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Tree Stump Removal Techniques: Small Stump Grinder Vs Chemical Method

One of the most common hurdles to come across in any restoration or landscaping project is the removal of tree stumps. Especially if you are looking to revamp, extend or upgrade your outdoor space. Two of the most common methods to aid in this task are to either use a small stump grinder or result to the chemical method.

Regardless of which method you choose, both are proven techniques. Nevertheless, choosing the correct one for your project is important to stay on task and on budget. This resource from WHC Hire is a complete open guide to exploring the difference between these two methods. Throughout this article, we will be comparing both stump removal techniques and answering the most common questions that come with each method. Whether you are a seasoned landscaper or DIYer, we hope that this resource will help the next time you need a tree stump removing.

Techniques to consider when removing tree stumps

Tree stump removal techniques
Tree stump removal techniques

The two techniques that we are going to focus on during this article are using a small stump grinder or via a chemical method. It is important to note that these are not the only two ways of removing a tree stump. For other alternatives, see our other resource here. Nevertheless, these two methods are best suited for DIYers and landscaping work taking place in small gardens with limited access.

Small Stump Grinders

Small stump grinder hire
Small stump grinder hire

These small stump grinders are petrol-powered machines designed to remove tree stumps from the ground. They do this via their teeth which can be found on the head of the grinder. You can use a stump grinder to remove the entire root ball and root system if necessary. Small stump grinders are one of the most popular methods for professional tree surgeons and landscapers to use for quick results.

Chemical Method

Chemical Stump Removal
Chemical Stump Removal

An alternative method to using a small stump grinder is to use a chemical method. Chemicals used to remove tree stumps are nothing new. Solvents and solutions such as potassium nitrate are known to be the most common and effective. However, sodium hydroxide magnesium sulphate and rock salt are also common effective chemicals to use to remove tree stumps. Remember that choosing a chemical method is not a quick process and may require multiple treatments.

Now that we have had a closer look at the two different methods we are comparing, let’s have a closer look at their applications and methods. This will give you an idea of any additional equipment you may need to consider before starting.

Small stump grinder method

Removing tree stumps with a small stump grinder is a common procedure and easy to do. Before starting any work, you should ensure you are adequately protected. PPE for a stumper grinder is essential as flying debris from the machine’s head can cause serious injury. We would advise that safety boots, trousers, long-sleeved shirts, hand, hearing, and eye protection be always worn.

Once all your PPE is in place you should always read the operator manual prior to using the machinery. This will help you familiarise yourself with the equipment and how it works prior to starting it.

Additional equipment you will need:

  • Spade (To expose roots).
  • Chainsaw to cut stump low enough to begin. (Ensure if required, the correct PPE is worn).

At this point, you are ready to commence the following method:

Step by step stump grinding method

  1. Ensure that the stump is cut as low to the ground as possible prior to introducing your grinder.
  2. Use a spade to expose any surface roots and remove any large stones that could be hidden in and around the tree stump. (This will avoid damage to the machine).
  3. In some cases, you may want to introduce protective boarding if working close to windows or buildings.
  4. Position the machine’s rotating blade on the first root you are going to remove.
  1. Engage the handbrake and start the machine engine. (Note: Blade will rotate as soon as the engine starts, therefore keep it off the floor).
  2. Once the engine has started and the full throttle is engaged, lower the rotating blade 1 inch onto the root and start making passes left to right over the root. Pass as many times until you have removed the top first inch.
  3. Continue to lower inch by inch until the root has been turned into shavings.
  4. Replicate this method on all the roots surrounding the tree stump.
  5. Once all roots have been removed, then you can begin on the stump. Adopt the same method of grinding passes backwards and forwards an inch at a time.
  6. Continue until the whole stump has been turned into shavings and the root ball of the tree has been removed.

This method can take anywhere between minutes and hours depending on the size of the stump you are working with. For further tips on how to use a stump grinder then check out this resource, “Popular stump removal tools”.

Now let’s compare methods by having a closer look at the chemical method of removing a tree stump.

Chemical method to remove tree stumps

Another alternative method to removing a tree stump via the chemical method. Unlike with a stump grinder, this one is less labour-intensive. When handling any type of chemicals, it is crucial that you protect yourself and the surrounding areas as instructed on the packaging. We highly advise that you wear suitable personal protective equipment such as goggles and gloves. Do not use chemical methods near natural or man-made waterways. Some products are extremely harmful to aquatic animals and other vegetation.

Other equipment you will require:

  • Corded drill with 1 inch spade blade.
  • Chainsaw (Ensure if required, the correct PPE is worn).
  • Axe.

Step by step chemical preparation and application

  • To begin cut the tree stump to around 4-6 inches above the ground with a chainsaw.
  • Now that your stump is at the correct height, drill vertical holes downward with a spade blade on your corded drill in the heartwood of the stump. Drill holes every 6-8 inches around the perimeter of the stump and 4 inches in from the side. These vertical holes must be at least 10 inches deep.
  • Next, drill 45-degree angle holes from the side of the stump down to meet your vertical ones at around 6 inches. Do this for each hole. This ensures that the chemicals that you insert will not pour out over time.
  • Combine your chemicals as instructed on the packaging and fill the drill holes. Some chemicals come granulated which need to be poured directly into the stump prior to adding water.
  • Wait 4-6 weeks for the chemicals to settle in and start to decompose the stump.
  • Once the top of the stump has become a spongey texture, you are now able to break out the stump with an axe.

