Can we remove a tree without removing the stump? Can I remove stumps myself? When to call a professional?

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Can we remove a tree without removing the stump? Can I remove stumps myself? When to call a professional?

Removing tree stumps can be quite a challenge and take up a lot of time. You could try doing it on your own, but there are times when it’s just better to get help from the pros.

This article will go through different ways to remove stumps by yourself, the tools you’ll need, and the step-by-step process for each method. It will also explain when it’s best to call in a professional. By understanding the pros and cons of doing it yourself versus hiring professional services, you can make a decision that works best for you.

Can we remove a tree without removing the stump?

Removing a tree without removing the stump is a common practice for various reasons, including cost-saving, time constraints, and the potential benefits of leaving the stump in place. Here’s an easy-to-understand explanation of why and how this can be done.

Why Remove a Tree but Leave the Stump?

  1. Cost Efficiency: Stump removal can be expensive. It often requires specialized equipment and additional labour, making the overall cost significantly higher than just cutting down the tree.
  2. Time-Saving: Removing a tree is relatively quick compared to the more labour-intensive process of removing a stump. If you need the tree gone quickly, but the stump isn’t an immediate problem, leaving it can be a practical solution.
  3. Environmental Benefits: Stumps can provide habitats for various organisms. Insects, birds, and small mammals might use the stump for shelter. Additionally, as the stump decays, it can enrich the soil with organic matter.
  4. Erosion Control: In areas prone to soil erosion, the root system of the stump can help stabilize the soil. This can be particularly beneficial on slopes or near water bodies where soil retention is crucial.

How to Remove a Tree Without Removing the Stump

  1. Cutting Down the Tree: The first step is to safely cut down the tree. This involves removing the branches and then cutting the trunk. It’s important to ensure safety during this process, as falling branches and trunks can cause damage or injury.
  2. Tree Felling: Depending on the size of the tree and its location, felling can be done in sections. This means cutting the tree down piece by piece, starting from the top, especially in urban areas or near structures.
  3. Safety Precautions: Use protective gear, including helmets, gloves, and eye protection. It’s also wise to use ropes and harnesses if you’re working at height or in challenging positions.
  4. Using a Chainsaw: For the final cut near the stump, a chainsaw is typically used. Cut the tree as close to the ground as possible to minimize the height of the remaining stump.
Uprooted trees litter streets after hurricane using with skid steer tractor assisted for cleaning up street

Dealing with the Remaining Stump

  1. Natural Decay: One option is to let the stump decay naturally. This process can take several years, but it’s the least labour-intensive and environmentally friendly method. Over time, fungi and bacteria will break down the wood.
  2. Chemical Stump Removal: There are chemicals available that can accelerate the decomposition of the stump. These chemicals are applied to the stump, where they break down the wood fibres, speeding up the rotting process. This method, however, involves handling chemicals and might not be suitable for all environments.
  3. Camouflage and Landscaping: Some people choose to incorporate the stump into their landscaping. You can hollow out the top and use it as a planter, or place decorative items on it. This turns an eyesore into a feature of your garden.
  4. Grinding: If partial removal is necessary, stump grinding is an effective method. A stump grinder can reduce the stump to wood chips, which can then be used as mulch. This method, while not removing the entire root system, reduces the visibility and height of the stump.

Considerations and Limitations

  1. Regrowth: Some tree species can sprout new growth from the stump. If this is undesirable, you may need to apply herbicides or regularly trim the new shoots.
  2. Pests: A decaying stump can attract pests such as termites, which might pose a risk to nearby structures. Regular monitoring is necessary to prevent infestations.
  3. Aesthetic and Practical Issues: Stumps can be unsightly or inconvenient, especially in areas used for activities or where landscaping aesthetics are important.

While it’s entirely feasible to remove a tree without removing the stump, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons based on your specific situation. Consider the environmental impact, costs, and future plans for the area where the tree once stood.

Can I remove stumps myself?

Yes, you can remove stumps yourself, but the method you choose will depend on the size of the stump, your budget, and the tools you have available. Here’s a detailed guide on how to do it safely and effectively:

Methods for Removing Tree Stumps

1. Manual Removal

Best for: Small to medium-sized stumps.

Tools Needed:

  • Shovel
  • Mattock (a tool similar to a pickaxe)
  • Axe or saw
  • Chainsaw (optional)
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Safety glasses


  1. Dig Around the Stump: Use a shovel to dig around the stump, exposing the roots.
  2. Cut the Roots: Use a mattock, axe, or saw to cut through the roots. Start with the smaller roots and progress to the larger ones.
  3. Rock the Stump: Wiggle and rock the stump back and forth to loosen it. Continue cutting roots as needed.
  4. Pull Out the Stump: Once the stump is sufficiently loosened, pull it out of the ground. You might need help if the stump is heavy.

2. Stump Grinding

Best for: Large stumps or when you want to remove the stump quickly.

Tools Needed:

  • Stump grinder (can be rented)
  • Chainsaw (for trimming the stump close to the ground)
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection


  1. Trim the Stump: Use a chainsaw to cut the stump as close to the ground as possible.
  2. Prepare the Grinder: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using the stump grinder.
  3. Grind the Stump: Position the grinder over the stump and start grinding. Move the grinder back and forth across the stump, gradually grinding it down to below ground level.
  4. Clean Up: Collect the wood chips and fill the hole with soil or mulch.

3. Chemical Removal

Best for: When you have time and prefer a less labor-intensive method.

