How to Remove a Tree Stump the Easy Way: Burn It Out

Updated on May 28, 2020
leon01 profile image

Over the years, I have removed several tree stumps from my garden by using this very safe and hassle-free method.

The easy way to burn a tree stump: build a fire.
The easy way to burn a tree stump: build a fire.

With pine needles filling up the swimming pool for several weeks of the year and most of the garden in shade, our large thirty-meter-tall pine tree had to go. I removed all the lower branches myself using a ten-meter ladder and rope to venture up as high as I dared . . . then it was a professional's turn to go up higher to remove the remaining branches before the whole tree finally came tumbling down in the autumn.

We were left with a tree stump some forty centimeters high that was over a meter in diameter. First, we decided to put a large plant pot on top to make it a decorative feature, but over time, it became more of a hindrance when it came to cutting the lawn or playing in the garden.

So I opted for burning the stump away. I had removed two smaller tree stumps (around 30 cm in diameter) using the burn method so I was confident this method was going to be my best option.

The tree stump has been burned entirely away.
The tree stump has been burned entirely away.

How to Burn Out a Tree Stump

  1. Dig down around the stump with a shovel to expose as much of the stump as possible. On one side, I actually managed to dig under the stump and exposed three very large roots holding the stump in place.
  2. Drill some holes. I drilled 12 mm holes all over the top of the stump, around the bas, and into the roots, pushing the drill bit as deep as it would go (around 20 cms).
  3. Check the weather forecast and the calendar. Make sure it's okay to set fires at this time and that you'll have good weather. Here, we are only allowed to build fires outside of the summer season and after 6 p.m., so I burned my stump in late October. The weather forecast predicted four dry days followed by a lot of rain, and this was perfect, as the fire would not be dampened while it did its work and at the end, the rain would douse any underground smoldering of root systems.
  4. Soak with kerosene. For two days, I poured kerosene into the holes and kept topping them up over that time to make sure the fuel penetrates as deeply as possible.
  5. Burn it. On day three, it was time to burn that stump out. I surrounded the stump with thirty kilos of charcoal, put firewood on top of that, and set it all on fire. I prefer to use charcoal as the smaller particles can fit under the stump to help the fire reach down below the stump. I always like to 'kill two birds with one stone,' so I took the opportunity to dismantle a very dilapidated wooden terrace to provide more fuel for the fire as the days passed.
  6. Control the fire. While the fire was burning, I continually checked it and dampened the surrounding soil with a hose to avoid an underground fire.
  7. Give it time. By the end of the first day, the stump had been reduced by 30%, and by the end of the second day, 70% of the stump had been eaten away by the fire. I let it burn four days total.
  8. Add more fuel. I was able to fit my metal incinerator over the stump and re-drill holes over the remaining stump before filling the incinerator with an additional thirty kilos of charcoal, relighting the fuel again, and closing the incinerator.
  9. When the stump is gone, let the fire burn out. For the next two days, the charcoal burnt away slowly. Once the charcoal was gone I was left with just a large crater—the entire stump and three main roots had all gone.

Overall, it was a very easy job removing the stump and in total cost me around £50 for the charcoal and lighter fluid. The garden looks so much bigger now the stump has gone and we are looking forward to seeing the daffodils that we planted coming up this spring.

As a word of warning: Before I began, I checked the local regulations for lighting fires in my area and checked with my neighbor to make sure it was a good time for her.

Never Leave a Fire Unattended

Check with your local fire department to learn more about the specific regulations and guidelines for controlled burns in your area.

Video Tutorial

Other Ways to Remove a Stump

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • leon01 profile imageAUTHOR


      13 months ago

      It's a very effective way - I practised on a few smaller stumps beforehand, this was a very large stump over a meter wide

    • leon01 profile imageAUTHOR


      13 months ago

      I was aware of the possibility of a root fire that is why I watered the ground all the way around the stump

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      If you have many trees near each other you should avoid doing this! The fire will burn the roots out which is fine as long as they don’t make contact with other tree roots. The fire can literally spread to other trees underground and start a fire elsewhere.

    • profile image

      Stump Removal Northwest 

      18 months ago

      This looks like the most effective way to get all of the roots as well. We've had many clients try to burn their stumps and they still ended up call for us to grind them after because the stump did not completely burn and the roots were still in tact.

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      Thanks for the details! Read about method in a book awhile back and have a pesky stump in my front yard I need to remove!

    • greenmind profile image

      GreenMind Guides 

      3 years ago from USA

      This is a good entertaining hub about your decision to get rid of that tree. A couple more photos would be welcome!


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