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Stump Removal & Grinding - DIY or Call a Pro?

Updated on June 10, 2013

Stump Grinder in Action

With a large blade spinning out fast speeds it can be a dangerous and dirty job.
With a large blade spinning out fast speeds it can be a dangerous and dirty job. | Source

Tree Stump Removal - When to Call a Tree Service Company

So you've removed a tree from your yard? It seems like the hard part is over, right? Well, unfortunately not. Even though you may have conquered a towering giant of a tree in your backyard the stump that’s left behind is a permanent reminder of the tree's former location.

Stumps may not seem like a big deal, especially if they are out of the way or can be covered by other landscaping. But, normally the remaining stump is in a very inconvenient spot of a homeowner’s yard. Likely that’s why the homeowner decided to cut their tree down. Tree stumps can easily cause injury if not removed or ground down. A child playing it the yard can trip and fall during a game of tag, or a party guest walking outside in the dimly lit backyard could stumble over the stump or its roots. Not to mention what an eyesore a rogue stump can be just sitting in the middle of a yard as a beacon of an unfinished tree removal project. It’s usually an easy call as to whether or not a stump should be removed.

If the stump left behind is truly a problem for the homeowner, they have 2 options. They can call in an expert tree contractor, or try their hand at a do it yourself stump removal project. So how do you decide which route to take? This decision should be based on 3 criteria: the size of the stump which affects time and expense, the budget of the homeowner, and the ability of the homeowner to perform the job.

Is it in the budget? A tree service company is likely to be much more expensive than doing it yourself, but there is some added convenience included in the tree company's price. These added benefits can include quality guarantees, fast project completion, site and debris cleanup, as well as a professional finished looked that may not be able to be achieved by a novice. Once the extent of a homeowner's budget is figured out, they can then start to pinpoint companies whose services are within their price range. Try calling some local tree service companies in the area and find out information. Ask about pricing, whether or not their services come with any warranties or guarantees, how long they have been in business, and what associations are they currently members of (for example the Better Business Bureau or Angie's List). Many companies are happy to give a free estimate for their services; all you need to do is call or e-mail. Try finding these companies online. Do they have a website? Often times websites will offer coupons that might not be available to the customer otherwise. Do these companies have reviews from other customer on their site or search engines like Yahoo or Google? Please keep in mind that just because a company has a bad review does not mean that they are not reputable. After all, a business is not going to be able to please every customer, but it's easy to get a feel for a company and their level of professionalism when reading multiple people's thoughts on their experiences with the company. Each homeowner can evaluate for themselves whether or not they feel the value of the service is worth the price a company charges. If the homeowner finds themselves uncomfortable with paying a professional crew to do the job, then they will want to consider the remaining factors.

Do you have the ability to do it yourself? In order to remove a stump by yourself, or hopefully with a group of people, you need the physical strength and stamina, the right tools, and the time and opportunity to do the project. First of all, stump grinding, like any other tree service work, can be labor intensive and back breaking. The steps to take to remove a stump can be found in the link below to the Popular Mechanics article. If you read that you will get a better sense of the task that lies ahead. It might be more of a hassle than you previously thought.

Do you have the tools you will need for the job? Chainsaws, shovels, axes, and picks are among the tools that will become handy while working on removing the stump. A stump grinder is usually necessary, especially with larger stumps. Almost anyone can rent a gas powered stump grinder at an equipment rental facility or hardware store. They usually run in the range of a couple hundred dollars, depending on how long the piece of equipment is rented for. Those who have used the grinders themselves say that they are pretty easy to handle once you get the hang of it. But then again, a stump grinder is not exactly a piece of equipment that I would want to toy with. The huge blade traveling at fast speeds has the ability to grind away solid wood, so just imagine what it could do to a person’s limb. Now I’m not saying that every person will be injured if they attempt to use a stump grinder, but be aware that accidents do happen and safety as well as common sense should always be used in these situations.

Will you have the time to do this project on your own in between work, school, and family obligations? If so, then hopefully the weather will cooperate. There are few things more uncomfortable, and possibly dangerous, than working outside when the weather is nasty. Depending on the size of the stump to be removed, the job can take a number of hours to complete. You'll likely be devoting a good lengthy afternoon to the project. Remember, there’s no shame in calling in a professional to handle the matter. Besides, wouldn't you much rather be elsewhere enjoying life than in your backyard on a hot summer day working with a big, heavy piece of potentially dangerous equipment?

Unfortunately, some property owners will find themselves unable to afford the services of a professional stump grinding company and unable to do the project themselves. It can be a real dilemma, but there are other options. Perhaps the stump can be used for another purpose until money can be saved or a volunteer can be found to remove it. One option is to try to dig out the middle of the stump a bit and use is as a fire pit. This will not only help to burn away the stump, but also makes for an interesting conversation topic around the bonfire with friends. Despite the charring away of the body of the stump after a few fires, the roots of the stump will still be fairly strong and may need removed later. Chemical stump removers can also be found at the majority of home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot. They range from about $10.00 to $50.00 depending on the brand and quantity. These chemical applications basically speed up the natural rotting process and break down the fibers of the wood. This method will still require some digging and chopping to free the stump from the ground but, the decaying and softer wood will make the removal process substantially easier.

Again, if the tree stump is out of the way and not likely to cause injury to guests, then there may be no need to remove it. Consider using the stump as part of the property's landscaping. It can be used as a flower bed or planter. This can easily be done by hallowing out the middle of the stump, like a bowl. It does not need to be extremely deep. After scrapping out the middle of the stump, simply add potting soil and plant some lovely flowers. There's always opportunity to give a problem a positive spin all you need to do is open your eyes to see it!

So perhaps if you have the time and energy to sit down, learn how to use a stump grinder, and then put in a few hours of hard work, maybe the DIY route is the path you should take. It can be a tough decision to make. It can really boil down to a battle between saving money and convenience. Hopefully this article has given a little insight on the topic. So, good luck in making your decision about your next stump removal project. As always, be safe!

Stump Grinder used by Tree Contractor

Stump Grinder used by GP Tree Service of Akron, Ohio.  Notice the size, it's actually towed behind a truck.
Stump Grinder used by GP Tree Service of Akron, Ohio. Notice the size, it's actually towed behind a truck. | Source

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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I had several trees taken down and stumps removed by a professional company about 2002. Then, in 2007, a tornado (that thankfully didn't demolish my home) uprooted very large hardwood trees and broke off numerous tall mature pine trees. This necessitated more pro work, but because there was so much damage in a large area here, I couldn't get the same company. About a week later, the work was done. The machines that were used in my large back yard left the ground looking like a DMZ--not a blade of grass survived. The yard had to be resodded.

      The workmen filled in the large holes left where the hardwood trees had been, but over the next few years those areas sunk just a bit. Also, there is apparently still wood beneath the lawn in those areas because heavy rains bring out those hard-as-a-brick toadstools there.

      Interesting hub. Voted Up++

      Jaye