Tree Removal vs. Stump Grinding: Which Do You Really Need?

Tree Removal vs. Stump Grinding: Cost, Safety, DIY & Pro Tips

Tree removal and stump grinding — two related but distinct services. When a tree comes down, the stump is left behind. Stump grinding pulverizes what’s left, while tree removal focuses on taking down trees. So which operation should you choose?

I help hundreds of clients answer that very question each year. In this post, I’ll cover:

  • Key differences between tree removal and stump grinding
  • Average costs for each service
  • Safety factors to consider
  • DIY feasibility
  • How to pick the right pro

I’ll also share signs indicating you need tree removal or stump grinding, plus a checklist covering the most common questions I hear.

Let’s start by looking at a quick case study from a client named Ken.

A Tree Removal vs. Stump Grinding Case Study

Ken called me late last spring about a big oak tree that fell during a storm.

The tree crushed part of his fence and landed near power lines. Ken got several quotes to remove the downed tree, but most were too expensive.

Finally, he found a tree company that sent a crew out. They cut up and hauled away the tree in a day. But when they were done, Ken was surprised to see a massive stump still in his yard.

When he asked why they left it, the crew chief said they “only did tree removal.” They don’t offer stump grinding.

So Ken called me to grind the stump. But he was confused about why one service didn’t include the other.

This is a common misconception I hear all the time…

Tree removal and stump grinding often go hand in hand. But they are not the same service. Let’s explore why.

Tree Removal: Getting Rid of the Tree Itself

Tree removal means cutting down and hauling away unwanted trees. Teams access trees using bucket trucks, climb with gear, and cut in sections.

Scope may include:

  • Trimming branches
  • Cutting the trunk into moveable logs
  • Safety protocols to avoid damage
  • Clean up and debris removal

The goal is eliminating tree hazards or clearing areas for construction. Stump removal comes after (if needed).

So in Ken’s case…

The tree company focused on safely removing the downed oak, branches, and debris. Grinding the leftover stump wasn’t part of their contracted service.

And therein lies the key distinction:

Tree removal eliminates trees. Stump grinding eliminates what trees leave behind.

Next, let’s explore stump grinding services in more detail…

Stump Grinding: Eliminating What’s Left Behind

What Is Stump Grinding?

After tree removal, stumps often remain. Stump grinding (or stump removal) eliminates the excess “stump.”

Using specialized equipment, crews chip away wood until nothing visible is left. They go deep enough to prevent re-growth.

Stump grinders can eradicate stumps of all sizes – up to three feet diameter! Removal generally takes an hour or less, depending on size.

So in Ken’s case, we…

  • Brought in a commercial stump grinder
  • Pulverized oak wood down 10-12 inches
  • Backfilled the hole with topsoil

This left Ken’s yard smooth and ready for seeding grass.

Below are key reasons you may need professional stump removal. Compare them to signs you should focus strictly on tree removal.

4 Signs You Need Stump Grinding:

1. Large stumps remain after tree removal

Like Ken’s case, the biggest indicator is having previous tree removal. Stump removal finishes the job.

2. Stumps bordering fences, structures, or walkways

Protruding roots can dislodge stones or pavers. They also look unsightly next to garden beds or seating areas.

3. Stumps in the way of future construction

Building sheds, additions, or pools? Stumps must go. Grinding clears room for excavating equipment.

4. Preventing re-growth and rot

Over time, untreated stumps attract insects and decay. Grinding eliminates the risk.

5 Signs You Need Tree Removal:

1. Trees leaning severely or touching homes

This signals the entire tree could topple soon. Take down at-risk trees before they fall naturally.

2. Large branches overhanging the roof

Trees too close to homes can drop limbs during storms. Trees themselves may also fall.

3. Insect infestations or disease

Pest problems weaken entire trees. Safely remove before spreading.

4. Trees growing into utility lines

Overgrown branches touching electrical lines are extremely dangerous.

5. Unwanted shade covering gardens

Some trees cast too much shade for sun-loving plants. Remove and replant with suitable species.

