You might be ready to pat yourself on the back and call it a day once you reduce a tree to a stump, but the work doesn't end there. That stump represents a trip hazard, an eyesore and perhaps even an obstacle for future building plans. It can also attract unwanted pests, like termites. Fortunately, you don't have to be a professional to remove a tree stump thanks to some ingenious and easy methods.

Stump on green grass in the garden. Old tree stump in the summer park.
credit: kirisa99/iStock/GettyImages
How To Kill And Remove A Tree Stump

Physical Removal

Depending on the size of the stump, physical removal might be a straightforward option. Using hand tools such as a shovel and ax, you can chop off small sections of the stump at a time. Dig a trench around the outside to help you uncover some of the main root sections, and chop those off as well. Once all of the roots are gone, you can use the shovel to lever the remainder of the stump out of the ground.

For larger stumps and larger budgets, rent a stump grinder. You walk behind this machine to maneuver it, and a powerful rotating head mulches the stump on the spot. You can choose to grind the stump to ground level or to grind it below the surface.

Always wear protective eye gear, long pants, long sleeves and gloves when physically removing a stump, whether using hand tools or power tools. Flying wood chips can cause skin and eye damage.

Chemical Removal

Wouldn't it be nice if hacking away at a tree stump was as easy as running a hot knife through butter? Chemically assisted stump removal gets you close to that dream by rotting and softening the stump.

Start by purchasing chemical stump remover. Follow the directions and wear gloves when applying it. Although the specific instructions might vary depending on the chemical product, you generally drill large, deep holes into the top of the stump (and sometimes into the side of the stump). The herbicide is then poured into these holes and allowed to sit for four to six weeks.

After that time, it should be significantly easier to chop the stump. You may need to reapply the chemical remover to kill the stump to ground level or below.

Burning Out a Stump

Depending on your local burn ordinances and the location of the stump, you may be able to burn it. Of course, you'll need to be mindful of fire safety by clearing any vegetation away from the stump and keeping children and animals away from the fire.

Begin by drilling holes in the stump about 1 inch apart and at approximately a 30-degree angle. Place saltpeter in each of the holes and then pour in hot water. Use a small stick to stir the saltpeter until it dissolves. Let the stump sit for at least a week to absorb this water, as this will allow the stump to smolder internally.

Place scrap wood or charcoal on top of the stump and light it on fire. The stump itself will break down along with these starter materials. The process can take several days, and you may need to restart the fire. Keep a very close eye on the stump if you use this method.

Speeding Up the Natural Rotting Process With Epsom Salt

Left alone for a long period of time, all stumps will eventually decompose. If you aren't in a hurry but still want to remove that stump, you can speed up that natural process by using Epsom salt.

Try to make sure the stump is already as small as possible by using a chainsaw to trim it to just an inch or two above ground level. Then drill large-diameter holes as deep as possible (10 or more inches is ideal) around the outside of the stump. Fill these with Epsom salt.

Cover the stump with a tarp to trap heat and to keep out external moisture. Check it every six weeks or so to physically remove the decomposed debris, to drill new holes if the old ones have rotted out and to add more Epsom salt.

In the end, you'll always need to do some amount of physical labor to remove a tree stump, but Epsom salt or commercial stump killing products can make the task a little more efficient.