How To Operate A Stump Grinder

Cutting down a dead tree is an excellent way to tidy up your garden and keep it looking its best. But how do you get rid of the unsightly stump that is left?

Even if you hire a professional to deal with the tree, they tend to leave the stump behind unless you cough up an additional fee. You could of course hire someone else to deal with it, but a stump removal specialist could cost anywhere from $100 to $200 – even more if it was a large tree!

Hiring a stump grinder is going to be quicker and possibly cheaper than getting a professional in to do the job. All you need is a vehicle with a trailer hitch to tow the machine into place, but most dealers will be happy to drop the machine off for you for a small fee.

How To Use A Stump Grinder

So, you’ve got the grinder. Now what!? 

Follow this quick guide to take your unwanted stump out as quickly and easily as possible.

Stump Preparation

It is important to appropriately prepare the area before you begin removing the stump as it will make the job a little easier. 

The first thing you need to do is make sure that any pets and children are appropriately contained so they are not anywhere near the stump. 

Now you can use a shovel, mattock, or adze to loosen up and then remove any rocks around the base of the stump.

This is another important safety precaution as these rocks are likely to shoot out like missiles, potentially causing some serious damage, should they be hit by the spinning cutting wheel of the grinder. The rocks may also dull the teeth of the cutting wheel, making stump removal that much more difficult.

With any rocks gone, you need to make sure that the stump is as close to the ground as possible. Any stump that is more than 6 inches (15cm) tall needs to be rimmed down with a chainsaw. This step is not necessarily essential as the grinder will probably be able to remove stumps taller than this, but it will take far longer. 

The final stage of stump preparation is to put on all appropriate safety gear.

Using The Grinder

Now you can begin grinding. 

Start up the grinder and move it so it is at least 3ft (1m) away from the stump you want to get rid of. Now use the hydraulic lever to raise the cutting wheel so that it is a couple of inches – less than 10cm – above the top of the stump. 

Moving slowly, drive the machine forward so that the cutting wheel is positioned directly above the front edge of the stump. Use the power lever to get the cutting wheel to spin, then slowly lower the spinning wheel into the stump.

Once you are in the stump, you need to use the hydraulic lever to move the cutting wheel from side to side. This will get rid of all of the wood within the cutting range of the wheel. Be sure to move slowly so that you are always in complete control of the grinder.

Once you have cut all of the wood the wheel can reach, you need to raise the wheel again so that you can move forward a little to repeat the process. Be sure that you are standing with the control panel at all times while operating the grinder as this will make sure that you are as far away from the cutting wheel as possible.

Work slowly and methodically, repeating the process of raising the wheel, moving forward, lowering the wheel, and cutting until you have gone through the stump and are at the other side. 

You now need to raise the cutting wheel and put the grinder into reverse and get back to the starting position. You need to repeat the above steps until the top of the remains of the stump is around 4 inches (10cm) under the surrounding ground level.

Once you are at this depth you can move the grinder to one side away from the newly excavated hole.

Finishing Up

To finish off, you need to rake up all of the wood chips that the grinder generated. You can use these to fill in the hole. Alternatively, these wood chips are fantastic for use as mulch around any other trees, shrubs, or flowerbeds.

Fill in the hole where the stump used to be with some topsoil. This then needs to be lightly raked and some grass seed evenly sprinkled over the top. It is then a good idea to cover with a little more topsoil or to rake over the area gently again before lightly watering.

For the best results, try covering the area with some mulch hay. This will protect the seeds and provide some nutrients, hopefully producing healthy grass quickly. The hay can be removed once seedlings are sprouting through.

Congratulations! You have now successfully got rid of that pesky stump and can now sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful garden.


Is It Hard To Operate A Stump Grinder?

Stump grinder machines are simple to operate, but be aware that they are quite loud and powerful! Most grinders are built with sophisticated hydraulic systems, making them easy to maneuver to get rid of unwanted tree stumps. 

How Long Does It Take To Grind A Tree Stump?

The duration of the actual grinding process will depend on the size of the stump you wish to grind. 

A small stump may only take 15 or 20 minutes to grind away, whereas a mighty stump could take well over two hours. 

Can A Stump Grinder Remove Roots?

Removing a tree stump with a grinder will only remove some of the tree’s roots. You need to grind below ground level to get rid of a stump, so you will grind away any roots in this area. Keep in mind that tree roots are very extensive and will spread out in all directions – removing all of the underground roots will be almost impossible. The best solution to run utility lines through root systems is to learn how to use a trencher.

Ryan Genkin
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