How to Remove a Tree Stump Painlessly

Use potassium nitrate stump remover to decompose old stumps.

This article shows you how to remove a tree stump without breaking your back. This method is safe and effective, and doesn't require a lot of manual labor. But you have to be patient. The process can take several weeks.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

TIME

Multi-day

COMPLEXITY

Super Simple!

COST

Under $20

How to remove a tree stump

You can remove a stump by renting a power stump grinder, but another way is to buy a can of stump remover (available at most garden or home centers). Most brands are made of powdered potassium nitrate, which speeds up the rotting process. You simply pour the granules into drilled holes and fill the holes with water. The stump will become pretty spongy after four to six weeks. Keep kids and pets away. Then you can break out the rotten wood with an ax.

For a completely labor-free removal, the manufacturers of stump remover suggest burning out what's left of the stump by pouring kerosene or fuel oil (never gasoline) into the holes. Wait until the liquid completely penetrates the wood (this could take a few weeks). Then drop a match into the holes to start the burning process. The stump will smolder for days, eventually leaving a charcoal-filled hole. It's dangerous having a giant, smoldering ember in your yard, so some precautions are in order. Envelop the stump in chicken wire, remove all leaves from the vicinity before ignition and keep an eye on it!

We suggest the ax method for finishing the job. Stump removers work only on seasoned (older) stumps that have been dead for a year or so, not freshly cut tree stumps.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Corded drill
  • Extension cord
  • 12 in. bit extension
  • Safety glasses

You can use a drill/driver instead of a corded drill. A 1 in. spade bit is recommended, but you can use a slightly larger or smaller one, if that's all you have

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Stump remover