How to Destroy Tree Stumps

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Tree stumps can be eyesores and obstacles on an otherwise attractive, well-maintained piece of property. Grinding, burning, digging or chopping out tree stumps are all somewhat effective, but these approaches can be costly, complicated or labor-intensive. The easiest and most thorough way to destroy unwanted tree stumps is simply to let the natural process of decomposition take its course. Unfortunately, this can take many years, but you can use an inexpensive, widely available chemical product---stump remover---to speed up this process of destruction.

Things You'll Need

  • Power drill
  • Drill bit (1-inch diameter, 12 inches or more long)
  • Stump remover (potassium nitrate)
  • Water
  • Mattock, axe or spade
  • Chainsaw or hand saw (optional)
  • Cut stump. If possible, use a chainsaw or hand saw to trim the stump as low to the ground as possible. This will reduce the amount of wood the stump remover needs to permeate, allowing it to take effect faster.

  • Drill holes. Drill numerous 1-inch vertical holes down into the top of the stump. Aim to make each hole roughly 12 inches deep, and place each one a few inches away from the stump's rim. If your stump is tall enough, drill additional holes into the side of the stump diagonally downward. Try to drill at a 45-degree angle and connect to the vertical holes. This will let more air, water and stump remover circulate through the body of the stump.

  • Insert stump remover. Into each vertical hole, pour 4 ounces of stump remover. Then, pour water into each hole until it is full.

  • Let the chemicals work. Stump remover typically takes a few weeks to achieve its full effect. Check on the stump periodically, and before long you should be able to see visible, tangible signs of advanced decay.

  • Destroy stump. Once the wood is rotten and soft enough, you should be able to break up the stump with a mattock, axe or shovel fairly easily. You can then leave the stump fragments in place to decay further and eventually disappear, or you can chop up, haul away or burn the broken pieces.

Tips & Warnings

  • These steps represent an all-purpose approach to destroying stumps. If your stump remover product includes more specific instructions, carefully follow them for best results.
  • When using a chainsaw on stumps, be careful not to cut into the dirt. It can be tempting to power through roots and all, but few things can ruin a chainsaw blade more quickly than clogging it up with dirt or mud.
  • If you choose to burn the remains of your stump, use fuel oil or kerosene (never gasoline), and be very careful. Your stump is likely to burn slowly for days, so be sure there is no flammable material (such as sticks or leaves) nearby, place a protective barrier and warning signs around the smoldering stump and check on it regularly until the fire is completely out.

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