How to Run a Stump Grinder


A yard full of mature trees is a good thing until one of those trees dies or becomes diseased. If you decide to remove those trees yourself, find a partner and get good equipment. Once you've cut the tree as closely to the ground as possible, you'll need to remove the stump. Hand dig small tree stumps, but remove larger stumps with a stump grinder. These gasoline-powered machines have a toothed wheel vertically attached to an engine. The teeth of the wheel grind the stump, reducing the wood to mulch.

Step 1

Remove any rocks or debris from around the tree stump. As the stump grinder works, it throws rocks and wood chips into the air, creating a potential hazard.

Step 2

Move the stump grinder to within 1 foot of the tree. Start the engine by turning the ignition switch. Lower the handle so the grinding wheel is in contact with the stump. Slowly move the handle bars from left to right in a back and forth motion. The grinding wheel will grind the stump about 1/2 inch with each pass.

Step 3

Raise the handle to lower the wheel and move forward to keep the wheel on the stump. Continue moving the wheel across the stump until it is completely ground 6 to 12 inches below the soil's surface.

Step 4

Dig out any remaining pieces of wood from large tree stumps with a shovel and discard. Rake and remove the mulch. Backfill the remaining hole with soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Stump grinders are dangerous. Wear protective eyewear, shoes and clothing. Keep bystanders well away from flying debris. Never use stump grinders that have the grinding wheel under the handle bar. These types put the wheel dangerously close to the operator. Stump grinders can jump during operation. Don't use unless you are physically strong enough to handle one.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Soil


  • LSU Ag Center: Use of Stump Grinders
  • Online Tips: Stump Grinders for Tree Removal

Who Can Help

  • Free Plants: Tree Stump Removal Instructions
Keywords: stump grinder, removing tree stumps, stump grinder operation

About this Author

Julie Christensen has been writing for five years. Her work has appeared in "The Friend" and "Western New York Parent" magazines. Her guide for teachers, "Helping Young Children Cope with Grief" will be published this spring. Christensen studied early childhood education at Ricks College and recently returned to school to complete a degree in communications/English.