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How to Kill a Tree Stump? – 8 Effective Ways

Where one might see an opportunity, others see a problem. That tree in the middle of your backyard might be dying, and you are already thinking how to get rid of the stump and its roots. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a dying tree. Your idea of the “perfect” backyard might have changed, and that tree needs to go. Whatever the case is if you want to find out how to kill a tree stump, and its roots, I have a few ways to share.

Each of the below mentioned has its pros and cons. Some take a long time, others are expensive. The first ones are DIY, whereas others require special equipment, or professional assistance, or a lot of money. Depending on your experience and tools you have at hand, read through these tree stump killing methods and one will definitetly work for you.

First, you should decide whether you like to:

  • Kill the tree sump – speed up the rotting process
  • Remove the stump altogether with its roots

Let’s take a look what it takes to kill the stump along with its roots. The methods described below can also be the first step of the stump removal process, as dead tree stumps are easier to remove.

Commercial Tree Stump Killer

One of the simplest and fastest solutions to kill a tree stump is to apply a commercial tree stump killer. What it does is it fastens the rotting process. So even if it doesn’t kill the tree stump it will rot it to the point where you can remove it with a shovel.

If you have a bigger, more stubborn tree stump go for Gordon’s, otherwise you can stick with Fetilome stump killer. Both options are non-toxic but they will destroy any grass or other plants that you have around the stump.

The process is fairly simple and doesn’t take much time:

  1. Drill Holes around the base and on the surface at top of the stump. This is much more effective than just pouring the stump killer on top of the stump. Most people that miss this step just end up with the solution running all around the stump, killing the grass around it and doing little real damage.

  2. Pour the half of the tree stump killer down the holes with the tree stump killer. After you’re done pouring, seal the holes. This will both ensure that the liquid does not get out as well. Make sure that the seals are easily removed. Use a funnel for the harder to reach holes.

  3. After a week, you should start seeing noticeable results. Parts of the tree stump will start turning black. Now it’s the time to unseal the holes and re-fill them once again with the remaining half of the stump killer.

  4. Within a month, the tree stump should be completely dead and rotten to the point where it will be very easy to remove.

Use Copper to Kill the Stump

Copper interferes with the growth mechanisms of the tree, namely cell division. Using it proves for quite an effective method when it comes to killing stumps.

You might come across information that copper doesn’t do the job, but this is a common misconception that comes from people trying to kill healthy, grown trees. A tree stump is much easier to be killed with copper as the growth areas (roots and sprouts) are much closer together. This means that the metal can reach the critical areas much easier.  

There are two main ways of using copper for this and although they use different products the result is the same. 

The Copper Nails Method

First, you will need some copper nails. Make sure that you get nails that are copper throughout (not just copper coated) as only the full-copper ones are effective.

Otherwise the coating just wears off and the tree stump is left unharmed. Either get them at your local home depot or order something like these or these that have a free drill bit included. Make sure the nails also have removal spikes (more on that later) and apply the steps below

  1. Start off by hammering nails to the base of the stump you want to kill. Just go as low as you can and place the nails at a slightly downward angle. Placing the nails downward won’t just place the copper at an optimal distance from the root to the sprouts, but it’s also a bit easier. Continue placing nails 1 1/2 inch apart. If you cannot manage, 2 inch is fine as well, although it will be slightly less effective.

  2. Right after you’ve placed the nails, cut off any sprouts or even visible, easy to remove roots. This will force the tree to pull resources for new growth and will pull the copper faster.

  3. Leave the nails in the tree for as long as possible. For smaller trees – up to 3 inch in diameter you should start seeing results within a month. For bigger trunks it might take a couple of months. You will however, see clear signs that the tree stump is dying in mere weeks.

  4. Once the stump has died you can decide to remove it. Before working on the stump itself make sure that you remove all nails – this is where the removal spikes come in handy. Working on tearing out the tree stump while nails are still embedded, no matter what method you use, is dangerous. 

Use copper sulfate

Another pretty simple method of using copper, this time in the form of copper sulfate. This poison is usually used to kill tree roots in pipes and sewer lines, but it’s just as effective in killing tree stumps. You can do this by pouring it around the base, but it could get into the water supply. Safest way of using it by following the method below.

  1. Peel an inch or two of bark near the base of the stump. If you are trying to get rid of the stump of an old tree and the bark is thick, cut small windows at approximately 3 inch apart. 

  2. In the part where you’ve removed the bark or created the openings, drill holes at a downward angle.

  3. Use a funnel to pour copper sulfate in the holes. It’s very important that you do not use this funnel for any drinkable liquids. If you do not have funnel you can use a sheet of paper wrapped in a cone that you can later throw away.

