5 Ways to Burn a Tree Stump

5 Ways to Burn a Tree Stump

Burning a tree stump is the best way to get rid of it as charring a tree stump kills its ability to grow back. However, it does require quite a lot of preparation to ensure that it’s done right and safely.

So if you’re looking for the best ways to burn a tree stump, look no further! We’ve listed down the most effective methods along with a step-by-step guide.

We’ve also provided comprehensive directions on how to prepare a stump well before setting it on fire. To boot, we’ve answered a handful of FAQs at the very end.

Best Way to Burn a Tree Stump

Best Way to Burn a Tree Stump
Image: Buffalo Stump Removal

The best way to burn a tree stump is to drill several deep holes and fill them with diesel, kerosene, or gasoline. These are highly flammable fuels that when thoroughly absorbed by the tree will quicken the burning process.

Safety Tips for Burning a Tree Stump

Tips for Burning a Tree Stump
Image: Evergreen Seeds

1. Obtain authorization and clearance from your local fire department and council.

Obtain authorization and clearance from your local fire department and council.
Image: Scott Graham on Unsplash

In certain areas, burning, in general, is illegal. To avoid getting into trouble with your local law enforcement, you’ll need to know the regulations in your area.

More often than not, it’s required to obtain authorization and clearance from your district’s fire department and council.

Obtain authorization and clearance from your local fire department and council.
Image: Dorset Fire Protection

In some areas, a permit for controlled outdoor burns isn’t enough. Sometimes additional requirements are asked, such as:

  • Fire training 
  • Proof of adequate equipment and tools
  • Proof of manpower

Apart from that, there may be other conditions to be able to burn a stump. Some districts require stumps to meet certain criteria, such as:

  • The stump must be completely dried 10 days before combustion
  • The trunk must be 8 inches in diameter or smaller before broken apart
Obtain authorization and clearance from your local fire department and council.
Image: Spencer Davis on Unsplash

In some districts, a forest ranger or a firefighter must be present at all times to monitor the burning.

Other than that, controlled outdoor burnings aren’t allowed past a certain time. For most, fires need to be put out by 6PM but can resume the following morning.

Also, some local councils may ask you to get permission from your neighbors, too. This is to ensure that they’re aware of the burning and that it isn’t a nuisance to the community.

Having mentioned all of that, get in touch with your local authority and fire department to make sure that you’re following regulations and aren’t breaking any laws.

2. Clear nearby flammable materials that are surrounding the perimeter of the stump.

Clear nearby flammable materials that are surrounding the perimeter of the stump.
Image: Daniel Spase on Unsplash

Flammable materials close by can easily catch fire if the wind suddenly picks up and changes the direction of the flame. 

In the event that this happens, it’s difficult to control fires happening in multiple locations. 

As a preventive measure, clear up any nearby materials such as dried leaves, sticks, plants, and similar organic materials that can easily be set ablaze.

If you’re using a flammable liquid, you’ll want to store these at a safe distance, too.

3. Double-check the weather forecast and calendar.

Double-check the weather forecast and calendar.
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More often than not, most local authorities will only permit burning stumps during the day. Hence, you only have from sunrise to sundown, say 6 P.M., to finish burning.

Because of that, you’ve got a pretty tight schedule to follow to ensure that you make the most out of the daylight that you have. 

Hence, be sure to schedule your burning project when you can expect consecutive dry weather. In other words, ensure that there’s little to no chance of wind and rain as these could disrupt the burning process.

Windy weather can make it tricky to control the fire as the direction of the flame could change at a moment’s notice. This is incredibly dangerous as nearby objects can easily catch fire. 

Double-check the weather forecast and calendar.
Image: Ilya Breitburg on Unsplash

Rainy weather will also put a halt to your burning project as you’ll have to wait until your stump is completely dried out before setting it ablaze. 

The rain can also cause runoff, which can cause bigger trouble. It’s typically illegal for fuelling agents to flow into nearby creeks, ponds, streams, or lakes, among others. 

Hence, you’ll want continuous ideal weather just in case your stump doesn’t finish completely burning in a single day. 

It’s important to take into consideration that it takes anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to fully burn a stump.

Having mentioned that, you’ll need to plan accordingly and secure at least a week of clear weather. 

4. Dampen the surrounding area of the stump regularly.

Dampen the surrounding area of the stump regularly.
Image: Steve DiMatteo on Unsplash

Dampening the surrounding soil prevents the chances of an underground fire from occurring. This also ensures that the flames cannot spread to nearby grass. 

