After felling trees in your garden, you’ll have stumps remaining that are an eyesore and dangerous if you’re not careful. The remedy is to have them removed by extraction or grinding.
In the UK, the average tree stump grinding and removal costs range from about £100 for a small stump to £500 for a large stump. As a rule of thumb, when the stump top is near the ground, you pay £10-£20/10cm of stump diameter for its removal plus additional labour costs. Moreover, tree surgeons charge at least £300/day depending on the factors we’ll discuss later. Many tree stumps have significant root systems that should be cut off and removed to prevent further growth. If left in-situ, these will cause damage to property in the future. Therefore, always use a qualified tree surgeon who can remove these in the most efficient way possible.
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This guide covers why you should remove tree stumps, how much the job costs and what qualifications you should look for in a tree surgeon. Additionally, we cover regulations directly related to trees and their disposal.
How Much Does Tree Stump Removal Cost?*
The following table shows typical prices associated with tree stump removal; use it as a cost calculator to compare with prices from your quotes.
|Trunk Size (approximate trunk diameter)||Stump Extraction||Stump Grinding||Labour Costs||Estimated Total Costs|
*We compiled these estimated prices from various resources using rates given by qualified tree surgeons. However, they might vary considerably, depending on factors discussed in other sections of this guide.
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Tree Stump Grinding & Removal Price Factors
Many factors affect tree stump grinding and removal prices. Below, we list the most significant that you must consider when dealing with a stump.
Trees come in all sizes, and you can expect a root system to spread out from the stump to approximately the same distance as its height. Therefore, a tall tree will have long roots. Conversely, short trees will have small root systems.
Typically, small tree stump removal prices can be as cheap as £40. In contrast, large single or multiple smaller stumps can cost up to £500. However, the cost of labour on top of this can push the final sum even higher. Usually, tree surgeons price a stump removal based on many factors and they will individually assess each job using their skill and judgement.
If you choose stump grinding, expect it to be somewhat cheaper as you probably won’t need the root system removed. And, you will likely be charged at an hourly rate totalling £50-£100/hr, depending on the stump’s size. Remember that even with stump grinding, an experienced tree surgeon may decide to cut the roots anyway, as certain tree species continue to grow after felling.
Number of stumps
Trees don’t keep their roots nicely partitioned into tidy sections. Therefore, if you have multiple stumps to remove, you’ll find that the underground root systems are a tangled mess. A qualified professional knows how to remove these extensive roots. However, they are difficult to remove, even for a qualified professional, and you’ll be charged accordingly. Eliminating roots takes a long time and can cost up to £400 or more.
The tree species significantly impacts the cost of grinding or extraction. Some have large and expansive root systems, which create much more work. For example, cherry trees have roots, difficult to remove and can take several hours of hard labour.
Generally, softwood tree stumps such as larch, spruce and pine are comparatively easy to remove and often cost from £50-£150/stump depending on its size and the number of stumps in the group. In contrast, hardwood species such as birch, beech, ash and oak have very deep roots costing from £150-£500/stump depending on size and number in a clump.
The stump’s condition
The stump’s condition affects the removal cost too. If you’ve left the stump untouched for a few years, nature takes its course, and it will become host to many species of fungi, bacteria, and wood-boring insects. This flora and fauna naturally decompose a dead stump and don’t usually affect living trees. However, they can invade diseased, stunted or weakened trees. If this is the case, fungal diseases might spread to nearby shrubs and trees, causing problems with your garden’s health.
A qualified tree surgeon will advise you to remove the stump to prevent diseases from spreading to other garden trees.
Rotten stumps that have started to decompose will be easier to extract or grind than stumps that are still sound. Therefore, they’re cheaper to remove.
The stump’s location
If the stump is near a building, fence, sewer pipe or driveway, you might have problems accessing the roots. Some root systems spread up to 3-5m below ground and interfere with underground structures. Furthermore, roots seek out water by entering tiny cracks in underground drainage. They enter the pipe and grow, thus demolishing the pipe or foundation. If this happens, root removal is a very complex job and requires many man-hours of labour. You must also repair damage to building foundations, underground services, etc., or protect them when removing the stump. Thus, adding to the overall cost.
