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Is stump grinding the best option for removing an unsightly tree stump in your yard?

Updated: May 10, 2023

It’s not necessarily a simple process having a tree cut down. Beyond the immediate challenges and dangers that the removal of a particular tree might pose, the legal challenges can be even more daunting. This of course is not without good reason. Trees are one of the most essential components of life on earth, providing our oxygen, capturing carbon to minimise air pollution, providing food and shelter for wildlife, minimising erosion, increasing rainfall and absorbing sunlight as energy. Yeah, they are kind of a big deal. Also, if you have ever tried to grow one then you know that they don’t typically reach their lofty heights all that quickly. Even a fast growing tree will take at least 5 to 7 years to grow to a generous height. For these reasons and also due to the rarity of some trees, many trees are protected under Local Environmental Plan laws. So, if you have got to the point where you have had a tree cut down, which as we have established is no small thing, what you do next with the leftover stump is really important.


What are my options when it comes to a tree stump?


Leaving it: This would have to be the worst of the options. The reasons for this being that decomposition is a really slow process. A large stump that belonged to a sizable and well established tree can take up to 20 years or more to rot and decompose on its own. Beyond this simply being an unsightly process, it can also attract seriously unwanted pests during that time and make mowing and garden maintenance more difficult in the space. The chance to plant other new trees in the area will also be seriously inhibited thanks to sprawling root systems running off from the stump.


Stump removal: This has its benefits but stump removal is the most intrusive and expensive option and there may also be reasons why it simply isn’t feasible. The main benefit of digging the stump out entirely is that it completely removes all of the major roots of the tree. If you are planning to landscape the area immediately afterwards then this can be worth it but bear in mind that removing a stump will leave a whopping great big hole, which has the potential to be even more unsightly than the stump if left unmanaged. This whopping great big hole is also the reason why it might not even be an option. If your stump is too close to any major infrastructure or other healthy trees then these may be damaged by attempting to remove the whole stump as it takes a hefty amount of soil along with it.


Stump grinding: Stump grinding is far less invasive and far more cost effective than stump removal. Not to mention, it is far safer and efficient than simply waiting for the stump to rot. Stump grinding involves using a piece of heavy equipment, which has a spinning carbide-tipped steel wheel on the front. Think of an extra-large circular saw blade working like someone ravenously devouring their favourite meal with both hands. The wheel of the stump grinder gets lowered onto the edge of the stump and moved from side to side as it spins, gradually eating its way deeper and deeper into the stump. Eventually the stump is no longer visible as it and the main roots below the stump are ground up into tiny wood chips.


So, if you have a stump that you need to take care of then it is likely that stump grinding is your best option. You can hire stump grinders but they are often insufficient for large jobs and if you hadn’t already considered it, stump grinding is highly dangerous and is best left to professionals who know what they are doing and have all of the necessary safety equipment to protect themselves and any other structures around the stump. If you are still undecided then here are a few more reasons why stump grinding is the way to go:


  • You ensure that the tree you have had cut down doesn’t simply begin resprouting.

  • You make way for garden maintenance and new trees to be planted.

  • You protect your other plants and home from unwanted pests. All sorts of insects, including termites, love to make their homes in tree stumps and then begin to stray into surrounding plants and structures.


If you are still feeling stumped and have more questions then speak to an arborist to create a plan that is right for your situation.


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