If you don’t want to or can’t afford to grind a stump, manual removal may be easier if the root has aged and dried up. The dried wood may be easier to remove if you leave the stump in place for a year or two.

You still have choices. With the help of commercially made stump remover products, you could remove the stump manually, chemically, or even burn it off. Your method will be influenced by the size and age of the stumps and your strength and ability. This article will show you how to remove a tree stump without using a grinder!

Safety first

Any DIY project at home will always involve some risk, so invest in the necessary safety equipment and only do it if you have the necessary tools. Steel-toed boots, eye protection, and work gloves are essential at a minimum. Also, you should keep children and pets away from the work area while it is being done. 

When should a tree stump be removed?

You can remove a tree stump at any time after the tree has been felled; however, hand removal is sometimes easier if the stump has aged and dried up.

If you leave the stump in situ for a year or perhaps two, the dried wood could be easier to cut out than working on a new, green stump. On the other hand, chemical removal should start immediately after the tree is removed.

Before getting started

A small to the medium-sized stump can be removed with plain old-fashioned muscle power. On the other hand, larger stumps can take so much effort that it’s not practical—unless you can drag it out of the ground with a chain hooked to the back of a pickup.

Use the chemical procedure instead for larger stumps. Click here for the best tree stump killers.

A hatchet, which has a large end for digging and a pointy end for slicing, is handy for manual removal.

Everyone has their preferred tools; the more diverse your digging and cutting equipment is, the better. You may want to solicit the assistance of a helper or two for larger stumps to expedite the work.

There is an easier—though much slower—method for people who are not up to the physical effort or have a tree stump that is too enormous to remove by hand. But, of course, all wood ultimately decays and rots away.

Still, you may speed up the process by leaving the stump moist and applying nitrogen as a high-nitrogen fertilizer or potassium nitrate stump-remover granules. This is not a quick process—it can take months or even a year or two before a stump disappears—but it is easy.

A powdered tree stump removal solution called “Stump-Out” is supposed to break down the wood fiber of stumps, rendering them porous. The porous wood then readily absorbs kerosene.

When porous wood is drenched in kerosene and fired, it starts to burn away, and the fire quickly becomes a low, smoldering flame. If using kerosene and a flame is acceptable to you (and permitted in your community), this is another inexpensive and simple method of removing a tree stump.

Large tree stumps can be difficult to remove. Consult your local waste disposal authorities for details on how and where to dispose of large yard waste items. 

How to remove a tree stump manually

Recommended tools to use

  • Reciprocating saw
  • Sledgehammer
  • Tow strap
  • Hand saw
  • Chainsaw
  • Digging bar
  • Handyman Jack
  • Shovel 

1. Dig down around the stump

With a hatchet’s broad end, dig around the stump. After you’ve loosened the dirt in this manner, shovel it out of the way. Be prepared to remove a lot of soil. The larger the stump, the more earth you’ll have to move. This is needed to access all of the roots that need to be cut.

When hand-digging out a stump, a hose or pressure washer can be useful for washing away dirt and exposing roots as you dig lower.

2. Sever visible roots

Start chopping your way through the tree roots with the opposite end of the hatchet. You can also use a bow saw to sever the roots as you expose them.

3. Exposed taproot 

Dig and chop your way beneath the root ball to the taproot. Taproots will be thick enough to necessitate cutting with a large bow saw or an ax for all but the tiniest trees. Before cutting, use a moist rag to remove excess dirt from the taproot.

4. Sever the taproot

Cut through the taproot with an ax or a bow saw. Before swinging the ax, ensure the area is free of people, pets, and objects. Aim the ax cautiously not to strike soil (which would dull the blade). When wielding an ax, always wear steel-toed boots.

5. Extract the stump

Take the stump out of the hole. To drag a large stump from the ground, you may need to use ropes or chains, as well as the support of helpers or a truck.

How to get rid of a tree stump chemically

1. Cut stump to ground level

Cut the stump down as near to the ground as possible with a chain saw or bow saw, taking care not to let the chain saw’s teeth strike the ground (this will dull your chain). For this aspect of the task, you should wear steel-toed boots.

2. Drill holes and apply chemical

Drill several holes a few inches deep into the stump with the largest, broadest drill bit you have. The greater the width and depth of the holes, the better. Fill these holes with water first, then with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer or stump-remover granules.

Warning: Because potassium nitrate is hazardous, use caution when using potassium nitrate stump-remover granules. 

3. Soak the stump in water and cover it

Soak the earth around the stump with water. Next, wrap a plastic tarp around the stump. The tarp will act as a barrier, allowing moisture to be retained in and around the stump. Moisture is a valuable ally to have on your team for this project.

Cover the plastic tarp with organic mulch and properly water it. Organic mulch will hold more moisture than tree bark or hay, making the environment even wetter. Wet mulch is also heavy, which will help weigh down the tarp and keep it from blowing away. Roll some big stones onto the tarp to provide weight. The mulch also helps in concealing the tarp from public view.

The tree stump will be unnoticeable as it rots away if it is covered with mulch. You can also cover the mulched area with potted plants and container gardens.

4. Tend the stump while it decomposes

In the next weeks, remove the mulch and tarp and administer extra water and nitrogen to the stump before covering it again. Again, patience is important here, as it may take some time for the stump to rot away completely. However, the decay process will be faster than in nature.

