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How much does tree stump removal cost?

Stump removal is the complete removal of a tree stump of any size which can be done either through excavation, usually with machinery, or by grinding the stump out which is the most commonly preferred route. The cost will depend on which removal procedure you choose, the size of the stump and ease of accessibility to the site.

The average cost to grind out a stump is about £200 with an hourly rate for this work of about £60 and then it is just a question of how long it takes the grinder to destroy the stump. The price to physically remove a stump in its entirety is usually significantly higher because of the amount of labour involved and there is no guarantee about the length or complexity of the root system until the work actually begins. In general terms, stump removal can take a lot longer than stump grinding. Both services can be charged at either an hourly rate or as a fixed price but stump grinding is usually charged at an hourly rate. Stump removal costs on average range anywhere from £50 to £500 per stump depending on all the different variables.

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What the factors which affect the cost of stump removal?

There are several factors which can affect the cost of removing a tree stump and these include:-

  • Whether you are also having the tree felled if it is still present
  • Which process you choose to get rid of the stump, complete removal or stump grinding
  • The size of the stump
  • The species of the tree as this will indicate the length and complexity of the root network
  • It’s location near areas of hard standing or buildings with the potential challenges of avoiding damage to these structures
  • Ease of accessibility to the site for machinery
  • What you intend to do with the site afterwards as this can dictate which method of stump removal you choose and whether there are any remedial works required to finish the site

 

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What happens when a tree is felled?

When a tree is felled, the stump will often be left in situ: this can also happen as the result of bad weather although sometimes the root ball will come out when the tree goes over in an unplanned felling but not always. If you are having a tree professionally felled, it is easier and safer to leave the base of the trunk and the roots in place and cut the tree further up the trunk so the majority of the tree falls but not all of it. If the tree is felled in its entirety including the root base then it can leave an enormous crater and also rip up ground and other areas of hard standing like driveways and patios as the roots are torn out. If the tree is near to a building then this could cause structural damage to the walls and foundations. Once the tree has been felled then the stump can be dealt with separately causing much less disruption to the ground and surrounding areas. When you are instructing a tree contractor to fell a tree, you should check whether their quote also includes the cost for grinding out the stump or removing it as not every specialist company will do this.

What is stump removal?

Stump removal is the physical excavation of the stump using a mixture of machinery and labour to pull it out of the ground. It can sometimes be hard to determine the length and complexity of the root structure until the removal process has begun although the species of the tree and a comprehensive site inspection should provide sufficient clarity for an accurate quotation from an experienced specialist.

The stump grinding process

Your tree surgeon may have included stump grinding as part of his quote or this could be something you need to organise separately.

Stump grinding uses a blade to effectively shred the remaining stump down into fine woodchips and powder. Stump grinders work with a specialist piece of machinery with a large rotating cutter that breaks down the surface of the stump and shears it away until it is effectively at soil level or just below. It is ideal to go below soil level as then the stump will be completely obscured to the human eye and cannot form a trip hazard both of which could be the case if it remains flush with the ground. You can be left with quite a pile of woodchips if the original tree was large but these will quickly rot down into the earth or you can gather them into a barrow and use them as organic mulch for the plants in your garden.

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Why do people want to remove tree stumps?

Old tree stumps will rot down and disintegrate to a degree but it can take many years for this to happen. In the meantime, an unsightly stump could be left in the middle of a garden or a driveway and they can be dangerous if they are obscured by soil, grass and other foliage. In public places, tree stumps are nearly always ground out as they can present a trip hazard.

Stump grinding versus stump removal

Manually removing the stump and heaving it out of the ground remains the more intrusive of the two processes even when the bulk of the tree has gone as it will create a huge hole and damage to the surrounding soil and any structures as the base of the tree is pulled out complete with roots. And there will often be a large hole to fill in when it is gone. Stump grinding is much less intrusive, a machine simply grinds the stump down into woodchips and fine powder and this is usually the quickest and cheapest option.

Can the tree roots spout new growth after stump grinding?

This is a concern for people particularly if the stump is located near to a building or the roots have already caused damage to hard areas. Part of the stump grinding process is to sever the roots around the base of the stump with a pruning saw or lopping shears. The stump area should then be covered with a mound of soil after grinding and a nitrogen-based fertiliser applied to speed up the decomposition of the remaining stump and the root wood.

