Tractor with back-hoe ready to go.

Stumped?

Woodworkers often pride themselves on their knowledge of trees and wood. Most folks simply go to the lumber yard or big box store to pick up wood that has been processed by others. Some have felled their own trees and dried their own wood. But for many once the body of the tree hits the ground they are left with a large unsightly stump.

What do you do with your larger stumps?

Small stumps can be dug out by hand. Larger stumps can be left to rot (or accelerated via chemicals or bacteria), burned out in a controlled burn, ground down below the surface with a large stump grinder, blown out with explosives or dug out by hand or machine.

Digging around the root ball
Digging around the root ball

I needed to clear some of my yard for an upcoming barn build and after trying to get out some larger stumps by hand last year I decided the best avenue for me would be to enlist the help of a tractor with a backhoe.  If you don’t have a tractor you may have a neighbor, local machine rental store or landscaping company that can help you out.  I prefer this method of removing a stump by digging it out as I know when it’s completely out I won’t have sink holes or obstacles during future digging at this location.

How do I remove a large stump?

Testing to see if the root ball is free
Testing to see if the root ball is free

I start by digging around the base of the stump to see where the major roots are. If they are too big for the back-hoe to directly rip through I will move further out away from the stump until I can rip them out with the bucket. I’ll work my way around the root ball until I can knock it over with the backhoe.

Root ball
Root ball

If the stump is still too big/heavy I’ll spray down the stump with water to remove dirt, grit and weight. (Thank you Dad for that idea as it saved the day on some of the real big stumps that maxed out what the tractor could lift and pull).  If the watering doesn’t work you can let it dry out a bit and cut the freed stump into more manageable pieces. (Make sure to take all necessary safety precautions when attempting that)

Water your stump...
Water your stump…

Next up, I got out my hefty 3/8″ thick logging chain and secured it to the stump. The trick for me was to get it around the roots in such a way that pulling up makes the stump tumble end over end and thus make its way out of the hole with minimal friction. If I tried to just drag it up on its own the friction makes it almost impossible to get out.

Pulling the stump with a logging chain
Pulling the stump with a logging chain

Each time a stump clears the pit it’s a mini celebration as even with a big machine stump removal can be a lot of work.

What do you do with the stump once you have it out of the ground?

Some town transfer stations will accept them and grind them up. Some folks will let them dry out and cut them up to burn as part of a bonfire. A last resort is hiring someone to come take them away — this option still a lot cheaper than paying for digging it out and grinding estimates were coming in at $100/stump so things can add up fast. I don’t recommend re-burying them elsewhere as they take a LONG time to rot on their own and buried stumps often lead to sink holes.

I know I flew through the above steps in this post, so if you’d like to see a video of some of these techniques in action in the removal of another stump, please check out my new YouTube video which you can watch by clicking the link here or by clicking on the image of the tractor below.

Tractor with back-hoe ready to go.
Tractor with back-hoe ready to go.

Now it’s time to be back out into the yard — there are still a LOT of sizable stumps left to clear out….

Take care,
-Bill

8 thoughts on “Stumped?”

  1. So, whar did you do with the stump? I cut down a bradford Pear tree in our yard and removed the stump by hand and am now waiting a few months to make bowls from it.  

    From: Rainford Restorations To: leehockman@yahoo.com Sent: Sunday, May 3, 2015 2:38 PM Subject: [New post] Stumped? #yiv3667641544 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3667641544 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3667641544 a.yiv3667641544primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3667641544 a.yiv3667641544primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3667641544 a.yiv3667641544primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3667641544 a.yiv3667641544primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3667641544 WordPress.com | Rainford Restorations posted: “Woodworkers often pride themselves on their knowledge of trees and wood. Most folks simply go to the lumber yard or big box store to pick up wood that has been processed by others. Some have felled their own trees and dried their own wood. But for many on” | |

    1. So far I have been piling them up near the woods. Since some of them have been hosed off, I’m hoping later this year that maybe I can make a bowl or two from a larger stump and from a more modest stump maybe I can make a maul or froe club.

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  3. regarding stumps. Old method, dig down just under ground level. find a old tyre to fit. Fill with material and burn. Proberly not so eco freindly, but a old Aussie method commonly employed. cheers peter

    1. Hi Peter,
      Yep, that is a tried and true method I’ve seen folks do but have not tried it myself. Right now it’s super hot/dry this summer so the town won’t issue any burn permits and the stumps I’ve had to get out are much bigger in diameter than any tires I have access to. Also I need to build a foundation for an outbuilding back there so some of the stumps have to come out in their entirety. It has been taking forever but thankfully I am just about done clearning that area.

      Take care,
      -Bill

      1. understand fire restriction reasons, though re tyres, rural town tire centers useally have a great hoard of differn’t size tyres they are more than happy to be rid of. Just a thought, good luck, cheers Peter

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