12 Ways To Remove A Tree Stump By Hand

Removing tree stumps by hand can be a more convenient method that saves you a lot of money and time. Without having to rely on costly machinery or other outsourced materials, there are plenty of ways that you can remove tree stumps using items that are around the house.

Make sure that you have dug around the stump in order to expose the roots so you’ll be able to remove every part of the stump without any risk of it growing back.

Bear in mind that larger tree stumps may need machinery or vehicles to pull it out whereas smaller stumps can be fully removed by hand by using various saws or a handyman jack.

In this guide, we’ll be taking you through some of the methods that you should learn about as well as the recommended tools that you should have on hand when you do it. We’ve concluded this article with an FAQ where we have answered those burning questions that you have.

We’ll be delving into methods that can be extremely tricky and may take a lot of strength to do. However, there are methods that are easier than others, especially if you are dealing with a smaller stump and will make the land suitable for renovating. It’s important to know that removing tree stumps by hand can be bad for the soil in the area.

This is because of how far down you need to dig in order to remove the stump and its roots and shoots so there is no chance of growth in the future. 

What tools you need

Before we delve into the various methods to remove the stumps by hand, you need to know what tools you may need. Here are just a few that are essential:

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

1. Bleach method

Using bleach is a method that isn’t really recommended as it is bad for the environment as well as being poisonous if a lot of it is inhaled by humans and local wildlife.

Another reason why using bleach to rot a stump may not work is because the bleach will kill fungi that helps to decompose the stump meaning that the stump will be sterilized but not necessarily kill it.

Bleach can be used to create a cool effect on the wooden surface if you want to incorporate the stump and make it into a table but if you are wanting to remove the stump then prevent using this method at all costs as it will cause more harm than good. 

2. Burn barrel method

Burning a tree stump is one of the most popular ways to kill the stump naturally and you can do this by using a metal drum. Simply cut out the bottom of the barrel and put it over the stump before adding your charcoal and other materials then set it alight.

Once you’ve done this, the stump should be dead. It may take a few fires to fully kill off the stump but it is easy to clean up afterwards as the ashes and dirt will be contained within the barrel.

Be sure to crush the remaining charcoal into the ground as this is the best fertilizer you can use for your soil and grass meaning that the land where the stump was will have a better chance of growing back successfully. 

3. Easy method

This method is the best choice for people who haven’t removed tree stumps before or are intimidated by any complexity. The first thing you need to do is make sure that you remove the grass and dirt that is around the stump.

How far you will have to dig is dependent on the size of the stump as well as how far deep it goes in the ground. It may only be a few inches if it is a smaller stump but you’ll be able to gage it. 

Once you have done this, you’ll be ready to cut the stump which can be done using a hand saw or chainsaw depending on your preference. However, bear in mind that a chainsaw may require a deeper hole due to the amount of power they have. On the other hand, using a hand saw means that the cutting process will take a lot longer.

If you find that it is harder to cut through the middle of the stump then you can use something like a sledgehammer to penetrate through the central structure. Once this is done, you can cover the remaining area with some sod and seeds which will then grow over where the stump was.

Equally, you could just leave it be and see what happens to the space without any further interference. As for the stump itself, what you do with it is entirely up to you. You can use the remains for firewood or recycle it into a DIY project if you love to make your own furniture. 

4. Epsom salt method

Epsom salt has become a highly popular method in recent years as it doesn’t take a lot of manpower to achieve. The way this method works is by freshly cutting the stump and drilling holes around the stump’s structure.

Once you have done this, fill the holes with Epsom salt and cover them with tarp and leave them for a few months before checking on the stump. This method can take a long period of time depending on what kind of tree you are dealing with so don’t worry if it takes a year or so until the stump actually dies.

What the Epsom salt is doing during this time is breaking down the cellular structure of the stump and draining it of its nutrients and resources thus slowing down the growing process and eventually giving it. 

5. Fire pit method

The fire pit method is as simple as it sounds. The way this one works is surrounding your stump with rocks and then setting the top of the stump on fire.

This is a great idea if you want to incorporate a campfire with the burning of the stump. After a period of time, you’ll find that the stump will be burned all the way until it is a pile of ashes but this may take a few fires. The rocks will stop the fire from spreading or becoming a hazard. 

6. High nitrogen fertilizer method

For those who want to take a chemical route to kill their stump, using high nitrogen fertilizer can rot the stump in a shorter period of time than other rotting methods. However, this is all dependent on what kind of tree you are dealing with and the size of the stump itself.

Where some trees may take weeks or months, others could take years. This is for the same reason as bleach as high nitrogen fertilizer kills the good fungi that helps the stump to decompose. 

7. Muriatic acid method

This method should be used as an extreme last resort due to the toxic nature of muriatic acid. This acid has the tendency to corrode through human tissue and can cause irreversible damage to the vital organs and skin.

The reason why it is important to know about this method is because it really is unadvised.

