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Community and Q&A

Removing a Tree Stump

PLIERS | Posted in General Questions on

Hey hope all is well, I have an about a dozen hemlocks I removed leaving stumps behind. Researching the ways to remove them and have come across conflicting ideas. There is the straight forward way of digging around and cutting the roots then pulling out. Probably the most labor. I read of digging and cutting as low as you can and then burying it. I also read this is dangerous causing sinkholes, that a boy in nj fell to his death from an old tree stump underground, is this true? I also read about burning them, but then heard this can cause an underground fire? Just trying
to remove them easiest way. The stumps are small around maybe a 3 inch diameter.

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  1. Expert Member
    DCcontrarian | | #1

    Go to a tool rental store and rent a stump grinder. Cut them off as low as you can and grind them to below grade. With 3" stumps it will only take a few minutes per stump.

    1. Expert Member
      DCcontrarian | | #6

      Trees that size you may be able to pull them out. Don't cut them down, or leave several feet sticking out of the ground. Attach a come-along about two feet off of the ground, and hook it to something sturdy like the tow loop on a car. If you can get it part way out of the ground cut the rest of the roots with loppers.

    2. Hangolup | | #11

      For small hemlocks, just cut them close to the ground like Tyler suggests. Digging out stumps with a sawzall is doable but more work than you’d think. If the stumps above ground bother you, you can add loam on top or hire a stump grinder. This link will help you in any situation of tree

  2. walta100 | | #2

    I say cut the stump low enough to mow over and let nature deal with the stump. It will rot away over the next ten years or so. The ground will settle as it rots you may see a depression over time but it should be equal to the mound the tree pushed up as it grew.

    My guess is someone or something is much more likely to be injured or damaged in any effort to remove the stumps than the holes they might leave behind.


  3. maine_tyler | | #3

    Depends on your intended use of that area, whether removal is needed or grind/lowcut is an option. I would not worry about sink holes.

    3" hemlock stumps are not that big. I've removed many a larger stump by hand. Not saying it's easy but is doable. A good pick-mattock and a rock bar (big pry bar) are key, and loppers help to clip some roots. The upgrade is a good winch. You can also watch youtube for building lever mechanisms, but that's a fussy approach.

    With removal, an excavator is THE tool for the job assuming the skillset and availability. A dozen 3" stumps may or may not be worth bringing it in for.

    Grinding is a fine option too. I would probably personally just low-cut with a chainsaw. Dig a bit around the stump so you can get a level bar as low as possible. Make sure there are no rocks embedded. Even though the chain may dull some, start with a decently sharp chain.
    If you get settling and the stumps are sticking up higher in a year or two, come back with the saw and repeat.

  4. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #4

    I know somebody who thought they had put out a campfire but it had ignited the roots of nearby trees and ended up burning several acres. Don't try to burn them.

    Hemlocks get large; if you were talking about 18-24" diameter trees, I might worry a little about sinkholes, though slime mold usually shows up on the ground surface to let you know it's doing its job of decomposing the wood, and hemlock is somewhat rot resistant so it would take a long time.

    But 3" trees are basically saplings; I would do as Tyler suggests and just cut them close to the ground. I have dug out stumps and used a sawzall to cut the roots and it's doable but more work than you might think. If having stumps slightly above grade bothers you, you could add loam over the top, rent a stump grinder or hire someone with a stump grinder.

  5. Expert Member

    Hemlock have no tap roots, which is why they fall over so readily in high winds. Should be easy to dig out.

  6. LauMercury | | #7

    Removing those hemlock stumps can indeed be a task, and you're right; there are various methods with different pros and cons. Digging around and cutting the roots is straightforward but labor-intensive. Burying them can lead to potential sinkhole issues, so it's best to avoid that. Burning them, while an option, can risk underground fires. By the way, speaking of trees, I've recently dived into tree care. Came across some cool stuff - camphor trees. They not only look great, but they also provide awesome shade during hot summers.

  7. Ryan_SLC | | #8

    A maul, striking center, is going to split a 3" stump in half.

    You only have to swing one time to see if that will do what you need it to do.

    A sawzall will rip those apart easily. Dig down a few inches and zip them right off.

    At 3 inches, a stump remover is only going to save you kneeling with a sawzall, but it won't save you the drive time to go rent one.

  8. freyr_design | | #9

    I don’t think anyone will fall to their death in a 3” hole… sawzalls work great for severing roots or even just cutting the truck slightly under grade and putting soil over. If you aren’t building on it it doesn’t matter except it will keep trying to grow back so you may need to mow for a couple years. Don’t use chainsaw to cut near grade as it will dull your blade extremely quick, as there is generally soil and rocks lower on trees

    1. maine_tyler | | #10

      "it will keep trying to grow back"
      Not hemlocks.

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