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We put together a detailed guide on stump grinder rental cost and where to get the best deals when renting a stump grinder.
If you are landscaping your garden or clearing some land on the farm you will nearly always have to deal with trees and their roots. After cutting down the tree or shrub you will be left with a root ball firmly fixed under the ground. Part of the job of the root ball is to hold the tree firmly in the ground when the wind blows so the roots will have spread and it will be almost impossible to remove the stump unless you resort to mechanical methods.
Your reasons for removing the tree may not be purely cosmetic either, trees can jeopardize power lines if they become unstable and tree roots can infiltrate into building foundations and land drains. The tree will have to be cut down and the roots removed otherwise significant damage can occur to the building.
This article isn’t about the methods available to remove the trees, it is about how to remove the stumps with particular reference to the stump grinder and how much it will cost to hire.
Before we start to talk about the methods available to remove a stump let us talk about the reasons why you might need to.
First of all the tree has been cut down and removed, possibly to be cut up for firewood. This leaves the roots remaining in the ground connected to a short length of tree trunk above which is the place where the tree has been cut. This combination of the root ball and trunk is termed a stump.
Looking at the stump it seems to be fairly innocuous and if it is in your garden it could almost be used as an ornamental feature but there are many good reasons why the stump needs to be removed.
Grass and shrubs will eventually grow up around the stump and hide it. This can be a trip hazard for people and a mechanical hazard for lawn mowers and other garden tools.
Rotten tree stumps dotted around your land will reduce the curb appeal of the property.
New roots can grow from the stump along with tree sprouts. This will initially run along the surface and eventually establish themselves. The roots will always search out water sources such as land drains and sewers and cause many thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your plumbing system and the building’s foundations.
The machine consists of a set of handles something like bicycle handlebars. The handles can be adjusted to the correct height to suit your personal build. There are brakes to slow and stop the blades in case of injury. There is a small internal combustion engine mounted on the body that powers the blades. Underneath the machine, you will find some wheels and a set of blades that are powered by the engine. The blades cut into the wood dislodging wood chips, lumps of wood and sawdust. The waste material can be added to your compost heap, added to the garden as mulch or disposed of to a garden waste site.
When using a stump grinder, there are two ways of removing a stump.
The standard way involves cutting away up to ten inches of the stump below ground so that you can replace the stump with topsoil and grass seed or turf.
The more advanced way is to remove about twenty inches of the stump below ground so you can replace the stump with a new tree sapling.
There are certain specifications given with the machine that you will have to understand before using it. If you don’t understand the specifications then it might be better to use a contractor to do the job.
The main specification that is vitally important is the cutting capacity of the blade. If you have one with a capacity that is too low you might end up with a broken blade as it is too weak. Other specifications you need to take note of are:
When you cut down a tree there a few different ways to remove the stump and roots. Obviously, this article is about using a stump grinder so I will put that method first. Often because of the location of the stump, you may have to try more than one method to remove it. Just so you know the different options open to you we can list them here along with how to use the stump grinder.
Get yourself a stump grinder. You may be able to borrow one from a friend (probably not), locate one for sale, second hand (even harder to find) or hire one from your local tool hire shop (most likely). Stump grinders can be rented by the half day, day or for the weekend if that is more convenient. Stump grinders can be very difficult to control so if you feel like you might not be able to manage it yourself you can also hire someone with their own grinder who will come and do the complete job, even take the removed stump away.
Get yourself some protective clothing. If you decide to grind the stump yourself you will need some protective clothing to make sure you remain safe. The tool hire shop will have all the protective gear as well as the grinder.
You will need some strong protective gloves to dampen the vibrations and stop them from damaging your hands.
Some safety to prevent flying wood chips from damaging your eyes. Goggles with lenses are not always the best as they can mist up easily. Use ones with mesh lenses in place of transparent lenses; these have a very fine mesh which does the job of blocking the flying chips. Another option is to use a full face visor. This will prevent chips from hitting your face or going into your mouth.
Ear defenders are very important. Stump grinders use a small internal combustion engine to provide the power, something like a chainsaw. Like a chainsaw, they are also extremely noisy and you must protect your ears.
Read the instructions. Although there really isn’t much mechanically to the stump grinder and just about every brand of grinder works the same way, you must always read the instructions supplied by the manufacturer to understand how the machine works, how to start it and most importantly how to stop it. If there is an emergency stop control then learn how to use that too.
Start grinding. Position the stump grinder over the stump and turn it on as the instructions say. The blade will gradually cut away at the surface of the stump. You will need to reposition the stump grinder every now and again as needed until the entire stump has been chipped. Then start at the roots and do the same with those.
Remove the woodchips. The best place for the woodchips is in the compost heap. If you haven’t got one of those then dispose of it in another way. Perhaps you can sprinkle them around the other shrubs in your garden as mulch.
