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How to Remove a Dead Tree Root

By Mason Howard ; Updated September 21, 2017
Tree stump removal depends on the depth of the roots.
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A natural part of the cycle of life includes trees dying and decaying into the Earth. However, some dead trees pose a safety threat and have to be removed. If you are tired of mowing around the stump from the dead tree you had cut down years ago, get rid of it. If you want to dig in the area, remove the tree's roots as well. The difficulty in removing a tree stump and roots depends on the type of tree, as trees have different root systems. Oak trees, for example, have much deeper roots than pine trees.

Shallow Roots

Dig the ground to expose the roots. Dig a deep trench around the roots.

Pull out roots that are already dead and detached. Sever roots that are still connected with a handsaw. Saws specially designed for cutting roots are available and look similar to a drywall saw.

Break up the trunk and core root with an axe. Hammer the end of a pry bar into cracks and use it to break up smaller pieces. Remove chunks as they detach.

Compost all extracted matter.

Deep Roots

Remove any rocks from near the stump and roots.

Position a stump grinder over the edge stump or central taproot. Adjust the height with the hydraulic lever so that the blade sits 3 or 4 inches above the surface of the stump or taproot.

Start the machine and slowly lower the blade, cutting 3 to 4 inches into the stump. Move the blade left to right, using the lever, to clear out chunks. Raise the wheel, move the machine forward and cut into the stump again.

Gradually keep moving the machine forward, removing the stump or tap root and severing the side roots.

Dig up and remove remaining roots by hand. Compost all extracted matter.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Handsaw
  • Axe
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Stump grinder

About the Author


Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.