Tree stumps that remain after a tree has been removed might be difficult to remove. However, there are alternative ways to remove a stump if you don’t want to grind it. Burning a stump out of the ground is one of the most common techniques to get rid of a stump. 

While preparing the stump for burning may take some time, stump removal does not involve much physical work and maybe a viable alternative to professional removal services.

What you’ll need to burn a stump

  • To drill holes, use a one-inch spade bit or another wood-boring bit.
  • Bit extender of eight to ten inches of Saltpeter or potassium nitrate with a funnel
  • Garden spade or plastic scoop
  • A bucket of boiling water 
  • A funnel or a cup with a spout 
  • Dry scrap wood
  • Matches or a fire-starting device

Safety cautions

tree stump that turned into black coal after a dangerous forest fire. burnt wood texture close-up

Burning away an old tree trunk with fire may be a hazardous task. So before you start, check with your local fire department about open burning and any limitations imposed by drought conditions. 

Because potassium nitrate is a known explosive, it should be kept in a secure area. If you encounter fire difficulties, keep a garden hose with the water turned on nearby. Alternatively, have at least three huge buckets of water handy.

Examine the weather forecast as well as the calendar. Even if it is legal to set fires to clear tree stumps in your location, you must check that the weather conditions are suitable. For example, blustery, windy days provide many risks for such a tree removal procedure.

Prepare the tree stump.

The tree stump should be dry or dead timber for best results. Before attempting to fire, allow at least 12-18 months for the wood to dry. Get the stump as near to the ground as possible with a chainsaw.

Removing all flammable debris from the area around the stump, such as dead leaves, rubbish, or anything else combustible, would be beneficial. Make sure there are at least 3 feet of clear space around the stump’s base. Place pebbles or bricks in a circle around the stump to function as a containment line.

Creating a flammable stump

Tree stump close up in a coniferous forest

Dig down around the stump with a shovel to expose as much of it as possible. Drill holes all over the top of the stump, around the base, and into the roots with a drill with a 1-inch spade bit eight to twelve inches long, pressing the drill bit as deep as possible. 

Using a stump remover, fill each hole. Fill each hole with potassium nitrate using the funnel on the potassium nitrate bottle after all your holes are in the stump. To dissolve the saltpeter, pour hot water into the perforations.

The heated water will help disperse the saltpeter throughout the stump, softening the wood. Allow the liquid to enter the stump from the perforations, so leave it alone for a few weeks. Next, pour some kerosene over the stump and into the holes once the saltpeter has been absorbed into the wood and let it sit for a few weeks. You’re ready to light the tree stump on fire once the kerosene has soaked through the wood.

Getting the stump fire started and keeping it going 

burnt wood texture.  a pine stump that turned into black coal after a dangerous forest fire

Place waste wood or kindling on top of the stump, or arrange the scraps in a cone form around the stump. When the burn begins, ensure air pockets allow air to flow and fan the flames. Allow the scrap wood to start the stump ablaze and stand aside to watch it burn. 

If required, keep adding additional wood to the burning stump. Allow a few hours for the stump to completely burn down to ash. There will be smoke and flaming embers, so be prepared.

Give it some time

The wood from a tree stump is usually denser than the wood from the branches. The burn can take anything from a few hours to all day, depending on the size and age of the stump, the degree of potassium nitrate saturation, and how frequently you stoke the fire.

When you’re through, properly extinguish the embers

A burnt stump on the background of green grass after a forest fire. Copy the space.

Your duty isn’t done yet as the stump dissolves into blazing flames. The embers may continue to burn for several days, if not a week. Keep an eye on things and stir the flames now and then. Fill the hole with your desired soil after you’re sure the fire is out. It’s time to seed the stump if it’s in a grassy area.

Wood and charcoal

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for burning a tree stump. To light the stump on fire, you may use charcoal and fuel. It will be required to prune the trees here so that the stump does not protrude too much above the ground. As close to the ground as possible, I saw the stump. 

Surround the tree stump with charcoal and firewood, and let the mixture burn hot enough to catch fire. Another approach is to burn the tree stump with a steel drum and charcoal. To install the drum over the stump, tree pruning will be required once again. 

The drum increases the heat and aids in the burning of the charcoal. Next, make several cross hashes in the stump with a chainsaw and fill the holes with kerosene. The usage of a charcoal chimney is advantageous in this situation. 

Newspapers go in one end of the charcoal chimney, while the charcoal goes in the other. Light the newspaper at the bottom of the charcoal chimney and place it on the stump. With the charcoal chimney, you may utilize a sheet metal duct. 

Wear gloves and have some long-handled tongs on standby in case you need to move the charcoal around. Once the fire is going, you may cover the charcoal chimney with a metal drum to keep the heat in.

Stumps burnt trees after a fire .

Benefits of burning a tree stump

Fire is a powerful tool for destroying wood. It may turn a stump into ashes, requiring a minor cleanup. While preparing the stump for burning may take some time, it does not necessitate a lot of physical exertion. 

Other options to remove a tree stump without a grinder, such as digging out the stump, require much more effort. Burning a stump is also a faster means of removing it than other ways. Chemical stump removers, for example, require time to damage the wood until it begins to break down. It burns relatively fast when exposed to fire.

Alternatively, you can use a chemical tree stump killer, be sure to read the labels if you have any flowers or grass that you don’t want to be killed along with the stump.

Drawbacks of burning a tree stump

It’s not always easy to burn out a tree stump. To begin, you’ll need to wait for the stump to lose its natural moisture once the tree has been cut down. You should also burn the wood when it is dry and not moist from weather circumstances like rain. 

You also cannot guarantee that a single burn will eradicate the stump completely. A fire can take days to break down certain stumps, and you may require several attempts to remove the entire thing.

Burning has both environmental and safety implications. Smoke is unpleasant to live with and may impact your neighbors. You must also ensure that the fire remains contained within the stump. If the stump is close to a fence, for example, a burn-out is a dangerous procedure. The fence may be harmed by smoke or even caught in the light from sparks. Or, it may be illegal to burn a fire in your backyard.

There may also be some damage to the grass or ground surrounding the stump. It’s gone if the grass in the vicinity burns. You may have to reseed or turf portions of your lawn, or you may have to live with an unattractive burnt spot.


How long will the stump take to burn?

You’ll need to stay close by because the process can take anything from 12 hours to several days. Keep an eye on it since the fire might spread to surrounding structures or forests if left unattended.

Is it possible to kill a tree stump by burning it?

Yes, a tree stump may be killed by burning it. However, it will also prevent the tree from growing back, making it an excellent choice for tree species that send up shoots from stumps even after the tree has been destroyed.

Final words

Burning tree stumps may appear to be a lengthy procedure, yet it does not need much physical exertion. It’s a great substitute for professional stump removal. You’ll need to prepare the stump thoroughly, then let it be for a time before igniting it. 

While burning a stump is reasonably safe, you must use caution. Make sure it’s safe and legal, and if you need permission, make sure you receive one before you begin. Also, ensure the weather isn’t too windy, and have water on hand in case the fire gets out of hand. Best of luck!