Fill the hole. Fill the remaining hole with compost or soil. Allow the soil to mound slightly above the level of the ground as it will settle with time. Compress the soil heap as much as possible by using a lawn roller or hitting it with the back of the spade. Over the next few weeks, the soil with settle and you will have to keep on adding until the settlement has finished.
Dig it up. Using a garden spade dig up the ground next to the stump. Work your way around the stump and expose the roots as you go. Remove as much of the soil as possible and continue digging until the largest roots are exposed. If the roots are very deep and very large you will probably find it difficult to expose them properly. In this case, you could decide to use another method to remove the stump.
Cut the roots. Depending on the size of the roots, once you have exposed them as much as possible you can try using an ax, a pair of loppers or a root saw to cut them and free the stump. Cut the roots into manageable lengths and pull them from the ground. Be careful when using an ax because the blade may strike a rock and shatter or the blade might bounce uncontrollably from the flexible roots. Sometimes the blade might even become stuck between the roots if you haven’t exposed them completely.
Pull them out. Using a grub hoe, drag the remaining roots out of the ground so their tips are exposed. You can cut the roots as you go as it will make it easier to pull them out of the ground. Remove the major roots first followed by whatever is remaining.
Dig out the stump. After you have removed most or all of the roots, you will be able to dislodge the stump. Dig underneath the stump and cut through a few more roots to loosen it further but eventually, the stump will move.
Get rid of the roots. Roots are usually too wet to burn easily so unless you can stack them somewhere to dry out for a few months, it is probably better to chop them up into small pieces, shred them and add to the compost heap.
Backfill the hole. Refill the hole with soil, sawdust or compost. If you don’t refill the hole the walls will subside and you will always have an indentation in the ground at that point. As the backfill settles the ground will drop a bit so just refill with a bit more material. You may have to do this many times over the next few months.
Is it legal? Depending on where you live there may be restrictions on having open fires in your garden. Before you even think about burning the stump, find out if you are allowed to. The local fire department should know the answer to your question.
Let’s assume it is legal. Get your hands on some dead branches or brush, perhaps from the tree that you cut down. You might find it is difficult to burn fresh tree wood as it will have too much moisture in it. Lay the wood around the perimeter of the stump and carry on building up the pile until you have completely covered the stump. The idea is to have the stump at the center of the fire where it is hottest.
Clear an area around the stump. Even if the fire is legal, you don’t want it to spread to other parts of your garden. Clear an area around the stump so the flames cannot spread. If you have neighbors who live close to you, it will be a good idea to warn them that you intend to burn the stump and you will be making a lot of smoke. You wouldn’t want to spoil your neighbor’s family barbeque, would you?
Someone may even have some laundry out in the garden to dry. Just be aware of other people when you intend lighting a fire.
Set the fire alight. Start the fire. As the wood burns, keep on adding more wood to make sure the fire stays hot and covers the stump. Keep the fire burning for as long as it takes to burn the stump to the ground.
Have water nearby. As with all outdoor fires, you don’t want it to get out of hand. Have a few buckets of water or a garden hose set up nearby so you can dowse the flames if things start to get out of hand.
Get rid of the ash. Once the fire has been completely extinguished dampen the ashes down with a sprinkle of water. Shovel the ash out of the hole and add it to your compost heap or discard it in some other way.
Fill the hole. Once you have discarded the ash, you must fill the hole with soil or compost. Keep on compressing the soil with a garden lawn roller or hit it with the back of the shovel. When the hole is filled, allow the soil to slightly mound above ground level as it will settle over the next few weeks. You can accelerate the settling by pouring a bucket of water over the hole and allowing the water to drain away.
Drill holes into the stump. Using a large diameter drill bit and a drill, make a series of holes in the top of the tree stump. Make as many holes as you can and space them evenly across the surface. You will be filling the holes with the stump removing chemical so make sure the holes are as deep as possible.
Apply the stump removal chemical. Most chemicals used to kill tree stumps are based on potassium nitrate. This chemical reacts with the wood and helps it to soften and rot more easily. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and apply the chemical exactly as instructed.
Chemicals can be dangerous. You may have to wear protective clothing when using stump removing chemicals such as protective gloves, safety glasses and a face mask. At the very least you must wash your hands after use. Erect a temporary fence around the stump to prevent children and pets from coming in contact with the chemical within the stump.
Keep an eye on the stump. You may have to refill the holes depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. Monitor the condition of the stump over the next few weeks and when it is soft enough it is time to remove the stump.
Chop the stump. Using an ax you can start to chop the softened stump into manageable pieces. Remove them as you chop the pieces away from the stump. Keep going until you have removed as much as you can.