You may read some reviews on it and see what it doesn’t take long but it is extremely harmful to the environment as well as anything else that comes into contact with it meaning that the aesthetic of your garden will probably suffer as well as nothing will grow in its place. Just because you can use something doesn’t mean you should. 

8. Natural rotting method

If you want to rot your stump then there is no better way to do this than letting it rot naturally. One of the easiest methods on this list, simply place a lot of compost over the stump. Compost is full of fungi which decomposes the stump meaning that the more compost is covering the stump, the faster it will decompose.

This method takes a long time and can be as much as a year but bear in mind that this is the most natural method that causes no harm to the environment, humans or wildlife.

Some people even place a black plastic bag over the top of the stump in order to lock the compost in. You can even add some animal manure if you live near a farm which will further encourage the natural decomposition of the stump as well as ensuring that the earth around the stump remains as healthy as possible. 

9. Potassium nitrate method

Potassium nitrate is another chemical method that rots through the stump over a shorter period of time. However, the way this needs to be used is by drilling holes across the stump’s surface and filling it with some potassium nitrate solution and leaving it to rot through the cellular structure of the stump.

However, as with the other chemical methods, there is a high chance that the stump will simply be sterilized and may not actually die as the fungi that decomposes the stump will be killed by the potassium nitrate.

Another thing to bear in mind is that potassium nitrate is chemical and poisonous which makes it extremely hazardous for humans and wildlife to inhale as well as causing the area of the stump and around it to suffer badly and may stunt the growth of any replacement grass once you have removed the stump. 

10. Rocket stove method

The rocket stove method is pretty simple to set up for those who want to use their drills. Prepare the stump by drilling a large hole through the stump’s center as deep as you can before drilling holes that are connected to the center hole towards the bottom.

Once you have done this, pour some kerosene over the entire stump and set it on fire. If you have drilled the holes correctly, the stump will burn all the way through and down through the roots thus meaning that the whole thing has completely died and burned. Like other burning methods, this is a particularly great method if you are camping or want to incorporate it into a BBQ for the family. 

11. Swedish candle method

The last burning method that you need to know about is the Swedish candle way. The one thing you need to bear in mind is that the stump must be dry for this method to work. This is one of the most successful methods and is done by using a chainsaw to drill a pattern on the stump’s surface.

Light the top of the stump on fire and after a few hours, the stump should be completely gone. This is because the pattern engraved on the surface will encourage the flames to travel down the stump and through the roots thus burning through the entire structure of the stump. This is a great method if you are going camping and want a fire that will last for a long time as well as doubling up as a great method for removing stumps. 

12. Traditional method

The traditional method is a brilliant choice who have a tremendous amount of strength and want to follow the old fashioned way to remove tree stumps. First, you need to dig to expose those roots that are surrounding the stump.

What you use it entirely up to you so you could use a shovel, a digging bar or a pick. Make sure you dig as deep and wide until all roots are clearly visible. Using a hand saw or ax, cut through the roots until you are certain that the stump isn’t held down by any roots.

If there are still roots underneath the cut roots then dig them up and cut through them. The next stage is the pulling process in which you can use a digging bar or a vehicle to pull the stump out of the ground.

As it isn’t connected to any roots at all, this shouldn’t take too long but if you are using a manual method, it will require a lot more work and strength so make sure you are capable of handling the job properly and safely before attempting in order to prevent injury.

Once the stump has been removed, you can choose whether to replace the dirt or leave the area as it is and see how well it naturally recovers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fastest way to get rid of a tree stump?

The fastest ways to get rid of tree stumps tend to be the ones that are bad for the environment and dangerous for humans and wildlife to inhale.

This is because chemicals can run through the tree stump’s structure quickly although there is a high chance that the stump will simply be sterilized and may not actually die so further methods may need to be applied in order to promote the decomposition. 

Will bleach kill a tree stump?

As mentioned in this article, bleach is an ineffective killer of tree stumps as it simply sterilizes the tree stump rather than actively killing it. This is because it doesn’t penetrate the deep cellular levels of the tree stump’s system so it may reduce the rate of growth but this won’t prevent any further shoots and roots from growing.

Bleach is also dangerous to use and is bad for the environment so it is not a method that we would recommend using anyway. 

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

The effectiveness of Epsom salt depends on how well you have drilled the holes and made sure that you have put enough salt in the holes to ensure that the nutrients and structure of the stump are decomposing.

Ideally, Epsom salt should take between eight to ten weeks to fully kill the tree stump but this is dependent on what kind of tree you are dealing with and the size and thickness of the stump so don’t be surprised if it takes a little longer. 

Conclusion

Although some of these methods are not advised and some shouldn’t even be considered, it is best that you know about all of them so you can make a fully informed decision for yourself.

Knowing the health and safety hazards involved with killing a tree stump yourself is also essential and if you are planning to burn your tree stump, make sure you have contacted the local fire authority beforehand so they can be on hand should you need them at any point.

Knowing how to remove tree stumps by hand means that you can take a more affordable route that is friendlier for the environment while also ensuring that there is limited damage and risk to your land and to yourself.