How to Cut Tree Stumps


Cutting down a tree leaves behind both an eyesore and a dilemma in the form of the tree stump. Tree stumps are difficult to remove from your landscape as it is mostly under the ground. You can leave the stump in place and allow it to rot, but some water-resistant trees, such as cypress, may take longer to decay than other stumps. Although you could turn the tree stump into a pedestal for a flower pot or carve it into a sculpture while you wait for it to rot, digging the stump up and cutting off its roots is the fastest means of removing the problem.

Step 1

Look over the tree species to determine its root structure. Trees such as hickory and walnut have long taproots. Pine, red oak, honey locust and sycamore have a deep "heart" root system and sugar maple, birch, fir and spruce have flat roots. You should cut the trunk of the tree higher for trees with a taproot or a heart root to make grubbing up the stump easier.

Step 2

Create a trench around the stump that is 2 feet deep and wide, using a grub hoe and grubbing axe.

Step 3

Sever tree roots with a grubbing axe, branch loppers or a hand saw as you encounter them. You will sever most roots for a tree with a flat root system in this way. Trees with a heart root or tap root will have more roots beneath the trunk than trees with flat roots.

Step 4

Continue to remove dirt beneath the trunk and cut away the roots until you can shove the trunk over on its side. Cut through the root beneath the trunk once it is exposed. You may be able to cut through roots of a tree with flat roots using branch loppers. You will need a hand saw or the grubbing axe to sever a heart root or taproot.

Step 5

Lift the trunk out of the ground once it has been severed from the roots. Fill in the depression left by the stump with fill dirt.

Things You'll Need

  • Grubbing axe
  • Grubbing hoe
  • Branch loppers
  • Hand saw
  • Fill dirt


  • Iowa State University Extension: Tree Roots
  • Louisiana State University Extension: Stump Removal from Home Grounds
  • Colorado State University Extension: Stump Removal

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota Extension: Removing Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: cutting up stumps, digging out stumps, tree removing

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."