Digging out tree stumps works best for smaller trees with shallow roots, such as pine trees, fruit trees and ornamental trees. These generally have soft wood, making cutting easier. Rent a stump grinder or skid steer to remove large hardwood stumps, such as oak, birch and maple. Bury large stumps on your property or dispose of them in a landfill. If your community allows burning, cut the stump into smaller pieces and burn it.
Dig a trench around the tree stump 18 inches deep and 20 inches from the base of the trunk. Dig in a slightly slanted downward direction so the trench resembles a teacup around the tree. Remove all the dirt from the outside edge of the trench to the trunk. Set the soil on a tarp.
Dig the blade end of a utility bar into the roots. Hit the other end with a hammer to slice through the roots. Sharpen dull blades periodically as you work with a file or bench grinder. Place the utility bar under the stump periodically and push on the exposed end to rock the stump back and forth. This loosens the stump from the ground and improves your access to roots.
Cut through small roots with a pruning saw or shears until the tree is free. With a partner, remove the stump from the ground.