Everything Homeowners Need to Know Before Removing Tree Stumps

Ask the Experts! Your Top Stump Grinding Questions Answered in Detail | Costs, Process, Cleanup and More

Stump grinding can be an confusing and intimidating process for many homeowners. When that old tree finally gives up the ghost, getting rid of the remaining stump seems like an impossible task. Who do you call? What equipment do they use? How much will it cost? We’re answering all of your most common stump grinding questions to eliminate the mystery and anxiety.

What Exactly is Stump Grinding?

Stump grinding is the process of removing the visible portion of a tree stump by grinding it down below ground level using a powerful machine called a stump grinder. Stump grinders have rotating cutting discs that chip away at the wood, turning it into mulch. The mulch gets dispersed into the soil surrounding the stump.

When done correctly, stump grinding removes the entire stump and leaves behind a hole that can be filled in with topsoil. This gives the yard a cleaner, more uniform look. The decomposing mulch also enriches the soil.

Why Hire a Professional for Stump Grinding?

You might be tempted to try grinding the stump yourself to save money. While stump grinder rentals are available at some hardware stores, we strongly advise hiring a professional tree care company. Here’s why:

  • It’s dangerous. Handling powerful grinding equipment requires training and expertise. Professionals have the proper protective gear and know safety protocols.
  • It goes faster. Pros have industrial machines that can grind even large, thick stumps quickly and efficiently. A rental won’t have that kind of power.
  • They have the right tools. Companies own specialized tools like stump grinding teeth, chainsaws, winches and more that homeowners don’t have access to.
  • It will look better. An amateur job could leave an uneven surface, jagged wood pieces and poor soil quality. A pro will leave virtually no trace the stump existed.
  • There’s less cleanup. Companies haul away the mulch when they’re done, while you’ll have a big mess to contend with if you DIY.

How Much Does Stump Grinding Cost?

Professional stump grinding costs anywhere from $3 to $7 per inch of diameter. The national average price is $4 to $5 per inch. So for a 20-inch stump, expect to pay $80 to $100. 

Here are some things that can impact the price:

  • Location – Accessing rural and remote stumps is more difficult and may cost more.
  • Number of Stumps – Most companies give a discount if you have multiple stumps to grind.
  • Stump Size – Larger stumps require more time, labor and machine resources.
  • Root Depth – Grinding deeper below ground costs more. Average depth is 8 to 12 inches.
  • Add-ons – Extra services like landscaping the area or hauling away mulch add to the bill.

Get free estimates from 3-5 local stump grinding companies before choosing one. Beware very cheap deals – quality could suffer.

What Equipment is Used?

Stump grinding professionals use heavy-duty equipment optimized for efficiency:

  • Stump Grinders – These powerful machines use a rotating cutting wheel with carbide teeth. Hydraulics allow the wheel to move in all directions.
  • Chippers – Helps dispose of the stump by chipping the wood pieces into tiny fragments for hauling away.
  • Trucks & Trailers – Necessary for transporting the grinder and wood chips as well as accessing tough terrain.
  • Hand Tools – Shovels, rakes, pruners and more for final cleanup and landscaping.

It’s vital companies maintain and service this equipment regularly. Well-maintained gear grinds thoroughly and safely.

How Long Does Stump Grinding Take?

That depends on factors like the number being removed, size, location, terrain and depth. Generally though, grinding takes 1-3 hours per stump. A pro can do several small, easily accessed stumps in a day. Large stumps or batches may take several days.

Time estimates should be a routine part of the customer service process. When you request quotes, companies should provide a schedule estimate so you know when crews will be on your property. Beware companies that can’t give estimates.

Should All Debris Be Removed?

Yes! An important service stump grinding pros provide is complete site cleanup and disposal. Wood chips, fragments and debris left behind create unsightly rotting mulch piles.

However, some debris and wood particles do get integrated back into the soil. This helps decompose the stump naturally and enrich the dirt. If you plan to plant anything over the spot later on, adding a bit of fresh topsoil ensures healthy growing medium.

How Long Should It Take the Stump to Decompose?

It depends on the size and species of tree. Oak and other hardwoods resist decay more than soft woods like pine. Remnants of a large oak stump could take 3 to 5 years to fully decompose. Small, soft stumps might decompose completely in 1 year.

Environmental factors also play a role. Stumps in shady, arid areas break down slower while moisture and soil microbes speed things up. Grinding the stump below grade gets the decomposition process off to a good start.

If the remaining bits bother you, they can be ground again at minimal cost after they’ve softened up. Or you can accelerate decay by drilling holes and adding nitrogen fertilizers.

Will Grinding Damage My Lawn or Landscape?

An expert stump grinding company will take great care to protect your property during the process. However, there will inevitably be some temporary damage to the area.

Truck wheels and grinding equipment can leave depressions or ruts in the turf. This disruption to grass roots and soil will leave brown spots, but your lawn should recover in a few weeks. Some methods pros use to protect landscaping include:

  • Laying plywood tracks for equipment to drive over
  • Staging grinders in gravel or paver stone areas
  • Using smaller machines that reduce impact

Let them know about any ornamental plants, gardens, sprinkler systems or other landscaping you want protected. They have experience keeping damage to a minimum. Discuss and agree upon what precautions will be taken before the work begins.

