How to Remove a Tree Stump Painlessly

Updated: Apr. 18, 2023

Need to know how to tackle tree stump removal? Follow this step-by-step strategy to make it simple and painless.

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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.

Tools Required

  • 12 in. bit extension
  • Ax
  • Corded drill
  • Extension cord
  • Safety glasses
  • Stump remover (optional)

Materials Required

  • Stump remover chemicals
  • Water

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Drill Holes in the Stump

  • Cut off as much of the top of the stump as possible with your chainsaw.
  • Use a 1-inch spade bit with a spade bit extension to drill evenly spaced holes roughly every 6 to 8 inches around the perimeter of the stump. Make the holes about 12 inches deep and three to four inches back from the edge.
  • Drill more holes three to four inches down from the rim at a 45-degree angle to connect with the first holes. Be sure the angle of the lower intersecting holes is above horizontal and they meet the vertical holes at a point well above 12-inches. This ensures the chemicals you’re about to pour in from the top don’t dribble out on the ground.
    • Pro tip: The bottom angled holes will acts as vents for burning, or help the rotting process.

Drilling holes in a tree stumpFamily Handyman

Step 2

Pour Tree Stump Removal Chemicals into the Holes

  • Pour 3 to 4 ounces of tree stump removal chemicals into each of the holes in granule form, then fill the holes with water so the chemicals can soak in.
  • Wait 4 to 6 weeks for the chemicals to accelerate the rotting process in the stump. You’ll know this has happened when the stump becomes soft and spongey.
  • Break out the rotten wood with a sharpened felling ax.

Pouring chemicals into a tree stumpFamily Handyman

Step 3

Try a Power Stump Grinder

Step 4

Get rid of the tree roots

  • For a completely labor-free removal, some manufacturers of tree stump removal chemicals 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.
    • Pro tip: 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! If the stumps in a spot you can reach with a garden hose, stand by ready to spray things down if the fire shows any signs of spreading.
  • Finish the job with an ax if you’re concerned about safety. Keep in mind, manual tree stump removal works only on seasoned (older) stumps that have been dead for a year or so, not freshly cut tree stumps.