  4. Seal the holes – if you’ve made openings, use the same bark that you’ve removed. If you peeled the bark then seal the holes with regular unscented candle wax. 

Using Epsom Salt to Kill the Tree Stump

You’ve probably heard the words tree stump and Epsom salt in the same sentence. Whether online or by a friend, or a relative, that statement is very close to the truth. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s by no accident that I’m talking about it first.

What is Epsom Salt?

It’s not rocket science, but it’s still, science, chemistry to be precise.

Epsom salt is actually Magnesium Sulfate. Besides being used as a solution for stumps and roots removal, Epsom salt is used in alternative medicine. It’s commonly accepted that it helps with detox, relieves from pain, and, believe it or not, supposedly it can treat fungal infection.

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of alternative medicine. While I see myself using it to soak my feet and make them softer, but I’d never use Epsom salt to treat a fungal infection. You need proper medicine for that. But I would use it to kill a tree stump.

How does Epsom Salt Kill a Tree Stump and its roots?

When you cut a tree, the stump is still alive, and it can regrow in a very poor fashion, thanks to its roots. Even if you cut the roots on the outside, there’s a high chance there’s a middle, deep root right beneath the stump.

Epsom salt simply absorbs the moisture from the stump, therefore making it brittle. The salt will not make it disappear, but it will make it brittle enough, for you to knock it to small pieces, and remove it.

This takes weeks and even months, depending on the size and shape of the stump. In most cases, a medium-sized trump will take at least 3 months to a year.

A word of advice, please, cover the stump to protect it from rain. The idea is to dehydrate the stump.

But the Stump is Still There?

Yes, it is, and this is what makes Epsom salt an ineffective method. The idea is to KILL THE STUMP, not to remove it. You will stop the stump from growing further, but it will still be there, rotting, dying slowly.

It’s not recommended to use Epsom salt to kill tree stumps if:

  • There are new trees or other plants near the stump
  • You need the area clear so you can mow your lawn
  • It’s a hazard (it’s in the way)
  • As part of the stump removal process. There are quicker ways to kill tree stumps described below. 

Once you kill the stump with Epsom salt, however, you don’t have to worry about the root system. They will stop growing as you’ve practically killed them as well.

Burn it Down after Drilling Holes – It’s More Complicated than it Sounds

A tree without the sap doesn’t burn easily. That said, you will have to prepare the stump before you set it on fire. There are two problems which you have to deal with.

Small Surface – Dissipating Heat

Unless you dig under the stump, and set the fire burning under the stump, it will just not burn. Even if you put fire around it, the surface is so small, and heat will dissipate quickly, rendering the stump almost “invulnerable” to the flame. To prevent this, you should drill holes in the stump. Once you drill the holes, both from the top and from the sides, you should then put gasoline in them.

However, be very careful! It will take a lot of time, and you might have to attend the fire, making sure it doesn’t go off.

Why will it go off?

That leads us to the second problem.

Lack of Oxygen

If you want strong flame, you need a lot of oxygen. That’s basically what a turbo charge does in a car, for example. Once you have the holes in place, and you set the fire, you have to attend it until there’s some ember. This is when things speed up a bit.

A simple leaf blower can do the trick. You can also use a reversed vacuum cleaner, which, to be honest, works even better, because you can target the embers directly.

As you can see, the process is not only long, but it can get pretty loud as well. If you’re doing it right, you will also get a cool effect, of fire blazing out of the side holes. It’s a sight worth to be shared on Instagram, and it will get a lot of likes!

Don’t despair though. Again, it takes a while.

What do I mean with this?

Let’s say that if you don’t “turbo-charge” the flame, it can take up to 3 days. Inform your neighbors, there will be smoke, and you don’t want the firefighters in your backyard.

Kill a tree stump by burning it down with a barrel

Another way to kill a tree stump is to burn it down with a barrel around it. This can be especially easy if you’ve just recently cut the tree, meaning there are branches you want to dispose of. Unlike the previous method, this is as easy as it sounds. You just need a barrel, with both the top and the bottom cut out.

Now, put the barrel on top of the tree stump, and fill it with small branches. You can use gasoline to speed this up if you want. Remember, no barrel, no burning tree stumps.

However, if the tree stump is too big, you might not be able to find a big enough barrel, so you will have to improvise a bit.

Much like the previous burning method, you will have to make sure the flame does go off. Once the stump is on fire, the roots will eventually follow. The barrel keeps the heat where it’s supposed to be!

Do not worry if the barrel changes color, that’s absolutely normal. Nevertheless, make sure that there are no roots out of the barrel. Since they will be on fire as well, you want to keep the surrounding safe, especially if there is dry grass.