Now that we’ve covered main indicators for tree removal vs stump grinding, next let’s compare average costs…

Tree Removal vs. Stump Grinding: Cost Comparison

Clients often ask how prices compare between services. Below are typical ranges:

Tree Removal

  • Small tree (less than 30 ft.): $150 – $800
  • Medium tree (30 – 60 ft.): $200 – $1,500
  • Large tree (over 60 ft.): $500 – $5,000

Height/difficulty affect pricing most. Expect to pay more for hard-to-access trees near homes or power lines.

Stump Grinding

  • Small stump (less than 18 in. diameter): $100 – $350
  • Medium stump (18 – 24 in. diameter): $150 – $500
  • Large stump (over 24 in.): $200 – $800

Stump size (width) drives price more than height. Very large stumps with extensive roots cost more.

Cost sharing for combined service

Some companies offer package deals if you sign up for both tree removal AND stump grinding.

Ask prospective contractors about potential discounts. Just know you’ll still pay more than a single service.

Speaking of contractors…

How to Choose the Right Pro

Hiring uncertified removal companies risks:

  • Damage to homes/utilities
  • Crew injuries
  • Incomplete stump removal

Here are tips for choosing qualified pros:

Check certifications

Look for International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) credentials. Verify any licenses listed on websites.

Review insurance

General liability, workman’s comp, and property damage coverage should equal at least $1 million.

Ask about grind size

Standard is 9-12 inches depth. Deeper may cost more but prevents regrowth.

Request stump clearing photos

Ask to see before/after image samples to showcase their work.

I suggest getting estimates from 3-4 tree services/arborists to compare.

Top priority? Safety and proper technique.

A few extra dollars guarantees better results (and avoids disasters).

Now, what about tackling these services yourself?

Is DIY Tree Removal or Stump Grinding Realistic?

I never recommend DIY tree removal. Chainsawing high branches safely requires commercial gear/training.

However, several rental outlets offer stump grinders for homeowner self-service:

  • Home Depot
  • Sunbelt Rentals
  • United Rentals

Small electric models run ~$100 daily. Diesel grinders handle bigger stumps but rent for $300+ per day.

Cost can add up quickly…

Plus you need transportation and equipment operation skills. Set aside ample time as well.

Caution: DIY stump removal poses risks like…

  • Flying wood chips/debris
  • Grinder kickback accidents
  • Electrical shock from underground wires

For most homeowners, professional stump grinding is simpler, faster, and SAFER.

Use the following checklist to make sure you choose the right service and avoid surprises.

Tree Removal vs. Stump Grinding Checklist

Print this list when getting project estimates. It covers key questions to ask upfront:

Tree Removal

  • Will you remove ALL branches/logs or leave some behind?
  • Do you stack leftover firewood or haul away everything?
  • Is stump grinding included or a separate service?
  • How will you access tall branches near the roof or utility lines?
  • What equipment is used for cutting (bucket truck, climbing gear, etc)?

Stump Grinding

  • What size stumps can your equipment handle (maximum diameter)?
  • How deep do you grind remains (6in, 12in, etc)?
  • Do you backfill holes with topsoil after grinding?
  • How long does a medium sized stump generally take?
  • Do you mark underground utilities first before grinding?
  • Can tree roots interfere with work space or access?

Covering these questions upfront prevents confusion down the road. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if needed.

I also recommend checking reviews and requesting 2-3 homeowner references to call.

This helps verify quality standards and customer service.

Finally, be sure to get all agreements regarding pricing and services IN WRITING prior to starting work.

Now that we’ve covered the full landscape of tree removal vs stump grinding differences, let’s recap key takeaways:

Tree Removal vs Stump Grinding: Main Takeaways

  • Tree removal means cutting down/removing unwanted trees
  • Stump grinding pulverizes what’s left behind after tree removal
  • They often complement each other but are distinct services
  • Cost ranges vary based on height/size factors
  • Hire certified pros to avoid safety risks
  • DIY is feasible for small stumps but has drawbacks
  • Use checklists when requesting project estimates

Below are client questions I frequently receive on this topic. Read on if you need any additional details.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why can’t I just rent a stump grinder myself instead of hiring a company?

A: Technically you CAN tackle smaller stumps if you rent equipment. But safety risks, machine transport, and potential damage make DIY grinding complex.

Leave it to insured pros with commercial equipment, protective gear, and skills to extract stumps completely.

Q: How soon after tree removal should I get the stump ground out?

