The 3 Best Ways to Remove a Tree Stump

The traditional image of tree stump removal is an individual struggling with a chainsaw, an axe, or a shovel to forcibly remove a troublesome stump – and often to no avail. And while this method can entail an outrageous amount of physical stress and wasted time if you are not already well-experienced in removing tree stumps, it’s also extremely dangerous. Still, with the right tools, removing tree stumps from your property with your own two hands can be done.

But is it the easiest method?

Here are three ways you can remove a tree stump without creating a bigger problem during the process.

#1. Removing a Tree Stump with Fire

Challenge: Easy – medium

Time: Several hours

Tools and Materials Needed for Burning a Stump

  • Corded drill
  • 8-12 inch long drill bit extension
  • Extension cord
  • Potassium nitrate (saltpeter)
  • Scoop or trowel
  • Bucket of boiling water
  • Funnel
  • Dry scrap wood
  • Matches or other fire starter
  • Shovel
  • Safety glasses

If you have a large stump, you will also need a chainsaw. Using the chainsaw, remove as much of the stump as much as possible prior to beginning your project.

Steps for Burning a Stump

Before removing a tree stump with fire, it’s vital that you contact your local fire department to ensure that it’s okay to burn your stump. In some areas, especially in ones that frequently experience drought conditions, there may be a burn or fire ban in effect.

  1. Drill a hole down in the top of the stump using the bit and extender. The hole should be at least 10 inches deep.
  2. Remove the debris out of the hole.
  3. Drill additional holes into the top of the stump. Holes should be about 10 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart.
  4. Pour 3-4 ounces of potassium nitrate into each hole.
  5. Pour boiling water down each hole. Pour water until the potassium nitrate is fully dissolved. The potassium nitrate will soften the wood and the hot water will help distribute it throughout the stump.
  6. Place scrap wood on top of the stump or align the scraps around the stump creating a cone shape.
  7. Light the scrap wood and allow it to set the stump alight. Allow several hours for the stump to thoroughly burn to ash.
  8. Use your shovel to break down any remaining pieces and remove the ash. You can use soil or sawdust to fill the hole as needed.

#2. Removing a Tree Stump with Chemicals

Challenge: Easy

Time: About an hour to set up and several weeks to administer

The idea of using chemicals to remove a tree stump may invoke images of pouring corrosive chemicals over dead wood until nothing is left behind. This seems as dangerous – if not more dangerous – than using equipment to remove a stump by hand, right? In truth, using nitrogen to remove a tree stump is simply a way of expediting the natural rotting process that already occurs once a tree can no longer produce new cells. In fact, many people may find using nitrogen to remove a tree stump is more convenient than burning it away if time is not a restriction.

There are many removal products available on the market that come as either a liquid chemical or powder. Bromide Stump-Out, Spectracide Stump Remover, and Grow More Stump Remover are popular choices, just to name a few. Keep in mind, however, that if you do opt for a liquid remover, they can also evaporate over time rendering them as a less effective method. Alternatively, in lieu of a store bought item, you can also use substances that are generally high in nitrogen including compost or fresh manure.

Tools and Materials Needed to Rot a Stump

  • Corded drill
  • 8-12 inch long drill bit extension
  • Extension cord
  • Stump remover or potassium nitrate, or another high-nitrogen substance
  • Scoop or trowel
  • Bucket of water
  • Funnel
  • Safety glasses

Similar to burning a stump, you will also need a chainsaw in order to remove as much of the stump as possible prior to applying chemicals.

Steps for Rotting a Stump

  1. Drill holes down in the top of the stump using the spade bit and extender. Holes should be spaced 2-3 inches apart, at least 10 inches deep, and be at least 3/8 in. in diameter.
  2. Drill holes parallel to the ground around the perimeter of the stump. Holes should be about 12 inches deep and at least 3-4 inches from the rim. These holes should connect with your surface holes creating a vent.
  3. Pour 3-4 ounces of stump remover into each hole.
  4. Pour water down each hole. It is important to pour the amount of water specified by your particular product.

It will take several weeks for stump remover to completely take effect. In the meantime, cover the stump in order to keep children and animals away from it.

Check the condition of the stump periodically over several weeks. Over time, it will become easy to break. At this point, you may choose to let the stump continue to rot, remove it manually, or douse what’s left of it in kerosene in order to burn it at a future time.

#3. Employing a Professional to Remove a Tree Stump

Challenge: Minimal

Time: Minimal

Employing a professional to remove unsightly tree stumps from your property is without a doubt the easiest and most convenient way of handling your needs. On top of avoiding an otherwise laborious and time-consuming ordeal, employing a professional, fully-insured tree professional is the only way to be 100% certain that you, your family, and your property are protected against any potential harm.

With that said, if your project requires multiple stumps to be removed from your property, employing a tree removal expert is the absolute best choice.

And while hiring an expert is easier said than done, here are steps you can take to find the right tree care professional for your project.

Steps for Choosing a Tree Care Professional

  1. Ask to see the company’s tree maintenance license where applicable. In cities where a tree maintenance license is required, this information can also be verified online.
  2. Ask to see the company’s general liability insurance.
  3. Ask if the arborist handling your project is certified by any professional tree care organizations. A listing of certified arborists from the most prominent organizations are also available online.
  4. Ask about the safety precautions the company will take during the project.
  5. Ask for the company’s professional references. A reputable company should be forthcoming about this.
  6. Ask about the company’s clean up procedure. You don’t want to be left with another problem after your initial one is taken care of.

At Merriman Tree & Stump we provide fully-insured tree care. We happily provide a copy of our Ohio Workman’s Compensation and Liability Insurance as well as customer reviews so our customers can have peace that we are the best choice for them. Your home and your safety are paramount – don’t settle for anything less!


Manual labor may be one of the most frequently employed methods of removing tree stumps from a property but it is, by no means, your only option. If you are able to dedicate an afternoon to burning away your stump or are patient enough to wait several weeks for chemicals to rot away your stump for you, there are alternative routes you can take aside from the extreme labor and sheer willpower it takes to remove a stump by hand.

If you’re looking for the route that saves you the most work and the most time, however, it’s time to hire a trusted tree care professional.

At Merriman Tree & Stump we provide tree stump removal that is available year-round, fully-insured, and affordable. We proudly provide Greater Cincinnati homeowners with all of the tree services they need including stump removal as well as tree pruning, insect treatment, and  other tree-related services. Have a question or need your tree stumps professionally removed? Call us at (513) 232-4822 and let all of your troubles melt – burn, or rot – away.