How To Burn A Tree Stump

Tree stumps left after you remove the tree can be troublesome to remove. If you don’t want to grind a stump, there are other methods to remove a stump. One of the most popular ways to get rid of a stump is by burning the stump out of the ground. While it may take a little time to get the stump ready for burning, stump removal doesn’t require a lot of physical effort and might be one good alternative to professional removal services.

Safety Tips

Using fire to burn out an old tree stump can be a dangerous job. Always check with your fire department regarding open fires and any restrictions due to drought conditions before you get started. Store the potassium nitrate in a safe location because the substance is a well-known explosive. Keep a garden hose with the water turned on nearby in case you run into any fire problems. Alternatively, have at least three large buckets of water on standby nearby.

Check The Weather Forecast And The Calendar. Even if it is permissible to light fires to remove tree stumps in your area, you still need to ensure you have appropriate weather conditions. Blustery, windy days leave too much to chance to risk such a method of tree removal.

Materials Needed To Burn A Stump

  • Drill with a one-inch spade bit or another wood-boring bit to drill holes
  • Eight to 10-inch extender for the bit  Potassium nitrate or saltpeter with a funnel  Plastic scoop or garden spade
  • Bucket of hot water  Cup with a spout or a funnel  Pieces of dry scrap wood
  • Matches or starter for the fire
  • Shovel

Prepare The Stump For Burning

For best results, the tree stump needs to be dry or dead timber. A minimum of 12-18 months left to dry before attempting to burn is recommended. Use a chainsaw to get the stump as close to the ground as you can. It would help if you cleared the area around the stump of all flammable materials such as dead leaves or pieces of trash or anything else combustible. Make sure there is at least a 3 feet clear distance around the base of the stump. Place rocks or bricks in a circle round the stump to act as a containment line.

Making The Stump Flammable

Dig down around the stump with a shovel to expose as much of the stump as possible. Using a drill with a 1-inch spade bit eight to twelve inches long, drill holes all over the top of the stump, around the base, and into the roots pushing the drill bit as deep as it will go. Fill each hole with stump remover. Once all of your holes are in the stump, fill each one with potassium nitrate using the funnel on the potassium nitrate bottle. Pour boiling water into the
holes to dissolve the saltpeter.

The saltpeter will soften the wood, and the hot water will help distribute it throughout the stump. Now you should allow the liquid to penetrate from the holes through the stump, so make sure you leave it alone for several weeks. After the saltpeter has been absorbed into the wood, pour some kerosene on the stump and
into the holes and allow it to sit for another few weeks. Once the kerosene has soaked through the wood, you are ready to set the tree stump on fire.

Igniting The Stump And Keeping The Fire Going

Place scrap wood or kindling on top of the stump or align the scraps round the stump, creating a cone shape. Make sure there are air pockets for air to circulate and fan the flames when the burn starts. Light the scrap wood and allow it to set the stump alight and stand back to see it burn. Keep adding more wood to the burning stump if necessary. Allow several hours for the stump to thoroughly burn to ash. Be advised there will be smoke and glowing embers.

Give It Time

Wood from a tree stump is often much denser than wood from branches. Depending on the size and age of the stump, the level of potassium nitrate saturation, and how frequently you stoke the fire, this can take anywhere from a few hours to all day for the burn to be complete.

Put Out The Embers Properly When Done

As the stump fades into glowing embers your job is not done yet. The embers may keep burning for several days or even a week. Be sure to check progress often and stir the embers up now and again. Once you are satisfied the fire is dead, fill the hole with your preferred soil. If the stump was situated in a grassy area, its time to seed.

Wood And Charcoal Burn

How to burn a tree stump is not limited to a single option. You could potentially use charcoal and firewood to set the stump on fire. Tree trimming will be necessary here so that you don’t leave the stump high above the ground. Saw the stump as close to the ground as possible. Surround the stump with charcoal and firewood and allow this combination to burn hot so that the tree stump catches fire. Another option is to use a steel drum and charcoal to burn the tree stump. Again tree trimming will be necessary so that you can place the drum over the stump. The drum
intensifies the heat and assists the charcoal in burning it. You can put some cross hashes in the stump with a chain saw and add some kerosene in the holes.

The use of a charcoal chimney is helpful here. Newspapers are placed in one end of the charcoal chimney, and the charcoal is placed in the top end. Place the charcoal chimney in position on the stump and light the newspaper at the bottom of the charcoal chimney. You may use a sheet metal duct
with the charcoal chimney. You should be wearing gloves and have some long-handled tongs to move the charcoal around if necessary. Once the fire is underway, you can place the metal drum over the charcoal chimney to retain the heat.

Disadvantages Of Burning As A Method Of Tree Stump


If stumps remain in contact with moist soil or have a limited surface area reducing the ability to create high oxygen conditions, then burning the tree stump may not be the best method of stump removal. If you want a quick way to get rid of a tree stump, you could consider tree removal services that will grind stumps or will remove stumps manually.

A Word Of Warning

Tree stumps can be rather unsightly, but it is imperative to do stump removal properly and safely. If you choose not to use professional tree removal services to remove an old tree stump from your yard, make sure you plan the stump removal carefully, be aware of your limitations, and observe all safety tips. Be prepared to watch the tree stump burn and have a hose ready to put out the fire should it get out of hand.