A: I recommend grinding stumps within 3-6 months of tree removal (the sooner the better). Here’s why:

First, fresh stumps grind out faster since wood isn’t decayed or dried out yet. Crews can chip away material quicker.

Second, new stump sprouts and shoots often emerge a few months after tree loss. Grinding soon prevents regrowth.

Finally, waiting too long allows roots to expand deeper making full extraction harder. Grind ASAP for easier, more complete stump removal.

Q: Should I consider stump removal if I’m planning to move soon?

A: Even if you’re moving, stump removal can add value by:

  • Improving aesthetics for home showings
  • Preventing damage from expanding roots/shoots
  • Avoiding large removal costs for future owners

Stumps also limit landscaping options for potential buyers. Removing them enables more flexibility and appeal.

Just note appraisers rarely account for stump grinding costs in home value. Consider it more for convenience than major ROI.

Q: Can you reuse wood chips from stump grinding?

A: Yes! Many clients ask to keep excess wood chips for gardening mulch. Ground wood also makes great compost material as it decomposes.

Just be aware that most pros don’t sort out debris before hauling away. So wood chips often contain soil, rocks, grass, and other vestiges.

If you want the most uniform, clean material, discuss this with your pro in advance. Some companies do provide sifting and sorting for clients wanting debris and wood chips separated.

Q: Should I be concerned about chemicals leaching from ground stumps?

A: This is a common concern, but there’s minimal risk of chemical contamination from typical residential tree stumps.

Unlike chemically-treated lumber, most living trees do not contain concentrated preservatives or pesticides. They absorb sparse environmental toxins at most.

And since crews grind deep enough to remove all visible roots, chemical leaching is very rare. Backfilled soil caps and contains any vestiges anyhow.

The only exceptions would be stumps from trees purposefully injected or sprayed with high pesticide concentrations by a past owner or arborist. But you’d likely know if this occurred on your property.

Outside of those specialized circumstances, ground stump material poses little contamination risk for gardens, play areas, etc when removed properly.

Q: Should I fill the hole left after stump grinding or leave it open?

A: Always fill leftover holes once stumps are gone! Here are two reasons why:

First, exposed holes become safety hazards for kids/pets and can damage mowers or heavy equipment. Filling prevents injury or issues later.

Second, backfilled soil gives surrounding grass the space to spread its roots and fill in naturally. This accelerates re-growth to cover bald spots.

Use a quality topsoil when filling to aid grass establishment. Consider re-seeding if holes were exceptionally deep and grass regrowth seems slow.

Proper hole filling ensures stump areas blend back into the landscape attractively.

Q: Can you give me an idea of approximate job timeframes?

Here are typical time ranges for common tree removal and stump grinding projects:

Tree Removal

  • Small tree (30 ft): 2-5 hours
  • Medium tree (60 ft): 5-8 hours
  • Large tree (80+ ft): 8-12+ hours

Stump Grinding

  • Small stump (1 ft diameter): 45-90 mins
  • Medium stump (2 ft diameter): 60-120 mins
  • Large stump (3+ ft diameter): 120-240 mins

Jobs take longer for hard-to-access trees/stumps or those near structures requiring extra safety precautions.

I hope this gives you a general idea of how long standard services take. Expect some variability depending on circumstances.

And there you have it – a complete overview explaining key differences between tree removal vs stump grinding services.

Let Me Know If You Have Any Other Questions!

Hopefully this breakdown gives you clarity on when to request tree removal, stump removal, or both.

I know it can get confusing navigating exactly what each entails along with equipment needs, pricing, timeframes, etc.

So if you have any other questions after reading this post, don’t hesitate to get in touch! I’m always happy to offer more details or advice.

Looking for a bid on a specific tree or stump project? I serve homeowners throughout the metro area. Set up a quote here or call +1 206-715-0110.

And be sure to bookmark our site for more guides covering all aspects of tree care, land clearing, and yard maintenance.

Further Reading Other Relevant Posts:

Stump Grinding vs Stump Removal: Which one is best for you?

The Dangers of DIY Tree Removal: Why we need professionals?

Key Questions to Address Before Removing an Unhealthy Tree:

How much does Stump Grinding cost?

Why choose Sno-king for Tree Removal Services?

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