For larger stumps, multiple treatments may be required. An axe is then used to remove the rotted root ball.

How long does it take to remove a tree stump with a small grinder?

How long does it take to remove a tree stump with a small grinder
Tree stump with a small grinder

Using a small stump grinder is a very efficient way to remove a tree stump. However, the overall time it takes to do so is affected by the following factors:

  • The overall diameter of the tree.
  • The number of lateral roots.
  • The height at which the stump is cut.
  • How rotten the heartwood is prior to commencing.
  • Terrain you are working on.
  • Technique of grinding.

Small stump grinders are an excellent choice of machinery and, overall, will reduce the time it would take to complete the task by hand. We would highly recommend that to increase your overall productivity with this type of machinery, it is worth investing in training.

How long does it take to remove a tree stump with chemicals?

Using chemicals to remove a tree stump is not a quick process. However, for some, it is a far more cost-effective alternative. On average, you should allow between 4-6 weeks to remove a stump with this method. Other factors you should consider are:

  • Weather.
  • Season (Always best in Autumn and Winter).
  • Chemical choice.
  • How rotten the heartwood is prior to application.
  • Size of tree stump

By following the method that we have provided in this resource you will have the greatest chance of success. It is essential to choose the best stump-removing chemicals suitable for your situation. This application is best during the Autumn and Winter months when the growing season has finished.

Do you need permission to remove a tree stump?

permission to remove a tree stump
Tree stump removal permission

Removing a tree stump is not something you need permission to remove as long it is on your own land. However, permission to remove a tree is a completely different question. Many trees throughout the UK hold Tree Protection Orders. (TPO’s) This means that you will have to consult your local authority to grant you permission to remove the tree in its entirety. Planning permission needs to be submitted to the arboriculture officer within your council.

Not all trees hold TPOs, however, you should always check with your local authority otherwise you could face significant fines.

What is the maximum size diameter to use a small stump grinder on?

Small stump grinders are highly effective machines on tree stumps of all sizes. Therefore, in theory, there is no maximum diameter that they are suitable for. That being said. When dealing with large tree stumps over 2ft in diameter, choosing a larger stump grinder could be far more cost-effective.

Small stump grinders offer around 13hp from their petrol-driven engines. Making them optimal for stump sizes up to 1ft in diameter. For anything bigger, a more powerful machine is more desirable. Further, one of the greatest benefits of a small stump grinder is that able to access smaller areas compared to bulker machines.

When deciding on which machine is best for your project, you should weigh up all the factors such as:

  • Access to the work area.
  • Cost.
  • Time limit.
  • Number of stumps to remove.

Small stump grinders have for a long time been a big favourite for landscapers and home DIYers. This is because of their simplicity and effectiveness against the cost of hire.

Does the type of tree species affect the speed of stump grinding?

Tree species affect the speed of grinding?
Tree species and stump grinding

Certain tree species will be more difficult than others to grind out. This is because of the density of their fibres. Hardwoods such as Ash, Oak and Beech, are great examples of this as they are deciduous trees. (meaning they lose their leaves annually). Hardwood trees are slower growing meaning that their wood is generally much stronger.

Softwoods such as conifers and pine trees are classed as evergreens, meaning that they stay green all year round. These species are faster growing but far less dense overall, which results in faster grinding. Nevertheless, it is essential to take note of the current decay of the stump(s) you intend to work on. Freshly cut stumps will always take longer to remove than ones that have been decaying in the ground for some time.

The cost of a small stump grinder to hire

Hiring a small stump grinder can be a very inexpensive way to remove one or more stumps in a day. You should expect to pay £70.00 /day +VAT or £144.00/ week +VAT (2023)for machinery of this type. Different suppliers’ costs will vary, however, you will need to take into account the transport of the machine. Most tool hire supplier will offer a delivery service with their equipment for a small additional fee.

Here is an example of a stump grinder you can hire including all the machine’s specifications. Check it out >> Small stumper grinder to hire

Examples of chemical costs to remove tree stumps

Choosing to chemically remove your stump could save you money in the long run. There are multiple different chemicals to use on the market which all vary in price. You should expect to pay anywhere between £5.50 and £20.00 for 250ml the most popular UK brands. Alternatively, another cheap and natural way to remove your tree stumps is with Epsom salts. As salt holds high levels of both magnesium and sulphur, in excess it can kill the plants and trees. Correctly done, Epsom salts dry out the root system and cause tree stumps to rot.

Where to hire a small stump grinder near me?

If you decide that hiring a stump grinder is the right choice for your project, then WHC Hire Services can help you get the job done. Our large fleet of gardening equipment offers highest highest-performing machinery at competitive rates. Based in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and the Cotswolds, our small stump grinders start from as little as £70.00/day + VAT (2023). Click here for more information or to enquire now.