Sourcing the right company to remove your tree stump

Removing tree stumps which are wider than five inches in diameter is specialist work. There are plenty of DIY suggestions for the householder online but many of these don’t work or take a long time and can actually be dangerous whereas simple stump grinding can remove the problem in just a few hours.

Sourcing a stump grinding company is rather like looking for any other trade. Some tree surgeons who prune and fell trees will also offer a stump grinding or stump removal service but there are companies who are just dedicated to stump removal. Often tree contractors and tree surgeons who don’t offer stump removal or stump grinding will feed this work to companies they know so you could ask them for a recommendation.

  • Ask a friend, colleague or family member if they know of anyone
  • Use a local advertising magazine
  • Put a post on a neighbourhood social media group asking for a recommendation
  • Use an internet search platform which will bring up suggestions based on your location and job requirements

Always obtain three estimates much as you would do with other work around your property as prices can vary significantly. Make sure that the quote is fully inclusive and covers leaving the site clean, tidy and presentable and also includes the removal of any debris especially the stump. Make sure you know what the plan is for the hole if you are having a stump removed as this will need to be backfilled with topsoil. It is usual to leave any woodchips in situ as these will quickly degrade or you can remove them and use them as mulch in different parts of the garden but you need to move them before it rains ideally. For peace of mind, use a contractor who is fully approved by the Arboricultural Association and who can demonstrate that they carry out their work in complete compliance with British Standard 3998. They should also have public liability insurance in place and the usual level is £5 million.

What information does a contractor need before he can quote?

Any contractor will need to know the following:-

  • The number of stumps
  • The size of the stumps so their diameter
  • Any challenges or problems with the access to the site which can affect or restrict the choice of machinery
  • Any obstacles or hazards within one metre of the stump or stumps, this might include steps, walls, steep slopes, ditches, drainpipes and any other mains services.

How should you prepare the site before the stump is removed or ground out?

Your chosen contractor will have already done a comprehensive site inspection before he provided the quote but you can speed up the process on the day by taking a few steps in preparation:-

  • Make sure there is good and easy access for vehicles
  • If the stump is obscured by foliage then clear the site including an area around the stump so work can start immediately
  • It can be helpful to also remove debris, rocks and large stones from around the stump if it is being ground out as these can obstruct the blade of the grinder and blunt it
  • There are safety aspects on site whilst a grinder is in use so you should not approach unless it is safe to do so once work has started
  • Windows near the tree stump should be protected by temporary screens or boards in case a stone flies up and hits them

Leaving the site in good order when the job is finished

When you are asking for estimates for stump removal or stump grinding, it is important that one of your questions must be about the state the site will be left in when the contractors have finished. You don’t want to be left with a gaping hole after stump removal as this will look awful and could potentially be quite hazardous for people and pets. Stump grinding makes much less mess and any residual woodchip will usually rot down and disintegrate quite quickly. The contractor must know what your plans are for the site as this may affect what they do and how they choose to operate.

Are there any planning permission issues when removing a tree?

Many trees are protected by TPOs or Tree Preservation Orders so you do need planning permission to fell them and sometimes even to prune and pollard them. If the tree is already absent and you are just left with the stump then you will not require planning permission to remove it or grind it out. It is a criminal offence to breach a TPO.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to tree roots after stump grinding?

The tree roots will remain in place under the ground and will eventually decay after around ten years or so but this will depend upon the species of the tree. An arboriculturist can advise you. Grinding the stump deliberately leaves the tree’s roots undisturbed because removing them can cause more damage to the surrounding area. The roots can spread anywhere from four to twelve feet in any direction from the site of the original tree. The roots will decay over time and disintegrate to form part of the natural organic matter.

What is an arboriculturist?

An arboriculturist is a tree specialist who deals with all the aspects of managing and removing trees other than those grown for commercial timber crops. A Tree Surgeon is someone who actually carries out the work on trees including all aspects of care and maintenance plus the felling of trees.

Can a stump grinder grind lower than soil level?

