Removing a Rotten Stump
A dead tree stump brings with it a number of problems that can plague your yard. Even if you removed a problem tree, the stump itself can continue to be a nuisance long after the tree is gone. After the tree has been cut down, the stump can continue to sprout, becoming a host to invasive plant species; the roots may even continue to grow and damage pipes, sidewalks and other parts of your property as they do so.
As the stump dies, it will begin to decompose. As it does so, it can sprout potentially toxic fungi, posing a health risk to children and pets who are playing in your yard. In addition, a rotting stump can serve as a very attractive home for certain invasive insects. Termites may burrow their way into the wood and spread into your home from there; in the humid climates of areas like Vancouver, carpenter ants are even more likely to be a risk. While carpenter ants do not eat wood, they do burrow into soft and rotting wood to build their nests, leaving traces of a sawdust-like material behind as they do so.
There are many ways to remove a tree stump, however, particular care must be taken if the stump is already rotting. Burning a stump, for example, is a viable option; however, if it turns out that ants or termites have moved into your stump, then the smoke and fire will force them to move to the next nearby source of wood, which may be your home!
There is one advantage to having a stump on your property that is already rotting; it will be easier to remove. In fact, one method of removing a stump is to actually accelerate the process of decomposition so you will actually be ahead of the game.
Here are the steps you need to take to remove a rotten stump from your property:
1. Figure out how far the roots have spread
As we’ve mentioned, the roots can continue to grow long after the tree has been cut down. Roots will seek water as they grow, which means they can invade pipes and sewer systems and potentially clog or damage them. While underground roots will eventually decompose, there are a few ways you can hasten this process. Dig up exposed roots, and cover them with compost to allow them to rot away faster. You can encourage decomposition of old roots by spreading grass clippings and old leaves around; just make sure you check on the roots every once in awhile to make sure they’re decomposing.
2. Sever the roots from the stump
Using an ax, chop through the roots where they connect to the stump. The roots will decompose and the stump itself will then be much easier to remove from the ground.
3. Start the removal process
How easy the removal of the stump is depends on how far along the decomposition is. If it’s relatively advanced, removing the stump may be as simple as wrapping a chain around it and prying it out of the ground with a vehicle. If that doesn’t work, you may be able to use an ax to cut it into smaller pieces and then pull them out of the ground.
If you discover that the process of decomposition hasn’t come far enough along to make removal easy, you may need to hasten the process yourself. Stubborn stumps can be decomposed more quickly by drilling holes in them and filling those holes with a mixture of compost (or another high nitrogen substance) and water. As the solution spreads throughout the stump, it will soften and as it does so, it will become easy to cut through the softened wood with an ax or shovel. If you do have an invasion of carpenter ants or termites, you may need to deal with them as well; find an insecticide that won’t damage the other plants on your property or risk pets or native wildlife.
4. Other methods
Sometimes, you will want to remove a rotten stump more quickly. If you are in a hurry, you can also rent equipment that will make the process go much faster. A stump grinder, which is a large, gas-powered device about the size of a lawnmower, can chip away at the wood over the course of hours. You can rent a stump grinder from any number of dealers for around $100-$190 per day and do most of the work yourself. If you do elect to use this method, make sure you do it safely. Take steps to familiarize yourself with the equipment and make sure you have safety gear such as hearing protection, eye protection, and gloves.
If you are unable or unwilling to undertake these methods yourself, an easy solution is to hire a stump removal specialist. They will provide their own equipment and are trained to remove a rotten stump without allowing any invasive insects to escape into your home. Often this option is cheaper than renting equipment, and it is certainly more convenient than dealing with potential damage to your home from invasive insect species.