Burn the rest. Build a fire over the remaining pieces of the softened stump and allow it to burn to remove whatever is left of the stump and roots.
Dig out the ashes. Dig out the rest of the embers and ashes and discard somewhere sensible. Remember the chopped wood and remains of the burned stump will have traces of potassium nitrate left in it. Although potassium nitrate is widely used as a horticultural fertilizer and is especially good for strawberries, tomatoes as well as many other fruits, you may decide you don’t want to put that chemical on your compost heap. If not then dispose of the ashes and the softened wood sensibly.
What if I leave the stump where it is?
If you decide to leave the stump alone and let it decay naturally, it will eventually rot but it will take a few years. In the meantime, it will be a hazard for your lawnmower blades and probably be the cause of many cases of people falling over it in the long grass. Old decaying tree stumps are also very attractive to ants and termites and can be used as a nest for snakes.
How about using chemical before the tree is cut down, then I can remove everything all at the same time?
This is not a very good idea as you won’t know when the stump can no longer support the tree. It may come crashing down when you least expect it, doing a lot of damage to your car, house or garage.
I have a stump in a hedge. How do I remove it without harming the hedge?
Obviously, you cannot use chemicals or fire, so the obvious answers are to dig it out to a point when you can drag it out with a vehicle or use a stump grinder and nibble the stump away.
If you don’t want to do the job yourself, there are many professionals you can hire to do the job for you. Most contractors will charge you:
Per stump. Often there will be a discount for multiple stumps, with the first stump being charged higher and the remainder being charged significantly less expensive.
By diameter in inches. This will be the diameter measured at the widest point at ground level.
Removal of one stump will usually take about an hour and most companies will make a minimum charge. The charges per stump will vary depending on age and size of the tree and ease of access to remove it. The contractor may charge you for disposing of the stump and chippings as well.
|Costs to remove stumps|
|Per stump charge||$50 to $350 or more depending on location and size|
|Cost per diameter inch||$2 to $5 per diameter inch|
|Multiple stumps (initial stump)||$100 to $200|
|Multiple stumps (additional stumps)||$50 to $80 each|
Contractors’ rates to remove tree stumps using a stump grinder will cost on average:
|Costs for tree stump grinding|
|Costs for grinding based on size of stump|
|Smaller tree stump||$100 to $200|
|Larger tree stump||$200 to $500|
These prices will vary depending on size and age of the tree together with the diameter of the stump.
There are a few factors that will affect the cost of removing stumps by grinding.
Some stump removal professionals will charge you based on the diameter of the stump. Diameter is measured across the stump at the widest point at ground level. An average cost that customers should expect to be charged is about $3 to $5 per inch across the diameter.
This will mean that if the stump measures about 25 inches across the diameter at ground level then the cost will be about $75 to $125.
Remember that most companies will have a minimum charge which is usually about $100 so it would only be worth using these companies if you have a large stump or many smaller stumps.
Some companies will charge you for the time it takes to remove the stumps. Specialist companies will usually charge about $150 per hour to remove tree stumps. This kind of charging is better where you have multiple stumps to remove so is not really suitable for the normal customer who only has one or two stumps to remove.
When you first get in touch with the stump removal company you must have an idea of how many stumps you need removing. Most companies will vary their prices depending on the amount of stumps are included in the job. Some companies will give you a set price for the first stump and a much lower price for any additional ones, and other companies will give you a set price for the total number of stumps.
Getting rid of a root system, especially in an old, well established tree can be heavy backbreaking work and you might not remove all of them in the end anyway. Hiring a professional to remove them for you can add on another $100 to $200 per hour.
The condition of your soil has a lot to do with the cost of the job. If your soil is rocky, the contractor will not rush the job at the expense of breaking blades on the rocks. He will take his time and may charge up to 50% more.
The following table summarises the costs involved in a typical stump removal project.
|Stump grinding cost calculation|
|Cost factor||Average cost||Details|
|Size of stump||$5 per inch||Maximum tree diameter measurements at ground level|
|Duration of job||$150 per hour||This depends on the type of tree and its accessibility.|
|Quantity of stumps||$150 + $50 per stump||First stump is $150, additional ones at $50 each.|
|Root system||$150 per hour||Removing roots is additional task.|
|Clean-up||$2 per inch||This cost is not always included in the job. It will vary depending on disposal fees.|
When you pay a stump removal company for doing this job, the price you are charged will usually include:
✓ The transportation costs of the contractor and their machines to and from the site.
✓ The cost of protecting any existing structures from the effects of the grinder or any flying wood chips. This may be necessary where the stump is near a greenhouse, fence or garden shed.
✓ The contractor’s labor for removing the stump.
✓ Any overheads the company may have for maintaining the machines or buying replacements. This will include fuel needed to power the grinder.