Do Stumps Grow Back After Grinding?

No, stumps do not grow back. Grinding below grade removes the entire root system along with the stump. Any remnants left lack the nutrients transport needed for regrowth.

Sprouts near the stump are actually suckers from the tree’s extensive underground root network. They utilize the original root system’s stored energy. To prevent re-sprouting, chemicals can be applied to the to the area after grinding.

What About Using Chemicals Instead?

Applying herbicides or pesticides to decompose the stump is an alternative method, but grinding has some advantages:

  • It’s faster – Chemical decomposition takes many months, even years. Grinding removes the stump immediately.
  • It leaves no trace – Chemicals can leave the dead stump intact. Grinding eliminates visible evidence.
  • Lower risk of resprouting – Grinding takes out the whole root network which reduces suckering. Chemicals may not kill the entire root system.
  • Can treat any tree species – Some tree stumps have natural resistance to chemical pesticides.

Talk to your chosen professional about whether to use chemicals in conjunction with grinding. They may recommend treatments before or after to prevent regrowth.

Are There Any Homeowner Precautions After Stump Grinding?

A few post-grinding precautions relate to the possible hole left behind:

  • Mark it clearly until filled – Place cones, spray paint, stakes and caution tape so nobody accidentally falls in.
  • Fill ASAP to prevent settling – Backfill it shortly after grinding before rain and erosion widens the hole.
  • Use clean fill dirt only – Contaminated soil will complicate plant growth. Amend with compost.
  • Tamp it down in layers – Compact firmly and evenly to minimize sinking.

And as always when doing landscape work, call utility locating services beforehand to mark any underground pipes, wires and cables. Avoid grinding too close to infrastructure, even hand digging if necessary.

Now let’s wrap things up with answers to a few additional common questions homeowners have about stump removal.

More Stump Grinding FAQs

Should I be present during the stump grinding process?

We recommend checking in periodically to inspect progress and address any new concerns. Constant supervision isn’t necessary, but most companies can accommodate you observing if you’re interested in seeing how stump grinding works. Communicate your preferences so crews make sure to point out important milestones and developments.

How can I ensure complete removal?

Hire ISA Certified Arborists who are officially trained and accredited by the International Society of Arboriculture. Also check references, reviews and certifications to verify a company’s expertise. Request they use the most powerful equipment available and grind deep 12-18 inches below grade. Thorough grinding combined with professional expertise ensures nothing gets left behind.

What kind of mess is created?

There will be significant debris, soil disruption, tire marks and other unsightly damage that’s unavoidable when grinding stumps. However in the hands of a quality company, your property will be restored the original, gorgeous condition you expect. Crews should handle the heavy cleanup lifting by hauling away all wood chips and fragments. Any indentations get filled and packed. Turf gets neatly raked and leveled. A proper cleanup takes time but the pristine results are worthwhile.

Should I grind stumps myself to save money?

We strongly advise against renting grinders or attempting DIY stump removal unless you’re an experienced professional. The dangers of kickback from dull teeth, flying debris, rolling machines and more make proper training critical. Hefty equipment also commonly damages underground utilities even when marked due to limited maneuverability and visibility. Professionals assume liability so if anything gets broken or there are accidents, you avoid the risks and expenses involved. Paying top dollar brings peace of mind.

How soon can I plant something new in the spot?

Ideally wait 8-12 weeks before introducing new landscaping. This gives adequate time for loosening and settling of the soil as remnants continue decaying. Rake away any lingering surface wood chips first. Test soil quality – heavy clays or sandy soils may require amendments with compost or topsoil to get back to grade. Ifrain erosion washes out the hole, tamp and fill until stable. Healthy grass or plants need reshaped, leveled dirt re-established before planting proceeds.

Should I be present during the stump grinding process?

Constant supervision isn’t necessary, but we recommend checking in periodically to inspect progress and address any new concerns. Communicate your preferences so crews make sure to point out important milestones and developments. Most companies are happy to accommodate reasonable observation if you’re interested in seeing precisely how stump grinding works.

What maintenance is required after stump removal?

Post-grinding responsibilities mainly involve proper hole filling and caring for damaged areas around the site. Keep an eye out for settling and fill any dips or pockets with additional topsoil promptly to prevent soggy spots. Re-seed affected turf frequently if slow to recover. Spot treat persistent weeds invading the disturbed soil with herbicide. Monitor for suckers and prune back judiciously. Long term, increased mowing and aeration brings grass rejuvenated. Finally, consider improving drainage for healthier plants. Responsible stump grinding firms leave very little for homeowners to do maintenance-wise. But staying vigilant ensures optimal outcomes from their handiwork.

We hope this comprehensive stump grinding overview dispels any reservations homeowners have about getting residual tree stumps removed professionally. What was once an unsightly nuisance becomes an opportunity to refresh your landscape when you hire certified arborists with top-quality equipment, safety procedures and cleanup practices. Do your due diligence selecting a stellar company, then sit back and watch your property get restored better than ever!

Further Reading Other Relevant Posts:

What Happens to Roots After Stump Grinding?

Navigating Organic Lawn Care: Answering Your Questions

Three Reasons for Hiring Professionals for Stump Grinding

How much does Stump Grinding cost?

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