Do it Yourself Stump Grinding: A Good Idea?

Category: Landscape, Tree & Shrub

tree stumpLots of people often look for a chance to save some money when doing some DIY projects. If you are trying to find a solution for tree stump removal please don’t consider this project lightly. Stump grinders are specialized pieces of equipment that use complex hydraulics and blades with many sharp teeth that essentially chew away at a stump until it is ground into bits, well below the surface of the ground. Your most important consideration should be your safety, then convenience, then cost for such a project.

Although you can probably find a stump grinder to rent at a local rental store, be sure to not just assume this is as easy as other rental-related projects you may undertake. If you have a stump removal project on your property, be sure to ask yourself the right questions so you understand what is all involved with such a project.

How big of a stump grinder do I need? If you have a stump that’s over 12″ in diameter, you’re best to consider a larger grinder, the kind that has to either be towed by a vehicle or one that is hauled on a large trailer. These grinders make the job go much quicker and also do a better job of effectively grind a stump.

How much does it cost to rent a stump grinder? Renting a grinder like this will run you around $150-$300 per day plus your cost of any trailer rental and gas to transport and run the grinder. Depending on the size of your project, it can often be less expensive to just hire a stump grinding company.

IMG_6223Can I operate a stump grinder safely? Safety is key. Your life depends on it. This piece of machinery is very capable of dismembering and even killing an operator if not operated carefully. Likewise, this machine will cut through many objects it will come in contact with, and that includes utility wires and some conduit. This could mean the risk of utility interruption and possible electrocution and explosions if you come in contact with some utilities. A professional tree service like ours will often call utility services to have these lines marked on the property so to stay clear of them.

What kind of mess will be left when I’m done? When you grind wood it expands the volume as air is introduced and it isn’t compacted into hard, solid wood anymore. The size of the pile when you are finished will amaze you. We often see stumps 4′-5′ in diameter (make sure you measure from root flare to root flare and then some) that can leave a pile of grinding and soil debris half the size of a car! When grinding, fragments can be hurled with great speed, so keeping people and breakable property far away is critical. Make sure you have a plan on cleaning up the mess when you’re finished. Professional tree companies like ours will often bring a Bobcat to excavate the soil and grindings and then fill the hole with clean soil. That means bringing additional dump trucks, trailers, etc.

What happens if something breaks?  Providing you don’t break anything else while grinding your stump, a stump grinder is an expensive piece of equipment to repair. Depending on the size of the grinder, there can be a dozen to several dozens of teeth on a grinder. Each tooth on a grinder can range in cost from $10-$25 per tooth. If you hit a big chunk of rock, it’s not going to be long before you dull or break teeth on your grinder. Most rental companies will charge surcharges for such breakages and wear, so you may be looking at additional cost if you hit a rock that you can’t see.

Is DIY worth my time and effort?  There are a lot of variables here. If your grinder isn’t maintained like it should, or if you don’t know how to best operate it, this can make a big difference in the aggravation factor. Not only that, but if you miss parts of your stump with the grinder, and then have it returned to the rental facility you may be very frustrated that you didn’t go deep enough with your grinder because you couldn’t see past the debris it was creating. This could mean a repeat rental and even more waste of your precious time.

We aren’t saying that all DIY efforts for stump grinding are ineffective, but it’s not a simple operation. It also is a potentially dangerous activity. Sometimes, it’s best to let pros do this type of work. They have daily experience with doing things you may try to do a couple times in your lifetime. Not only can a pro get it done more quickly and more effectively, they will be insured for any damages that could possibly happen and know how to best handle those issues. If you have a stump on your property you would like to remove, please contact us. We would be happy to look at your project.


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