Pull it Out of the Ground

One more way of killing tree stumps, or better said, removing them, is to pull them out, along with the roots. Now this will require some sort of tractor. In my opinion, this is probably the safest and cleanest method.

In short, it’s good because it’s:

  • Safe
  • Easy to find a tractor
  • Efficient
  • Effective

The only problem with this method is that you need the tractor to somehow access the tree stump or tree stumps. For example, if there’s no way for the tractor to get in your backyard, you just can’t do this. You will also need space where the tractor could pull, as the root system might be deeper than you think.

Don’t attempt pulling it out by hand. You will fail miserably. You can, however, try with a lever, a rather long one. Make sure you have an additional counterweight, as your body weight is not enough! Using a lever to remove a tree stump is the closest thing to pulling it out with a tractor.

Since you do not have a way to kill the roots, cutting up as much of them as possible will ease this process. If you have a chainsaw, it can make the process of pulling the tree stump out quite fast and easy.

Call a Contractor to remove your tree stump– (expensive, most efficient)

Calling a contractor sounds like the most reasonable thing to do. And to be honest with you, if money is not an object, it’s recommended you do so. You will get the service of a license contractor which has access to highly specialized stump grinders. From the moment they arrive at your home, the stump, along with all of its roots will be gone in a few hours only.

If you are asking about the price, well, it can cost anywhere between $50 and all the way up to $300+. Compared to the other methods, this is by far the most expensive method.

Again, this seems like a reasonable way only if you got the “moolah”, or you don’t have the time.

Removing a tree stump does not necessarily need to be a hassle. It can be a challenge, which will teach you a lot of things in the process.

Rent a Stump Grinder Yourself (potentially harmful)

Stump grinders come in many shapes and sizes, same like tree stumps, one would say. Renting a stump grinder to remove a tree stump can be an option for you, but only if you are savvy with heavy machinery. Of course, you cannot rent the professional ones, you need a license for that. However, there are others that are easier to handle, and their purpose is exactly this!

Renting a tree stump grinder can be cost-efficient only if you have to remove several tree stumps because you pay for it on a per-day basis. To put it into perspective, if you call a contractor to do the job for you, you pay between $50 and $350, depending on the size. That’s for one tree stump. If, however, you rent the equipment, you can remove as many as you want, for a fee of between $100 and close to $300. There are a lot of variables in the mix.

  • Size of the tree stump
  • The location of the tree stump
  • The type of stump
  • The machinery that’s available in your proximity

Who knew that a tree stumps can cost that much, huh?

WARNING: If you plan on renting a tree stump grinder to get rid of a tree stump yourself, make sure you are wearing the proper safety equipment, such as protective goggles, gloves and you are at safe distance, away from the blades.

Renting a Tree Stump VS Hiring a Contractor to Remove a Tree Stump

Here’s a brief, simple example, of when it makes more sense to rent VS. to hire for stump removal.

I will assume renting costs $150, and hiring a contractor is $100.

If it’s only one large tree stump that needs to be killed or removed, go for the contractor, please. You might potentially need other equipment as well. Moreover, it’s not really worth going through the struggle figuring out how the machine works. Just pay the man the money, and he will sort it for you.

However, if, say, you have 3 or 4 stumps you have to take care of, rent the stump grinder.

Removing a Tree Stump Summary

Hopefully, the options for killing/removing a tree stump that I pointed out will be put to use. Whether you are looking for a DIY approach to get rid of the stump and its roots, or you want the “easy way out”, you have them. To spare you from the hassle, here’s a brief summary.

  • Epsom salt
  • Copper – Copper Nails or Copper Sulphate
  • Burn it down with holes in it
  • Burn it down with a barrel around it
  • Pull it out
  • Hire a contractor
  • Rent a stump grinder

Regardless of which method you choose, make sure you’re safe. Even if you’re hiring a contractor, double-check you won’t get ripped off. As for the others, well, you will have to exert a lot of force or handle a machine that will do it for you.



🧂Can I kill a tree stump with Epsom salt?

Yes, you can kill a tree stump and its roots with Epsom salt. However, the process takes longer than other methods. In addition, if you opt for Epsom salt, make sure you get more than enough of it. The stump needs to be fully covered, along with the drilled holes in it. On top of this, you will have to do this a few times.

🔥How to burn a tree stump with its roots?

There are two ways in general. One is to use a barrel to direct the heat to the stump, and the other is to drill enough holes in the stump. If you go with drilling, you should fill them with gasoline and start a fire. Make sure the fire is burning long enough.

🚜What is the most efficient way of removing a tree stump?

The most efficient way is using a tree stump grinder, or by proxy, hiring a contractor to do it for you. The 2nd best option is pulling it out with some sort of tractor. Be very careful with these approaches as they can be hazardous.