Helpful Tips

How to Use a Stump Grinder

using a stump grinder

If you have a beautiful, well-manicured lawn you may have a pesky tree stump that is throwing the aesthetics off. Learning how to use a stump grinder is one of the simplest and easiest ways to remove even the toughest stumps.

While an electric chainsaw can help you with old tree removal, to get rid of the stump, you’re going to need a different type of tool. Enter the stump grinder. If you don’t want to spend hours digging and dealing with backbreaking work, stump grinding can be the easiest and fastest alternative.

Stump Grinding like the Pros

Using the best stump grinder can be a total gamechanger when it comes to getting rid of a stubborn tree stump. While you can head to your local rental store and rent a grinder or a stump grinder attachment, owning one means you know the machine you’re using is safe and ready to go. A rental grinder may not be well-maintained, which can make it very dangerous.

The Best Method

Stump grinding is one of the most commonly performed lawn maintenance services. While there are several methods you can try, the best way to remove a stump is by using equipment that is specifically designed for stump removal.

Instead of wasting time trying other methods, stump grinding will get the job done the fastest. Even if you rent heavy-duty equipment you’re going to have a big mess to deal with after.

You can choose between a couple of different stump grinders. Larger ones are pulled behind a vehicle and used for major projects.

The other type of stump grinder is self-propelled and can be used for smaller projects, such as a lone stump in the front yard.

If the tree stump you have is small and is softwood, handling the job with just a shovel can be a good option. However, if the tree stump is of the hardwood variety, you’ll need to use a grinder to get the job done.

Safety First

safe tree stump removal

Before you get started stump grinding, make sure you’ve carefully read through the user’s manual.

  • Before you start digging you should get in touch with your local utility department to ensure that all underground lines have been marked.
  • A homeowner can easily get injured while stump grinding if they don’t know what’s under the ground.
  • Make sure that you place flags on the areas of the ground where there will be any utilities, such as a gas line, electrical line, or water line. The number one safety factor is whether or not the stump is properly marked for underground utilities.
  • Typically, a professional will mark out 10 feet around any stump before removal. If you don’t have flags you can use some spray paint to mark the ground.

Read the User Manual

If this is your first time using a stump grinder, make sure you read the instructions manual before use.

Safety Gear

  • Always wear safety gear when using a grinder to protect yourself from the cutting wheel and any sharp debris.
  • Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying debris. The tool will throw sharp bits of wood and rock as it reaches deeper into the ground.
  • Stump grinders are also very loud. Make sure you always wear hearing protection such as earmuffs or ear plugs to muffle the sound of the engine’s roar.

What Else You’ll Need for this Project

You may need some extra tools and supplies for this project, all of which can be purchased at your local hardware store.

  • Rake
  • Grass seed
  • Gloves
  • Trowel
  • Shovel

How to Use a Stump Grinder

how to use a stump grinder

If your stump is measuring several inches above the ground it’s best to use a hatchet or chainsaw to remove the top portion of the stump, cutting it as close to the ground as possible before you use the stump grinder. This prevents stump grinders from having to work too hard and makes the job much easier since the blades will remain sharper so you can finish the job faster.

Remove Rocks

Before you begin the stump removal process, make sure you clear the area of gravel or rocks located near the stump. Rocks can become dangerous projectiles that will be flung by the grinder, so it’s crucial that you clear them away from the area before you begin. You can use a trowel to rake the area, or a shovel on the sides of the stump to quickly remove any type of rocks and unwanted debris before you start.

Sharpening Stump Grinders

Stump Grinding

Stump grinders will work the best if they have sharp teeth or blades. Make sure that there is no debris on the equipment and sharpen the teeth if necessary. If you’re using a rented model, then sharpening should have already been done before you picked it up from your local home improvement store.


Begin grinding from one edge to the other. Use the grinder’s hydraulic lever to lower and raise the tooth surface to make contact with the stump. Use sweeping smooth motions going from side to side across the surface of the stump. If the grinder is resisting, do not force it. If there’s resistance, remove the grinder and try again and do so without lowering the grinder as far as you did with the previous sweep. During the process, you’ll be able to move across the stump several times, gradually moving deeper and deeper to remove the entire stump.

Smoothing Out the Mound

Once you’ve reached 4 to 8 inches below the surface you have ground enough and the stump should be gone. You’ll smooth out the remaining dirt to ground level using a shovel. Lightly rake the area and remove any excess wood chips or mulch. You can also sprinkle some grass seeds over the surrounding ground.

You can reuse some mulch for garden rows or landscaping beds or you can add it to your compost pile. If you have too much mulch you can also donate it to your community garden or ask your neighbors.

Is Tree Stump Removal Necessary?

tree stump removal

Most people want the stump removed to improve the layout and look of their yard. A stump can get in the way of regular lawn maintenance and mowing, so removing one and filling in the hole will help restore the space to its former glory.

When you’re grinding a stump, it’s crucial to ensure that you grind deep enough that the entire mound is out of the ground. This will include dirt that flares up to the stump and roots.

Planting a New Tree

Most homeowners want a stump removed so they can use that space for other types of plants or in some cases, they want to replant a new tree in the area. If this is the case, do not plant a new tree in the exact spot where the stump has been removed. Even if you remove the stump correctly, there’s always a chance that the stump was not ground deep enough to remove old roots entirely. These old roots can interfere with a new tree’s development. Instead, fill in the hole and plant a new tree close to the area.

Using a Stump Grinder Near Utility Lines

If you’re not comfortable grinding the stump located close to a marked utility line, you can use an electric chainsaw flushing it as close to the ground as possible so it’s not unsightly. Another alternative is digging down to the utility line, then using the stump grinder if you’re confident you can remove the stump that way.

Once you know that it’s safe to grind, you can then commence using the stump grinder but you’ll need to be careful that you don’t go deeper than what you’ve already hand dug. Stumps can still be ground when they’re located close to utility lines but you’ll need to be extremely cautious.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to use a stump grinder is much easier than many homeowners think. While a grinder can be a powerful tool that may be difficult to control the first time around, once you get the hang of using this type of heavy-duty equipment you’ll never go back to manually digging out stumps again.