to Homeland Security.

Learn from Wile E. Coyote and DO NOT TRY THIS!

Let me repeat,  I absolutely under no circumstances recommend this option!!

We Remove Tree Stumps!

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