To get rid of a stump with charcoal, it is essential to:
- Make certain it is safe to start a fire in your yard.
- Excavate the area around the stump to a depth of 12–18 inches (30–45 cm).
- Drill several 1-inch diameter holes in the top of the stump.
- Drill holes into the side of the stump that angle down and intersect with the holes drilled into the top of the stump.
- Fill the holes with vegetable oil. Repeat for 2–3 days.
- Pile charcoal on and around the stump.
- Light the charcoal and monitor the fire.
- Once the burn has completed, remove any ash and remaining pieces of the stump.
If you follow these steps, you can get rid of both large and small stumps in just a few days. For even better results burning your stump, use a stump remover first. This will make the stump more porous so that it burns easily.
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8 Steps for Burning a Tree Stump with Charcoal
Getting rid of a tree stump is no easy feat. Digging and chopping roots or using a vehicle to uproot a stump is hard work that requires a lot of manual labor. Renting a stump grinder or hiring a professional to grind a stump in your yard can be expensive. There is a much easier method of stump removal. With nothing more than a drill, vegetable oil, and charcoal you can remove a stump yourself quickly and simply.
Take Safety Precautions
Before burning any stump, make sure it is at least 15 feet from your home and any other structures. This will prevent dangerous fires. Plan to observe the stump as it burns and keep a fire extinguisher handy to combat any out-of-control flames. To help contain the fire, choose a wind-free day when the soil is moist. Do not burn a stump if your region is experiencing drought conditions.
- Do not burn a stump that is within 15 feet of your house or other building.
- Have a fire extinguisher ready nearby in case the fire gets out of control.
- Plan your stump burn for a cold, windless day, preferably when the ground is wet.
- Check your local laws for fire guidelines and burn bans.
Consult the laws in place in your region regarding outdoor fires. Also, some areas may put in place seasonal burn bans in order to prevent wildfires. Make sure it is both safe and legal before you burn a stump.
Dig Around the Tree Stump
Excavate the area around the stump to a depth of 12–18 inches (30–45 cm). The excavation area should extend 12–24 inches (30–60 cm) away from the stump to expose the tree roots and create a safe burn pit. Exposing as much of the stump and roots as possible ensures that the stump burns away completely.
- Remove the dirt around the stump to a depth of 12–18 inches.
- The excavated area should extend 12–24 inches away from the stump on all sides.
- Exposed root and stump material will burn well. A stump that is partially buried will burn poorly.
If you do not excavate the area around the stump, the fire may struggle to truly destroy the entire stump. After all your hard work, you still may be left with a partial stump after the burn. Plus, a nice excavated area makes for a safe fire pit for your burn that helps keep the flames contained.
Drill Holes in the Top of the Stump
Using a 1-inch diameter (25 mm) drill bit, drill several holes in the top of the stump. The holes should be 12 inches (30 cm) deep and should be spaced 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
- Use a 1-inch diameter (25 mm) to drill holes in the top of the stump, straight down.
- Holes should be 12 inches (30 cm) deep.
- Space holes 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
- A large stump may require you to drill many holes to prepare the stump.
Drill the holes 2 inches apart in a “checkerboard” pattern on the top of the stump. This may require you to drill several holes, but it’s essential for allowing the stump to soak up vegetable oil and burn away completely.
Drill Holes in the Sides of the Stump
At a point 3–4 inches (7.5–10 cm) down the side of the stump, drill holes downward at an angle. The goal is to have these angled holes intersect with the vertical holes drilled in the previous step. You should end up with many ‘V’ or “fish hook” shaped holes. Use the same drill bit from step 3.
- Drill holes in the side of the stump, angling them downward to intersect with holes drilled in the top of the stump.
- This allows for more oil to permeate the stump for burning, as well as airflow that will encourage a stronger fire.
After drilling the holes in the stump, it is important to note that your stump is also prepared for you to apply stump remover. Using a potassium nitrate stump remover product prior to burning will help break down the wood and make it easier to burn. It’s a good idea to use a round of stump remover before continuing with the following steps.
Fill the Holes with Vegetable Oil
Pour vegetable oil into the holes drilled in the top of the tree stump. The goal is to fill each hole until the vegetable oil begins to pour out. It’s also perfectly okay to coat the top of the stump with vegetable oil. The oil will soak into the wood, making for a better burn.
