Stump Grinding 101
So you’ve had a tree removed, or perhaps inherited a tree stump or several from a previous resident. Tree stump removal is an extra expense. Is it worth removing your stump?
There are a few ways to get rid of a tree stump, but stump grinding is the method we recommend in the majority of cases.
True, stumps will decay naturally over time — but this can take a decade, or even longer, depending on the size of the tree. In the meantime, you may want the space back for other purposes — or at least that stump out of the way.
Reasons to Remove a Stump
If you have a manicured lawn or carefully designed garden, a stump may interfere with your yard’s look. For more natural, “cottage”-style gardens, a stump may fit with your aesthetic. With a more rustic look, your stump may blend in with other foliage or can be used to hold a potted plant.
If the stump came from a tree in the middle of an open space, you’ll likely want it removed as soon as possible. Stumps can be a tripping hazard for human feet or for lawnmowers and other yard gear. With kids running through a yard or elderly residents who have difficulty on uneven ground, a stump in open areas can pose a particular risk.
Stumps at lower heights can be a bigger risk, as they can be easily overlooked or hidden by long grass.
There are also a few biological reasons to remove a stump. Stumps can sprout “suckers”, small branches of new growth. These won’t grow into a new tree, but may become their own tripping hazard or need to be removed.
Decaying stumps are also great at attracting pests and disease. Dry, rotting wood attracts wood-boring insects that could spread to other plants or buildings. Stumps can also attract fungi and other disease-causing organisms. Once they’re in your yard, they can spread to other trees, causing problems on a much bigger scale.
How Do I Remove a Tree Stump?
Removing a stump manually may be the first thing that comes to mind, but this really isn’t a great method, unless the stump is under 10 cm or 4” in diameter. Tree roots grow both down into the ground and outwards. The outward spread can be as wide as the tree’s height, which is a lot of root network to dig out for the stump of a big tree. Digging gets tougher the farther down you go and the more you have to do.
You may also need specialized shovels and cutters that aren’t in the average garden shed. Plus, many people underestimate just how heavy wood is — that goes for stumps too!
There are some chemicals available meant to speed up a stump rotting. These involve drilling holes into the stump and leaving the chemical to sit for weeks or months. It’s faster than waiting for the tree to decay naturally.
However, it’s still a slow process that can take a whole season and toxic chemicals are not ideal for the environment. Homeowners with children or pets won’t want to leave chemicals sitting in their yard for months. They can also be harmful to other wild and domestic animals living in your neighbourhood.
Are All Stumps Alike?
Different types of trees have different degrees of difficulty for removal. Stump grinders work best with hardwood trees, which they easily reduce to woodchips. Some softer woods, like pine, are fibrous. These woods can actually take longer to remove and grind through.
However, some hardwoods, like maple and poplar, have extensive root systems. This also makes removal of the stump more complex.
If you’re still deciding whether to keep or remove your stump, an arborist can help you assess how likely the tree variety is to grow suckers or attract pests.
How Does Stump Grinding Work?
A stump grinder is a heavy piece of equipment that goes in and chews up your tree stump. A rotating blade tears into the wood, turning it to mulch-like chips. You can use this mulch in your garden or to mulch the stump site. The grinder will grind the tree stump down to typically 25-35 cm or 10-15” below ground.
There are different sizes of stump grinders. Arborists tend to work with bigger and more powerful grinders, better for large stumps. Rental equipment may be smaller and more portable. However, this can mean it works less efficiently and takes more time and physical effort to grind down a stump.
Stump Grinding Cost
Can you grind a stump yourself? Stump grinders are available to rent from equipment rental shops. However, this may not be the most cost-effective option for you. Stump grinders are very heavy pieces of equipment. You may also need to rent a truck or other large vehicle to tow the grinder.
To use a stump grinder, you’ll need a lesson in safe operation. A rental shop may or may not offer this to you. You’ll also need to make sure you have appropriate safety equipment like steel-toed boots, gloves and eye protection.
Why Hire a Professional for Tree Stump Removal
If you only have one or two stumps to remove, the cost of hiring an arborist to remove it may be about the same. Arborists are trained in using this equipment safely. They’ll ensure they’ve removed the stump to the correct depth and will leave the site tidied. You also need to be on the lookout for airborne debris if you’re running a grinder yourself.
Stumps may also be located over utility lines. Especially in Toronto, you might be looking at a tight space where you’ll be navigating heavy equipment around narrow fences, yards or laneways. For this reason, a professional is the best person to keep you and your property safe while using a stump grinder.
An arborist may also assist you with planning and planting a new tree at the site. They can also help with alternatives to stump grinding if getting a grinder into a small space isn’t feasible. Sometimes, very large stumps can’t be completely removed by grinding, and may require multiple methods for removal.
Need tree stump removal in Toronto? Learn more about our stump removal services