How to Remove Tree Stumps by Hand

Overview

Large tree stumps are only effectively removed with a grinder, but small to medium stumps can be taken from the ground with proper planning and a little digging. The labor is quite extensive, so be sure you're in good shape before starting the job. Having friends over to share the work can make the digging go much faster and easier. Alternate methods such as using chemicals to speed decomposition also work, but they can take anywhere from a few months to several seasons depending upon the type of tree, and there's usually some leftover digging to remove the remains.

Step 1

Cut the stump with a power saw so that several feet remain above ground.

Step 2

Dig the dirt away from the tree stump several feet out with a heavy-duty shovel, exposing the roots.

Step 3

Jab the landscape bar into the dirt under the stump, at a 45-degree angle. Allow the weight of the bar to do most of the work cutting through the roots.

Step 4

Move the bar in a circle around the stump, cutting all visible roots.

Step 5

Attach a rope to the stump if it is high enough, and have a partner pull the stump to one side as you cut under the stump from the other side with the bar. Continue to move in a circle with one person pulling and the other cutting on the opposite side. If there is not enough room to attach a rope, lift the stump as much as possible with the bar, slide a length of two-by-four board under the stump where it has lifted, and cut that side. Continue moving around the stump, lifting and cutting.

Step 6

Work toward the center, where you may find a taproot, or main root, depending upon the tree type. This may take some time to cut through.

Step 7

Leverage the stump out of the hole with the landscape bar, any two-by-fours, and available rope. Fill the hole with previously dug-out dirt.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear proper safety shoes and vision protectors. Using a power saw to cut the roots away can be dangerous if rocks are in the ground. They may cause the saw to kick back, the blade to break and fly about, or the rock itself may be thrown a distance at high speed.

Things You'll Need

  • Power saw
  • Heavy-duty shovel
  • Landscape bar
  • Heavy-duty rope
  • 4 4-foot lengths of two-by-four boards

References

  • Free Plants: Tree Stump Removal Instructions
  • This Old House: Removing Tree Stumps
  • The Family Handyman: How to Remove a Tree Stump Painlessly

Who Can Help

  • Louisiana State University AgCenter: Stump Removal from Home Grounds
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About this Author

Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980. He has written for "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. Burton managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. He has a Bachelor of Science in broadcasting from John Brown University, and retired from the Navy Reserve in 1999.