- Pour vegetable oil onto the top of the stump.
- Fill the holes in the top of the stump, as well as coat the top of the stump.
- Repeat daily for 2–3 days, to allow the wood to soak up the vegetable oil.
As the vegetable oil is pulled into the wood, add more oil in order to fully soak the wood. For best results, repeat the oil treatment for several days in order to prepare the stump for burning.
Pile Charcoal On and Around the Stump
Place a full bag of charcoal on top of the stump. Then, cut the top of the bag open in an X-pattern. Next, pile another bag or half-bag of charcoal around the stump in the area you excavated. This will prepare your stump for burning.
- For a large stump, lay a full bag of charcoal flat on top of the stump and slice it open. The paper bag serves as kindling.
- Pour more charcoal around the stump, in the excavated area.
- You can begin with a small amount of charcoal and add more as necessary.
To make monitoring and controlling the flame easier, it’s perfectly fine to begin with a conservative amount of charcoal. Once the fire is going, you can add more as needed to get a stump-consuming fire going.
Light the Charcoal
Use a small amount of charcoal lighter fluid to set the charcoal alight. Typically, not much is needed. Once the charcoal gets going, it will be fueled by the vegetable oil-soaked stump. From there, it’s important to monitor the stump. Stumps can burn for many hours, or days.
- Plan a bonfire and make plans to cover the fire overnight with a metal basin.
- Use a small amount of lighter fluid to start the charcoal.
- Plan to stay and observe the fire for several hours.
- Add more charcoal as needed.
- Wet the surrounding grass and plants with a garden hose periodically to keep the fire from spreading.
A stump that has been soaked in vegetable oil for several days burns hot. It’s important to stay nearby throughout the burn just in case the flames get out of control. You can wet the surrounding area to help prevent this, and always keep a fire extinguisher close in case of emergencies.
Clean up the Burnt Stump
Your stump may burn for several hours or it may smolder and burn away for a few days, depending on the size of the stump. After the burn, you’ll be left with an ashy crater. Shovel out the ashes, remove any stubborn remaining pieces of stump, and fill the hole with fresh topsoil.
- Once the burn is complete and the fire is completely cold, remove ashes and remaining bits of the stump.
- Work carefully. The fire may appear dead from the surface but could have red-hot coals buried in the ash.
- Once your work is done, fill the hole and reclaim this portion of your yard.
Keep in mind that a stump fire that appears dead from a first glance may still be burning portions of the stump and roots below the top layer of ash. Hose down the area before removing ash, and work carefully to avoid starting a fire from the embers.
How Long Does it Take to Burn a Stump with Charcoal?
Typically a a stump will burn from 6–48 hours. Small stumps, less than 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter will typically burn away in 6–12 hours. Very large stumps, more than 24 inches (60 cm) in diameter can burn for 1–2 days. Wet conditions, waterlogged wood, or even certain tree species can cause the stump to burn even more slowly. Also, the stump of a dead tree is likely to burn faster than the stump of a tree that was recently cut down.
- Trees less than 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter: 6–12 hours to fully burn.
- Trees larger than 24 inches (60 cm) in diameter: 1–2 days to fully burn.
- Soil conditions and tree species also affect the speed of stump burning.
- Using a potassium nitrate stump remover prior to burning accelerates the burn.
It’s a good idea to apply a tree stump removal product, like Spectracide, 4–8 weeks prior to burning the stump. These stump removers are non-toxic to surrounding plants but work to make the stump wood more porous. This makes for a faster and more complete burn.
How Do You Remove a Tree Stump Using Charcoal?
To burn away a tree stump using charcoal, first make sure burning the stump is safe and legal in your area. Then, excavate the area around the stump to reveal the trunk and roots. Drill holes 12 inches deep (30 cm) in the top of the trunk, followed by angled holes drilled into the side of the trunk. The top holes and side holes should intersect, forming a “fish hook” shape. Once the holes are drilled, fill them with vegetable oil. Pile charcoal on top of and around the stump, light it, and carefully observe the fire with an extinguisher handy.