That tree stump in your yard could be causing more harm than you realize.
You’ve finally got rid of that dying oak that was threatening your house, but now you’re left with a large unsightly tree stump in the middle of your front yard. You can spot things growing in the crevices, and you’re convinced your neighbor’s daughter – who can’t seem to stop playing on it – is going to really hurt herself one day.
If you had a professional tree service remove that oak, then they probably offered to deal with the stump as well. It’s not uncommon for arborists to grind down stumps when they haul away a tree. But for whatever reason, you turned down the offer, and now you’re regretting it.
What options do you have now that the stump is just sitting there and taking up space? If you’re the least bit crafty, then you’ve maybe thought about trying to beautify the stump by turning it into a rustic bench or adding some ivy for decoration. But let us stop you right there. The truth is, that stump could be more hazardous than you realize.
If you’re a homeowner in Denver with a tree stump in your yard, then you may have some questions about what risks it poses and what you can do about it, such as:
- Why should I get rid of my stump?
- What do I do with that space?
- How do I get rid of my stump?
- What do I need to know before I begin?
- Can I get rid of my stump myself?
Stump grinding involves heavy equipment and as such, it can be dangerous. While we offer tips for tackling the job yourself, we also offer a note of caution. Fielding Tree & Shrub Care believes in safety first. We urge you to further educate yourself about stump removal before attempting it. Any reader who undergoes stump removal on their own using this information is assuming liability for their own actions. If you have any questions or would like to talk to a Fielding Tree certified arborist, then we encourage you to reach out.
Why Your Tree Stump Needs to Go
Aside from being an eyesore, your tree stump could threaten your yard and home. Tree stumps attract wood-eating pests, like carpenter ants and termites. When these pests are done with your stump, they’ll start looking for a new food source in your other trees or even your house. Tree stumps can also attract disease, including fungi that could be poisonous to other plants and wildlife. Although some mushrooms could also be a natural part of the decomposition process.
Stumps also keep the former tree’s root system alive, allowing it to continue to grow. These roots could impact the foundation of your house and sap nutrients from the soil needed by other plants. If the roots are close to the soil, then they and the stump itself could be challenging to mow around.
If you do nothing, then your tree stump will eventually decompose. However, this could take several years. How quickly the stump decomposes may depend on the size of the stump, the type of tree that it was, pests, environment, and more.
Replanting After Stump Removal
Stumps can negatively impact the value of your home, while new growth could give it a boost. If you’re getting rid of a stump, you may want to plant something else to fill the empty space. However, it’s not as simple as just putting a sapling where the stump used to be. There are some things you’ll want to consider before planting that new tree.
Don’t plant that new tree directly where the old one used to be. In fact, if you can avoid doing it in the same area entirely, that would be best. The soil has likely been stripped of nutrients by the old root system. However, if you’ve got limited options and you must plant the new tree near the old root system, aim to make it at least a few feet away from the old stump – more if the tree was large.
You also want to help the old root system die. Dig up as much of it as you can. Consider waiting a year or two to give it time to further decompose. If the old root system is too healthy, then it will compete with the new tree for resources.
Finally, think about what killed the other tree. If it was a disease or some kind, then choose a new tree that won’t be affected by the same condition. For Colorado, it helps to consider trees that are well-suited to dry climates as under-watering can also affect tree health.
How to Safely Get Rid of a Tree Stump
The number one way to rid yourself of a tree stump, and the way we’ll be discussing in the most detail here, is to grind it down using a stump grinder. However, if you’re concerned about the cost of renting the equipment or paying for a professional, then you could consider some less effective methods.
You can help your tree stump rot more quickly by dosing it with chemicals. Start by drilling several holes in the stump about 10 inches deep. Fill the holes with a mixture containing potassium nitrate. You can buy tree stump removal chemicals specifically tailored for the job. Fill the holes with water to dissolve the chemical and wait. This will speed along the stump’s decay. It could take several weeks for the stump to decay enough for you to effectively chip it away and dig it out.
Potassium nitrate can also be used to burn the stump. Fill the tree stump with the chemical mixture as described above. After that, you have a few options. Some people advocate waiting a few days and then building a fire around the stump using charcoal and wood.
If you opt to burn or rot a tree stump, be careful. Fire and chemicals are dangerous on their own. Mixing them could be a recipe for disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. What’s more, the process for rotting is lengthy and either process could do some damage to your lawn. Finally, if you fail to fully rid yourself of the trunk, you’ll continue to have the same problems and risks listed above.
Grinding is the fastest and most effective way of removing a tree stump. It involves essentially sanding away the stump using a large machine with a rotating disc called a stump grinder. Although it is most effective, it too can be dangerous if you’re not properly prepared.
What You Need to Know Before Removing a Tree Stump
First, decide how deeply you want to grind the stump. Shallow or surface stump grinds go down roughly six inches below the surface grade of the area. This will get the job done, removing the stump and some surface roots. However, it doesn’t leave as much room for fresh soil, making it harder to grow grass or more substantial plants in that area. A deeper stump grind goes about 20 inches below the surface of the immediate area. This allows more room for growth, but it also takes longer and can be more expensive if you’re hiring a professional.
Next, you’ll want to get the lay of the land beneath the surface, especially if you’re planning for s deeper grind. How close is the stump to major buildings? Are there any irrigation lines, wires, or pipes that could get in the way? The last thing you want to do is discover these after you start grinding. If you’re not sure, then call the Utility Notification Center of Colorado. They can help you find out if there’s anything buried there.
Finally, ask yourself how accessible the stump is. Many homeowners in Colorado have 36-inch gates, which can be an impediment to large machinery. Where the stump is located could affect what kind of grinder you or an arborist can use.
Can You Grind Your Tree Stump Yourself?
Technically, you can rent a stump grinder, haul it home, and get the job done. However, this can be confusing, costly and dangerous. You’ll want to think about what kind of grinder you want to use, what other equipment you’ll need, and how to actually remove the stump.
There are several different stump grinders out there. If you’re renting one, you’ll probably end up with a handlebar grinder of some sort. These grinders look a little like toothy lawnmowers. You’ll hold onto the handle and gradually advance the grinder as it works on the stump. There are also vertical stump grinders that attach to larger machines in which a driver sits. These are significantly more substantial, making them costlier to rent and harder to get home. Finally, there are track stump grinders. These middle-of-the-road grinders are larger than handlebar grinders and don’t require you to push them to advance the grinding mechanism. Instead, you stand behind a set of controls and direct the grinding from there.
In addition to the grinder, you’ll want several other pieces of safety equipment, including heavy boots (preferably with steel toes), pants, long sleeves, safety goggles, and ear plugs. These, plus fuel for the grinder, should factor into your cost estimate.
Once you have everything you need, it’s time to start grinding. Since you’re most likely to end up with a handlebar grinder, we’ll focus on those. Use a shovel or similar tool to remove rocks from on top of and around the stump. Rocks can get stuck in the grinding mechanism and cause damage. You may use a chainsaw to trim the stump down lower to the ground. This is not necessary, but it could help speed up the process. Raise the grinder a few inches above the stump in a manner according to that grinder’s directions and begin. Slowly lower the grinder as it spins. Dig down a few inches, raise it, advance, and repeat. When you’re finished, rake up the wood debris to fill the crater left by the grinder. Empty craters are safety hazards.
This all may sound easy, but stump grinding is dangerous and messy. Doing it improperly or incompletely could risk the spread of insects and severely damage your lawn. Fielding Tree & Shrub Care offers year-round stump grinding services, starting with a complimentary on-site estimate. Schedule yours with our team today and make your stump removal safe, smart, and simple.