Most tree stumps have all their major roots in the top 16 inches of soil and a stump grinder can work down into the soil if required. A stump grinder will remove all the surface roots which extend out from the stump and can form a trip hazard. Most stump grinders will offer a shallow or a deeper grade depending on customer preference and the size of the stump and the species of the tree. Deeper work will usually allow you to plant grass or other shrubs in that soil once the stump has been removed or even another tree.

Are there any environmental concerns about leaving an old tree stump in place?

Some environmentalists support the use of old dead wood as a haven for insects but there can be problems leaving a tree stump in situ and the most common of these is honey fungus. Honey fungus will utilise the tree stump as a source of food and then move on to attack other plants and vegetation in the vicinity which may not be good news for your garden. Some trees are more prone to honey fungus than others and these include apple trees, birch, flowering cherries, leylandii, monkey puzzle, lilac, willow and privet amongst others. However, some species are resistant to honey fungus so take advice from a tree surgeon if you are concerned.

Old tree stumps can also become a haven for wasps, hornets and bees and if the tree was removed or felled due to a disease, then any expert would recommend that you should also remove the stump in order to ensure that the disease does not spread to neighbouring plants or trees.

What can I do with a tree stump in my garden if I decide to keep it?

There are loads of ideas online which you can use for inspiration to turn a tree stump into a garden decoration or garden art for either adults or children. Some people choose to incorporate them as a real feature in their garden design.

I have a very small tree stump, can I remove it myself?

A tree stump that is less than five inches in diameter can be removed with a bit of effort and the best tool to do this is a mattock. This looks like a pickaxe but it has a flat blade on one side and is perfect for this task. Mattocks retail at around £20 and can be purchased easily from a DIY or gardening store. It is easier to remove a small stump with a mattock if it is taller rather than shorter.

Can I hire a stump grinder?

You can hire a stump grinder but they tend to smaller and less powerful than the ones which commercial companies use so it may be less efficient and take you longer to remove a stump than a professional contractor. There are also safety implications and you will need full-face protection as a minimum in case you are hit by flying debris and objects.

Is it better to grind out a stump or remove it?

This depends completely on access to the site, the size of the stump, your plans for the location and, of course, your budget. On commercial building sites which are being cleared for road or housing developments then construction companies will often remove stumps in their entirety but this is because the site clearance is usually major and they have both the access and the machinery to do it. For smaller household jobs, usually stump grinding is the least intrusive and cheapest option.

When might stump removal be the only option?

If there are fairly major building works then the disruption caused by stump removal is usually less of a problem. If there is a lot of earth to be moved as part of construction or agriculture works then stump removal can also be the better option. Sometimes an insurer may insist upon it.

How can I be sure that stump removal or stump grinding is not going to damage any mains service so cables or pipework?

If you are not sure whether the area around the stump is free of pipework or cables or there is a suspicion that the tree roots run a long way and may interfere with services then some contractors will use a CAT or Cable Avoidance Tool to check this before they start work.

What happens to the stump after stump removal?

Make sure that your quote includes removal and disposal of the stump offsite otherwise you will be left with it sitting on top of the ground rather than in the ground – not much of an improvement.

My tree stump is at the end of the garden, how can they access it with a stump grinding machine without damaging the lawn?

If the trunk is large and needs some serious machinery then you need a contractor who has a type of grinder which can be moved on special tyres so it doesn’t cause damage. Normally, these machines have extra tyres to distribute the weight and minimise any destruction to areas like lawns. Some contractors will also use plastic or rubber mats to protect soft areas. Tough locations are usually accessed with the grinder on a trailer pulled by a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Are there any particular species of tree which tend to re-shoot after stump grinding?

On occasions, some stumps will send up shoots even after grinding and these are usually either willows or poplar trees. Your contractor can advise you how to manage this but it doesn’t mean that a new tree will re-grow.

Can you grind a stump which is next to a building or other structure?

These situations require an expert assessment to ensure that there will be no damage to the structure and it may be the case that not all of the stump is ground out because of the associated risk. There are treatments which a contractor can use to ensure that what remains of the stump will not re-grow.

For more general information on the disposal of garden waste, please take a look at the government website. On The Royal Horticultural Society website, you will also find more information on tree stump removal and treatment.

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