5. Take out the pieces

Following 4 to 6 weeks, the stump may have softened and spongy enough to be broken apart with an ax. Whichever wood cannot be split up and removed should be treated with water and nitrogen. You can sometimes bury what is left and let it decompose underground.

How to get rid of a stump by burning it

Drill holes and apply chemical

Drill holes into the stump using a big bit and a drill. Apply Stump Out chemical grains to the holes, then fill them with water. Allow 4 – 6 weeks for the chemical to take effect.

The more porous the stump, the more kerosine will be absorbed and burned for longer.

Soak in kerosine.

Pour kerosine slowly over the stump, taking care not to let it run off and pool on the ground. Allow the kerosine to soak in for a few minutes. Never burn a stump with gasoline or motor oil—gasoline is highly explosive, and motor oil emits toxic fumes when burned.

Tend the fire

Ignite the stump and keep a safe distance away as it burns. Note that the stump may continue to smoke underground for a long time, so put up barricades to keep people and animals from stepping over the embers.

Warning: Before using this method, check your local community rules prohibiting open burning. While open burning of stumps is often permitted in rural regions, it is not always permitted in urban and suburban areas.

Removing a tree stump with Epsom salt

If you’re not in a rush, this is a widely available, low-cost alternative, and the process is identical to rotting the stump.

  • Drill many holes into the top of the stump, just as you would when decomposing a tree stump with chemicals.
  • Fill the holes with Epsom salt or rock salt to the top.
  • Pour in enough water to wet the salt, but not so much that it overflows.
  • A tarp or plastic bag should be used to protect the stump.

Check the stump every 3-4 weeks and repeat until the stub dies.

How long does it take Epsom salt to kill a stump?

The length of time it takes for Epsom salt to destroy a stump varies on the size and type of tree, but you should expect it to work within six months. However, a huge stump could take up to a year to decompose.

Using rock salt to remove a tree stump

Rock salt, like Epsom salt, can help destroy and rot a stump with minimal effort. Here’s how to use rock salt to kill a tree stump:

  1. Drill holes into the stump.
  2. Rock salt should be used to fill the holes.
  3. Pour soil and mulch over the stump once all holes have been sealed and the stump has been covered in salt.
  4. Then, pour water over the mulch to dissolve the salt, help in root absorption, and pack the soil.

Water the stump every few days for one to two months to keep it wet with the saltwater solution, boosting absorption and the growth of fungus that can speed up the decomposition of the stump. You can also use a potassium nitrate fertilizer to help the fungi thrive.

Using a tarp or a plastic bag

Forcing darkness on a tree stump is probably the easiest way to kill it. However, the tree stump will die if not exposed to sunshine, hastening the disintegration process. Rotting should start within two to three months.

Here’s how to use a plastic bag or tarp to kill a tree stump:

  1. First, cut the stump near the roots as feasible with a chainsaw, hatchet, or handsaw, as with other ways.
  2. Wrap a black trash bag around the stump.
  3. Weigh down the bag with big rocks or bricks. To cover a smaller stump, use a dark-colored bucket or container.

This procedure needs little to no effort. However, it is slower than physical removal methods.

By boiling water

You don’t need to buy any substances or solutions; all you need is hot water.

  1. Expose the stump’s root structure as much as you can.
  2. Drill holes into the roots and on top of the stump to allow the scalding water to reach as much of the root system as possible and heat the roots to death.
  3. Pour boiling water over all of the exposed roots. The heat from the water will shock the root system, causing serious damage and death.

The natural decomposition process can start after the stump and roots are dead.

What to avoid when getting rid of tree stumps

To guarantee safety and effectiveness, consider the following factors while removing or destroying tree stumps:

Bleach—When poured over a stump in large quantities, you can use bleach to kill it, but we urge avoiding this procedure because it can be harmful to the surrounding plants. It would be far healthier for your yard’s ecosystem to employ a more natural method, such as Epsom salt, which can benefit plants and soil.

Diesel fuel– Avoid using gasoline or diesel fuel to burn tree trunks because these solutions do not provide the slow, efficient burn required to break down the wood properly. In addition, diesel fuel and gasoline can be hazardous to the plants in your yard. Instead, we recommend using as little kerosene and kindling wood as possible for your stump fires.

Potential hazards—Even if your city permits stump burning, monitor and maintain the fire until it is completely extinguished to prevent it from spreading outside the limited area. When operating tree removal equipment, like a stump grinder or chainsaw, you should also take measures and wear the appropriate protective clothing.

Proximity to other plants—If your stump is near plants you want to protect, use caution when applying chemicals to the stump and keep them away from nearby plants. For example, while magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt might benefit plants, too much of it will dry them out.

A final word

Both stump removal and stump grinding have advantages and disadvantages. Choosing which option is ideal for you is mostly determined by your landscaping designs and the amount and size of stumps you wish to remove.

Consider your expertise with the many tools required. Manual removal is less expensive, but it takes a lot of time. It should also be noted that if you’re doing the job yourself, you will have to consider getting rid of all the wood and debris produced during the process.

Some manual removal procedures involve patience and may take longer than you can wait if you need to use the area for an upcoming event.