Even if the roots haven’t crept into pipelines or foundations, you might still have access problems. Large stump removal machines need room to operate, and if the stump is too close to a structure, you might have accessibility issues. In this case, cut the stump into small chunks and remove them by hand, thus further increasing the price.
Where in the country are you?
Take into account your location. The cost of living in London and the southeast of England is higher than elsewhere. Therefore, you’ll find that labour charges increase by up to 20%, which will increase your overall bill considerably.
Some tree removal contractors charge extra depending on how far they travel to the job, especially if you live in a rural area or choose a non-local tree surgeon. Otherwise, you probably won’t pay extra.
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Stump extraction and grinding use heavy machinery, which needs space to move around and operate. Usually, we fence our back gardens with a small gate or narrow pathway as access along the side of the house. Typically, a stump grinder needs about 80cm for access. But, if there’s limited access, you must remove part of the fencing or gate. If this isn’t possible, you can’t use machinery, and the work must be done by hand. Both of these scenarios take time, thereby adding to the cost. Generally, tree surgeons charge an additional £2-£5/10cm of stump diameter for work in the back garden, plus additional charges for difficult access.
Tree Surgeon Qualifications
In the UK, tree surgeons must have the City and Guilds NPTC (National Proficiency Test Council) basic certificate. This qualification ensures everyone who passes the exam has knowledge of safety and works to a recognised standard. However, many more specialist certificates are available depending on the professional’s specialisation. You can find a list of specialist qualifications here.
Many companies belong to the Arboricultural Association, the leader in arboricultural best practices, and tree surgeons’ leading trade body. Their website offers guidance to professionals and potential customers, and it provides a directory to find members. The ARB Approved Contractors Scheme is the only fully comprehensive tree surgeon accreditation scheme in the UK. Thus, ensuring the contractor has all the tree surgery qualifications necessary to do the job. Also, ARB Contractors must hold at least Professional Indemnity, Employers’ Liability and Public Liability insurance.
There are other trade associations, but they don’t insist on the high standards that Arboricultural Association members work to. But, anyone who works with trees, their roots and stumps should follow the guidelines stated in the appropriate British Standard (BS 3998:2010 Tree Work – Recommendations).
TPO & UK Regulation
The UK has many regulations designed to protect wild trees. The government refers to these as Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), which can apply to trees in conservation areas or single trees of historical, scientific or ecological significance. A TPO prohibits felling or cutting down, uprooting, lopping or topping, wilful damage and destruction of trees without the local authority’s permission in conjunction with the Forestry Commission. These restrictions also apply to cutting and damaging roots.
Although a TPO encourages landowners to maintain trees on their land, they can’t allow any prohibited activities to occur without permission. But, you can apply for a Tree Felling Licence from The Forestry Commission, if you intend to work on protected trees. However, the regulations don’t cover all trees, and certain exemptions apply. Generally, felling restrictions don’t apply to cultivated trees in a standard domestic garden. But, if you’re not sure, contact your local authority or Forestry Commission office, where there’s a record of all protected trees.
How Are Tree Stumps Removed?
There are various ways to remove a stump, and we should consider each method separately.
- Remove the soil around the entire stump to expose and loosen the roots.
- Sever all the roots as you find them, continuing to remove soil until you uncover the taproot.
- Clear the soil around the taproot and sever it.
- Prise the stump from the ground.
This can be hard work and might take up to 12 hours if done by hand.
- Follow the same procedure as manual removal, but use a mechanical excavator to remove soil and expose roots.
- After severing the taproot, connect the stump to a tractor or winch using chains.
- Pull the stump from the ground using mechanical assistance.
Using mechanical help can take from 2-4 hours.
Using a grinder
A stump grinder is a mechanical chisel that turns a stump into wood chips and sawdust.
- Remove as much soil as possible to expose the roots.
- Position the grinder over an exposed root.
- Start the motor and grind across each root in turn, using a sweeping action across and back again. Adjust the machine to grind away about 2-3cm of root on each pass.
- After severing each root, start on the stump.
- Position the grinder over the stump and sweep across its surface in the same way as you chipped the roots. Move the grinder forward or back to attack a different area.
- When you’ve chipped the stump to ground level, you can tilt the grinder to chip underground. Try to remove as much of the stump as possible.
