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What Happens If You Don’t Grind a Tree Stump?

Removing a tree is hard work, but the cleanup afterward may be even harder. Once you’ve successfully felled the tree, you’ll have to find a way to dispose of the tree itself, which often means cutting it into smaller pieces and removing it in chunks. If you think that’s difficult, try removing the tree stump. There are several methods for doing it, and all of them are challenging.

The fastest and easiest way to remove a tree stump is using a stump grinder, but these are expensive to rent and can require some hard work. To mitigate the effort you have to put in to remove it, you may be tempted to leave the stump where it is and allow the earth to simply reclaim it over time. After all, it will decompose naturally once the tree has been cut down, right? Well, yes and no. 

Failing to remove a stump can often create more problems. Below, we’ll explain what happens if you don’t grind a tree stump.

Dangers of a Tree Stump in Your Yard

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A tree stump is more than just an eyesore in your yard. It can actually create some serious hazards. Any large, solid obstruction can pose a major threat to safety, and a tree stump is no exception. For children and pets playing outside, the stump is a tripping hazard, and it’s easy to imagine someone stumbling over it and becoming injured.

There are other hazards inherent in having a tree stump in your yard as well. For example, it can easily become a home for a nest of termites. These termites won’t simply be content to remain in the stump, and may very well end up moving into other nearby trees and even into the wooden beams that make up your home. The same is true for any number of other pest species, such as carpenter ants or even certain types of fungus.

The roots can be another concern when a tree stump is left in place. Just because a tree has been cut down does not necessarily mean the roots are dead. Indeed, they may continue to grow if the stump isn’t removed, ultimately damaging property as they do so. Tree roots will seek out water as long as they’re left to continue their growth, which means they could enter pipes and cause them to burst. They may also cause sidewalks to buckle and create other types of damage as well.

Renting a Stump Grinder

We’ve already mentioned stump grinding as the best method for removing a tree stump easily. If not the best method, it’s certainly the fastest, with the only major downside being that it requires an expensive piece of equipment that takes a bit of effort to learn. Nevertheless, many homeowners find the price of a stump grinder rental to be well worth it, as it means the stump will be yesterday’s news after a few hours of work.

Should you decide to opt for the stump grinder method, you’ll first need to find a place where you can procure a rental. Many large hardware stores will offer stump grinder rental for around $300 per day (this price can vary greatly depending on your location).

Once you’ve reserved your equipment rental, make sure you have all the proper safety equipment before beginning the task. Hearing and eye protection are both an absolute must, as a stump grinder is a loud machine that is likely to send sawdust flying. Gloves and long pants are a necessity as well.

To use the stump grinder, you’ll need to adjust the handle until it is about waist height. You’ll then position it over the tree stump and set the brake. Pull the throttle to activate the machine and carefully allow it to begin grinding the stump away. Remember to let the stump grinder itself do all the work, as it isn’t necessary to push down or pull up to make everything happen faster.

Once you’ve ground away about four to six inches of material, you can shut the machine off, readjust everything, and move the stump grinder to the next position. Aim to grind the stump down to below ground level; a depth about equal to the diameter of the stump is best.

If You Don’t Have Access to a Stump Grinder

So what happens if you don’t grind a tree stump? Well, you can also dispose of a stump in other ways, and some of them are cheaper, but they also tend to be much slower. For example, you can actually use a chemical called potassium nitrate to speed up the natural decomposition process of the stump, effectively causing it to rot away much faster. It does this by degrading the cellulose that makes up the cell walls of the wood, turning the stump spongey instead of hard and causing it to rot away. 

You can do this by drilling several holes into the stump and pouring a stump remover chemical—which you can usually purchase at a hardware store—into those openings. After a few weeks, you can cut the stump apart and remove it with (relative) ease.

You can also burn a stump away by drilling into it and pouring kerosene or a similar chemical into it. You’ll then light the stump and gradually allow it to smolder until it is suitably weakened so that it can be removed. Note that this method is actually illegal in many areas, due to the risk of fire that it poses, so check your county’s rules before you give it a try.

When in Doubt, Call a Pro

Regardless of what method of removal you opt for, you definitely shouldn’t leave a stump sitting in your yard. If you don’t want to spend the time and effort yourself on the job, you should contact a professional arborist to do it for you. Often, a pro won’t charge much more than what you would pay for a stump grinder rental to do the job yourself. If you have multiple stumps that need to be removed, contacting a professional is definitely the way to go. 

Call the best arborists in the business at Mr. Tree and ask them to professionally remove your tree stumps quickly and safely.

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