How to Remove a Tree Stump

So you've cut down that problem tree in your yard and hauled away the branches. Now all you've got left is that big stump staring defiantly at you. You are wondering how to remove a tree stump.

Well, you've basically got three choices. First, you could call someone with a tree grinder to come take care of it for you. But hey, you are a do-it-yourself kind of person so that option is out.

Second, you could rent a tree grinder yourself and tackle it. That is a better option but it involves the hassle of renting an expensive piece of equipment. So that leaves you with option number three – doing it the old fashioned way.

Tools Needed

  • All purpose utility bar
  • Nursery digging spade
  • Hammer
  • Hand file


The first step in the process of stump removal is digging out a trench about eight to twelve inches wide around your stump. You can think of it as a little moat.

The inside edge of the moat should be a minimum of fifteen to twenty inches from the stump to give you plenty of room to work. Dig the moat down and towards the center of the underside, like the shape of a teacup. Use the spade to do this.

This digging works best when the soil is moist, obviously, so it is best to tackle this project after a rain. The purpose of this step is twofold: to gradually separate the trunk structure from the earth and to reveal the stump's roots as they meander away from the trunk.

Cut Those Roots

As your trench gets deeper, you will start to expose roots. The utility bar has a flat end to hammer on and a flat bladed end on the opposite end. The blade should have a pretty good edge on it for root cutting purposes. If not, sharpen it up with a hand file or a grinder.

You are going to want to remove exposed sections of the roots as you encounter them. Cut the sections out at both edges of the trench so the remaining root ends will not impede your digging. Slam the blade into the root to begin the cut and them whack the other end with the hammer. If you find that you need to re-sharpen the blade, do so.

The further you go, the looser you will find the tree trunk becoming. Periodically wobbling it back and forth will make the digging, if not more pleasant, more manageable. In addition, it will allow you easier access to the roots that go down rather than out.

Before you know it you will be at that last anchor root. Slice through it and recover your prize!