- Remove the pile of wood chips and sawdust. Alternatively, use them as mulch or compost them.
Stump grinders are dangerous machines, so use complete protective equipment such as a face shield, goggles and gloves. Also, ensure you have comprehensive training. Alternatively, we recommend you use a professional.
The time taken to grind a stump depends on its size and the hardness of the wood. A small stump can take from 1-4 hours.
Can I Remove a Tree Stump Myself?
If you want to save some money, remove a stump yourself. However, the job takes much longer than using a professional, and we don’t guarantee the stump’s complete removal.
To manually remove the stump, buy a mattock from gardening or DIY stores for £10-£30. Also, you can rent stump grinders from hire shops for around £250-380/week or buy one for £1300-£1600.
There are many products on the market which kill and dissolve tree stumps. However, they generally all contain three main ingredients.
- Potassium nitrate – also called saltpetre.
- Sulphuric acid.
- Nitric acid.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wear the recommended protective equipment such as gloves, eye, and mouth covering. Although steps might vary with the product, the procedure below outlines the general method.
- Remove as much root mass and stump as possible using a saw.
- Drill holes into the stump as deep as possible.
- Fill the holes with the chemical.
- Cover the area with a waterproof sheet to prevent drying out.
- Check regularly for dead areas and remove pieces as needed.
- Keep the holes topped up.
This method is cheap but can take years.
- Remove as much of the stump as you can with a saw.
- Drill holes in the stump as deep as possible.
- Fill the holes with kerosene, and allow the liquid to soak into the wood.
- Ignite the stump and allow it to burn until it smoulders.
This method takes a long time and doesn’t always work. Kerosene and other flammable liquids are harmful if swallowed or in contact skin or eyes. Therefore, wear protective clothing and guard against splashes. Furthermore, using fire can be dangerous, and you shouldn’t leave flames unattended. Finally, depending on where you live, you might need a D7 waste exemption permit to allow you to burn wood in your garden.
All these DIY methods are dangerous, and you might not do the job correctly. Therefore, we advise you to call a professional and qualified tree surgeon who will safely and efficiently remove the stump.
Here are a few questions to ensure you choose a qualified tree surgeon.
- Are they members of the ARB Approved Contractors Scheme? Use the directory to confirm their answer.
- Have they got references from previous jobs? Follow them up.
- Ask for a written quote for the work.
- Is waste removal included in the quote?
- Ensure they have the correct insurance. We mentioned insurance earlier in this guide.
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Which is better, to grind a stump or remove it?
There isn’t a simple answer to this question, as it depends on circumstances and your requirements. If the stump is healthy and you’re looking for a cheap option, consider a stump grinder. They’re more affordable than the extraction method and create less upheaval at ground level. In contrast, if the stump is rotten, unhealthy or close to buildings, pipework, or other structures, you must also remove the root system. In this case, choose the extraction method.
Can you grow grass over a ground tree stump?
Grinding a stump to about 10cm below the surface gives enough room for a layer of topsoil and turf to hide the stump completely. And it only takes a few hours from start to finish.
Is it OK to leave tree roots in the ground?
It’s essential to remove all chance of tree roots continuing to grow and damaging your house’s foundations or underground utilities. Ideally, hire a tree surgeon who knows which trees continue to grow and how to cut and remove their roots.
Will stump grindings attract termites?
If you’ve read somewhere that stump grindings attract termites, you’ve been reading a website targeted at a North American audience. Termites don’t live anywhere in the United Kingdom. Therefore, if you think you’ve seen termite markings in trees, it’s most likely caused by woodworm. This term is the generic name for the larvae of any wood-boring beetle. They’re harmless to humans and found everywhere in the wild. However, rotten and disease infected treestumps and their grindings can spread unwanted fungi spores onto other healthy garden trees and shrubs. Therefore, if possible, remove grindings from your property or compost them. Only use healthy wood chips for mulching purposes.
Tree stumps in the garden can be a trip hazard for seniors and children who might be unaware of their presence. Furthermore, if you have a tree whose roots encroach on underground utilities or your house’s foundations, it’s time to remove them. And this means using a professional.
Complete the form on this page, and we’ll ensure you receive up to four local tree stump grinding and removal quotes from qualified tree surgeons in your area.
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