Stump Grinding FAQs: What, Why & How

stump grinder removing a tree stump

After a tree has been removed, what happens to the remaining tree stump? Does it decompose? Should you remove it? Is stump grinding the best option? If so, how is that done?

We answer all of those questions and more in the stump grinding FAQs below.

How long does it take for a tree stump to decompose naturally?

Decomposition time depends on the tree. Some tree stumps start to send out shoots in an effort to regrow; they can eventually grow into a new tree instead of decomposing. The stump from an older, larger tree can take 20 years or more to rot and decompose naturally. On the other hand, ants, bugs, diseases, fungus, mushrooms, or moss will sometimes start to grow on the stump, speeding decomposition.

Whichever way you look at it though, a naturally decomposing stump takes a long time to disappear and can be an unsightly, unsafe hazard during that time.

What options do I have to get rid of a tree stump quickly?

There are two basic ways to quickly remove a tree stump: dig it out or grind it up.

  • Digging out a tree stump involves using an excavator and will cause major damage to a large area around the stump. It cannot be done for stumps that are near structures or hardscaping, and is generally expensive. However, it can remove all (or nearly all) major tree roots and may be a good option if you'll be removing many stumps at once and landscaping the area afterward.
  • Grinding a tree stump uses a stump grinder to turn the stump into wood chips. It usually involves less mess and a much smaller hole than other options, and can be done in nearly any location.

What is a stump grinder?

A stump grinder is a piece of heavy equipment with a spinning carbide-tipped steel wheel on the front (similar to an extra-large circular saw blade). We lower the wheel onto the edge of the stump and move it from side to side as it spins, grinding deeper into the stump with each movement. Eventually, the whole tree stump is ground up into small wood chips, including the main roots below the stump.

Why would I choose to grind out a stump?

Most people choose to grind a stump after a tree removal as it is an eyesore, because it is a tripping or safety hazard, or because they want to plant something else in that area. If you've removed a diseased or pest-ridden tree, grinding a stump can help ensure that the disease or pests do not spread. Stump removal also prevents the tree from growing back.

decomposing tree stump

Will stump grinding damage my property?

Stump grinding will not damage your property if done correctly. We put down mats to protect your lawn/landscape from heavy equipment and use barriers to cover or protect nearby structures. Grinding a stump does leave a hole, which we can fill in with dirt and the wood chips created.

Does the stump grinder make a lot of noise/mess?

Yes to both. It is a very loud machine that is literally grinding up a very hard piece of wood. The woodchips and sawdust that it creates can fly in all directions (which is why we use protective barriers to prevent damage to nearby structures).

Is stump grinding a dangerous process?

As with all tree removal equipment, stump grinding can be dangerous. When using a stump grinder, we take every safety precaution, are familiar with the powerful equipment, know the risks involved, and are properly trained to eliminate excess danger. Using dangerous equipment is one of the many reasons that Green Vista carries the proper insurance for jobs of this type.

We recommend that you stay a far distance away while a stump is being ground as the blade can sometimes kick up rocks and debris that can cause injury.

How long will the stump grinding process take?

For one stump, the process can take 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of the stump, the location, and more.

Will stump grinding remove the roots?

Stump grinding only removes some of the tree’s roots. We grind the stump about 6 to 8 inches below ground level. However, roots are quite extensive and spread both outward and down from the stump; it’s likely that there will still be many roots underground. This is why you generally can’t replant a tree in the exact spot where a tree used to stand.

Does stump grinding leave a large hole in the ground?

The size of the hole depends on the size of the stump that was removed. The width will be a little wider than the stump and the depth will be about 6 to 8 inches. Most property owners ask us to fill the hole with the wood chips from the stump.

Will you add grass seed to the area where the stump was ground?

That is not part of our normal stump removal process. You can add grass seed or sod to the area, or you might want to work with a landscaper for that part of the process.


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