✓ The quoted price will usually not include any sales tax or inspection charges.
If you decide to remove the tree stump yourself then you will have to rent a stump grinder from your local tool hire center. The hire of the machine will be separate from any fuel consumed and any protective clothing needed. You will be expected to either already have this or buy them from the hiring center or another retailer.
The usual minimum duration for hiring a stump grinder will be either half a day or a whole day depending on the hire company. The company may also supply a delivery service if you haven’t any way of transporting the grinder. Expect to pay more for this although some companies sometimes give free delivery within a certain radius.
|Cost to hire a stump grinder|
|Half a day||$70 to $200|
|Whole day||$300 to $400|
|Costs for protective clothing|
|Protective leather gloves||$12|
|Full face visor||$20|
|Protective mesh goggles||$10|
|Face mask||$7 for pack of 5|
✓ A tree stump left in the garden can not only be unsightly but can also be dangerous.
✓ If they are left in a busy thoroughfare they might be in a location where they are easily tripped over.
✓ They can be a problem when mowing the lawn.
✓ Old tree stumps can add character to an old garden.
✓ They can attract wood-boring insects and other pests.
✓ Can be made into a flower planter.
✓ Can be made into a quirky seat.
Very labor intensive. Operating a stump grinder takes a lot of muscle to control it and to keep it grinding where you want it to.
Dangerous. Stump grinders can be very dangerous if you take your mind off the job for a moment or if it too heavy for you to control. The blade can dismember or kill the operator or any innocent bystander who happens to be in the way.
You have to clean up. At the end of grinding up the stump, you will have a pile of wood chips, many times larger than the size of the stump. You will need some way of disposing of the chips.
Repairs. If you are renting a grinder and you break a blade or a tooth, then you may be liable for any repairs (check with the hire company before signing the contract). The cost of repair can be anything up to $30 per tooth.
Not strong enough. Most stump grinders you hire from DIY rental centers are not big enough to handle stumps greater than 12” in diameter. Usually, they can only handle rotten stumps or very small diameter ones. In this case, hire a contractor.
Not deep enough. Most DIY stump grinders will not grind very far below ground level.
Costs more than you think. If you rent a large grinder complete with a trailer, you may end up paying more than if you hired a contractor with his own equipment.
Safety equipment. If you didn’t buy the correct safety equipment or didn’t bother to wear any, you can put yourself at significant risk when operating a stump grinder.
Mess. You can end up with a lot more mess than you expect.
It is always very tempting to try to save money by doing the job yourself. Tree stump removal is one of those jobs that may not be a good idea to do as a DIY project. You might find that if you hire a stump grinder and then spend a lot of time trying to remove it you then have to hire a contractor anyway to finish the job.
Always consider the benefits and the potential risks before you decide to hire a grinder yourself. It might be worth getting a couple of quotes from a contractor anyway ‘just in case’.
Although using the grinder is relatively quick compared to other methods outlined previously it is also the most expensive way of removing them. If you aren’t worried about spending a lot of man hours digging a stump out or waiting a few weeks for the stump to rot then go for these methods.
✓ Burning $5 to $100. The main costs associated with this method are hiring someone to supervise the fire to ensure it doesn’t get too large and out of control or that it doesn’t extinguish itself.
✓ Chemical rotting $5 to $100. The main costs are associated with power drill hire and the cost of buying potassium nitrate.
✓ Manual digging $50 to $400. Digging out the stump will require a lot of earth removal as well as cutting taproot and other large roots until the stump works loose. Costs are associated with the purchase or hire costs of hand tools and labor at about $40 per hour.
When working with machines, especially stump grinders there are some simple rules to consider:
✓ Always take great care that you don’t get loose items of clothing caught in the moving parts.
✓ Wear a face shield or mesh goggles to prevent woodchips from damaging your eyes.
✓ Be careful you do not break the blades on large buried rocks. The metal chips might fly into your face.
✓ Wear ear defenders to protect your sense of hearing from the continuous throb of an internal combustion engine.
✓ Wear protective leather gloves to prevent the vibrations conducting from the handlebars into your fingers.
✓ Wear a dust mask to prevent inhaling flying sawdust and exhaust fumes.
✓ Take care when pouring gasoline into the fuel tank. Do not smoke or have a naked flame nearby!
✓ If the machine is too heavy for you to control then hire a contractor.
This article took you through the reasons why you might want to hire a stump grinder and the costs involved in the project. As a comparison, we talked about the other stump removal methods available to the householder and the pros and cons of each one. If you decide to do the jobs as a DIY project remember that the cost of hiring a stump grinder with all the extras will cost almost as much as hiring a contractor to do the job. Do you really want all that hassle?
We hope you have come away from this article with some useful information. Thank you for reading.