Tools Needed:

  • Drill with a large bit
  • Potassium nitrate or other stump removal chemicals
  • Water
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Safety glasses


  1. Drill Holes: Drill several holes into the top of the stump, making them as deep as possible.
  2. Apply Chemicals: Pour the stump removal chemical into the holes, following the product instructions.
  3. Add Water: Fill the holes with water to activate the chemicals.
  4. Wait: Allow the chemicals to work. This process can take several weeks to several months.
  5. Remove the Stump: After the stump has softened, you can break it apart with an axe or shovel and remove the pieces.

4. Burning the Stump

Best for: Stumps in open areas where fire safety can be ensured.

Tools Needed:

  • Drill with a large bit
  • Kerosene or fuel oil (not gasoline)
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Fire extinguisher or garden hose (for safety)


  1. Drill Holes: Drill several holes into the stump to allow the fuel to soak in.
  2. Apply Fuel: Pour kerosene or fuel oil into the holes.
  3. Wait: Let the fuel soak into the wood for a day or two.
  4. Burn the Stump: Light the stump on fire, ensuring all safety precautions are in place. Monitor the fire until the stump is completely burned.

Safety Precautions

  • Wear Protective Gear: Always wear heavy-duty gloves, safety glasses, and appropriate clothing.
  • Follow Instructions: If using a stump grinder or chemicals, follow all manufacturer instructions carefully.
  • Fire Safety: If burning the stump, have a fire extinguisher or garden hose ready in case of emergencies.
  • Check Regulations: Ensure you comply with local regulations regarding stump removal and burning.

Removing a tree stump yourself is possible with the right tools and methods. Whether you choose manual removal, stump grinding, chemical treatments, or burning, each method has its pros and cons. Assess the size of the stump, your budget, and the time you can dedicate to the task to choose the best method for your situation. Remember to prioritize safety throughout the process.

Utilizing skid steer tractor to remove roots and clear land for housing complex construction

When I should call the professional instead of DIY?

Deciding whether to call a professional or attempt a DIY stump removal depends on several factors, including the size and type of the stump, your experience and equipment, and the complexity of the task. Here are some situations where calling a professional might be the better option:

When to Call a Professional

1. Large or Complex Stumps

Situation: If the stump is very large or the tree species has an extensive root system, removing it manually can be extremely difficult and time-consuming.

Reason: A professional such as Lakeside Trees and Stumps has specialized equipment like heavy-duty stump grinders and excavators that can handle large stumps efficiently.

2. Multiple Stumps

Situation: If you have multiple stumps to remove, the job becomes much more labour-intensive.

Reason: A professional service can handle multiple stumps more quickly and effectively, often offering package deals that make the process more economical.

3. Proximity to Structures

Situation: When a stump is close to buildings, fences, underground utilities, or other structures, removing it without causing damage requires expertise.

Reason: Professionals have the experience to navigate these risks and ensure the stump is removed safely without damaging nearby structures.

4. Lack of Equipment

Situation: Stump removal requires specific tools like stump grinders, chainsaws, and sometimes heavy machinery.

Reason: If you don’t have access to these tools and renting them is impractical or too expensive, hiring a professional is a cost-effective and practical solution.

5. Limited Time or Physical Capability

Situation: Stump removal is physically demanding and time-consuming work.

Reason: If you have limited time, physical restrictions, or other commitments, a professional can complete the job quickly and efficiently, saving you time and effort.

6. Safety Concerns

Situation: Handling heavy machinery and tools, or dealing with potentially hazardous chemicals, requires proper safety precautions and experience.

Reason: Professionals are trained to handle these tools safely and can mitigate risks, reducing the chance of injury or accidents.

7. Need for Complete Removal

Situation: If you require the complete removal of both the stump and the roots to prepare the ground for construction, landscaping, or replanting.

Reason: Professionals can ensure thorough removal, including deep root systems, which is essential for certain projects.

Benefits of Hiring a Professional

  1. Expertise and Experience: Professionals have the knowledge and skills to handle various types of stumps and removal scenarios efficiently.
  2. Specialized Equipment: They have access to specialized equipment that can make the removal process quicker and more thorough.
  3. Time-Saving: A professional service can complete the job in a fraction of the time it would take for a DIY approach, especially for large or difficult stumps.
  4. Safety: Professionals follow safety protocols to prevent accidents and ensure the job is done without causing harm to people or property.
  5. Disposal: They often handle the disposal of the stump and debris, saving you the hassle of dealing with it yourself.

When DIY Might Be Appropriate

  • Small Stumps: For smaller stumps, DIY methods like manual removal, chemical treatments, or burning can be manageable.
  • Budget Constraints: If hiring a professional is cost-prohibitive and the stump is not too large or complex, DIY might be the best option.
  • Personal Experience: If you have experience with similar tasks and the necessary equipment, DIY can be a feasible choice.

While DIY stump removal is possible, certain situations clearly warrant professional intervention. Large stumps, multiple stumps, proximity to structures, lack of equipment, time constraints, safety concerns, and the need for complete removal are all compelling reasons to hire a professional like Lakeside Trees and Stumps. Weighing these factors carefully will help you decide the best approach for your stump removal needs.

In conclusion

Whether you choose to remove a tree stump yourself or hire a professional depends on various factors such as the size and complexity of the stump, your available tools and experience, and the specific requirements of the job. DIY methods can be effective for smaller stumps or for those looking to save money, provided you have the right equipment and time.

However, for large, complex stumps, or when safety and proximity to structures are concerns, professional services offer expertise, efficiency, and peace of mind. Carefully assessing your situation and weighing the benefits of each approach will help ensure successful stump removal, leaving your landscape ready for future plans.

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