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How to get rid of tree stumps and roots

Tree stumps and roots can be almost as much as a nuisance as the tree itself. With an established tree, roots can disturb hard surfaces like patios and driveways and sometimes encroach on the foundations of buildings. Even when a tree is felled or falls in high winds, the root network and stump will remain and can be unsightly and impede plans for landscaping or other plans in the garden.

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Why do people get rid of tree stumps and roots?

The main reason is to finish the job once the main trunk of the tree has gone:-

  • The root network can continue to spread and cause damage to the garden or the house
  • The trunk is unsightly
  • The trunk is in the way of landscaping or other gardening activities such as mowing the lawn
  • The stump is a trip hazard partially buried in the grass or soil
  • The trunk can become a host for a disease like honey fungus which can spread to other plants in the garden
  • The tree was felled because it was diseased and the base and roots need to be removed for the same reason


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What are the methods to get rid of tree stumps and roots?

The most popular method is to grind the stump out is using a dedicated machine specifically designed for the purpose. The stump is reduced to powder using a blade and rotating cutter which continues to shear the stump until it is significantly reduced. The remnants can be taken below soil level so there is nothing visible or protruding above the surface. The root network around the base of the trunk is also cut. All that will remain if the stump was large is a pile of wood chips which can be moved by barrow and used as mulch for the garden or, they can be left in situ to rot down.

The other method to remove a stump is to excavate it out of the earth using machinery and hard toil. Which process is used depends on a number of factors which may include:-

  • The size of the stump
  • Access to the site
  • What plans there are for the ground once the stump has been removed
  • How close the stump is to a building

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The cost of removing a tree stump

Wanting to know how much to remove a tree stump? There are a number of factors which will determine the cost of removing a tree stump complete with root network and these are:-

  • Ease of access to the tree – if it is adjacent to a building or the area is restricted then it can take longer to use machinery to avoid damage and this will impact on labour costs
  • The size of the stump
  • The species of tree as this will indicate the size of the root network
  • What you intend to do with the area afterwards and whether there are any remedial works required

A professional’s job

There are plenty of garden contractors, landscaping companies and tree surgeons who offer stump removal. Try and find a personal recommendation from a friend or neighbour or use a community group on social media. Always obtain two or three quotes as the price can vary quite dramatically. Make sure the quote is fully inclusive and will leave the site totally clean and clear once the work is finished.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, stump grinding or stump removal?

Stump grinding is usually more popular for householders as it is a self-contained job and makes less mess, ideal where space is limited. However, if the entire site is being excavated to prepare for a new building or for hard landscaping then it may be quicker to just pull the stump out complete with the root ball. Manually removing the stump will leave a large crater and disturb the soil for some distance around the site.

Do I need planning permission to remove or grind out a tree stump?

No, you don’t need planning permission to do this but you may need planning permission to remove the tree in the first place. Mature trees may be the subject of a Tree Preservation Orders or TPO. A TPO is made by the local planning authority in England to protect specific trees or groups of trees or woodland which means certain activities including felling may be unlawful. Check with the planning department at your local council to make sure you are legally allowed to fell the tree.

Can I do the work myself?

Small trees with a trunk of less than five inches in diameter can usually be removed by the householder with just some persistence and hard work but larger trees should be left to professional garden contractors or tree surgeons. If you are just left with the stump then you could consider hiring a stump grinder and do the work yourself. Precautions need to be taken before the work begins to protect both yourself and other people from flying debris; if you watch professionals at work, they wear several items of safety equipment. If the trunk is near a house or building then you may also need to shield the windows to protect the glass from being broken or cracked.

Can tree roots re-grow after stump grinding?

As part of the stump grinding process, the tree roots will be severed with the blade as the stump reduces in size and they become exposed. When the work has finished, the stump area should be covered with a mound of soil and a nitrogen-based fertiliser applied to accelerate the rate of decomposition of the stump and the roots.

What will happen if I just leave the stump?

The stump will usually rot down but it will take many years. Some people like to leave them if they are not in the way as they can act as a host for insects and invertebrates which is why many woodland management companies will leave rotting stumps after tree clearance activity.

See here for more information on the general disposal of garden waste and disagreements with neighbours when renovating your garden.

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