There isn’t a set schedule of when you’ll need to dampen the surrounding soil. Simply monitor the state of the soil and reapply water when necessary.

5. Keep a water source, shovel, and fire extinguisher nearby.

Keep a water source, shovel, and fire extinguisher nearby.
Image: Anna Shvets on Unsplash

Even though accidents can happen, you’ll want to minimize the damages and casualties. 

Hence, it’s important to have a water source, shovel, and fire extinguisher nearby to easily put out the flames just in case something goes awry. 

Be sure to double-check the expiration date of your fire extinguisher. Aside from that, ensure that the locking pin is intact and the tamper seal is not broken. 

Among others, make certain that you know how to use a fire extinguisher. If you’re uncertain of your skills, you can contact your local fire department to receive training.

How to Prepare a Tree Stump for Burning

How to Prepare a Tree Stump for Burning
Image: Survival World

You can’t just set a tree stump on fire willy-nilly. As easy as it sounds, there are still a few preparatory steps that you need to do to ensure that the burning process is done safely and effectively.

1. Dig around the perimeter of the stump to create a small ditch and expose its roots.

Dig around the perimeter of the stump to create a small ditch and expose its roots.

Using a shovel, dig around the perimeter of the stump, creating a small ditch that’s around 12-18 inches deep.

You’ll want to get rid of as much soil as possible, exposing as much of the stump and its roots as possible.

2. Drill several 8 to 10-inch deep holes on top of the stump.

Drill several 8 to 10-inch deep holes on top of the stump.

Using a power drill, attach a 1-inch spade bit to easily create a hole at a 30-degree angle. Pierce all around the circumference of the stump, its top, and any large, exposed roots.

Penetrate about 8 to 10 inches deep and around 1 to 3 inches apart from one another. If your stump is stout, simply drill as far as you can. 

Ensure that the holes at the side of the stump are connected to the holes drilled from the top. This increases air circulation which is essential to make the burning process easier.

3. Clear any debris made from drilling.

Clear any debris made from drilling.

Remove any debris inside the holes that were made from drilling.

How to Burn a Tree Stump in 5 Ways

How to Burn a Tree Stump in 5 Ways
Image: DJs Stump Grinding

Now that you have performed all the necessary steps to prepare your stump and have taken all of the precautionary measures, it’s showtime! 

Here are the various ways along with comprehensive step-by-step directions on how you can burn a tree stump:

1. Diesel or Kerosene

Diesel or Kerosene
Image: STOREMASTA Blog
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
DurationAround 4 days
Things You NeedDiesel or keroseneLarge metal barrelFlammable materials such as firewood and dried leavesCharcoal

While using diesel and kerosene is one of the most full-proof methods of burning a stump, it is also one of the most time-consuming. 

This is because you need to soak the stump with diesel or kerosene for about 2 days before setting it on fire. Drenching your stump ensures that the fuel penetrates all over, from the inside out. 

While the preparatory stage may be quite time-consuming, it quickens the actual burning process on the first day.

On the second day, you’ll want to add more diesel or kerosene and fix any holes that weren’t deep enough. 


What To Do

To prepare the stump, soak it in diesel or kerosene for 2 days. Pour the fuel into the holes and continually add more every couple of hours as the stump soaks it up.

Afterward, put a metal barrel with an exposed top over the stump. This will help hold the sources of fuel and maintain a high temperature as the stump continues to burn.

Ensure that the barrel is big enough for the stump, flammable materials, and empty space for air circulation.

Put some firewood, dried leaves, and charcoal on top of the stump and inside the holes, if possible.

Douse a liberal amount of diesel or kerosene all over the materials.

Once that’s all done, set the stump on fire. 

To keep things under control, continuously wet the surrounding soil to maintain dampness.

Continuously monitor the fire, adding more diesel, kerosene, or flammable material as necessary.

If the stump hasn’t completely burned down on the first day, set the fire out a little before sundown.

Prepare the stump for the next day by re-drilling any holes that weren’t deep enough and refilling the holes with diesel or kerosene.

Set the stump on fire again.

Continue to monitor the progression, putting more fuel if needed.

Once the stump has completely burned down, allow the ashes to cool thoroughly before disposing of them. 

Using an ax or shovel, break apart any of the remaining roots into smaller pieces so that they’re easier to handle.

2. Charcoal and Vegetable Oil

Charcoal and Vegetable Oil
Image: Direct Stoves
DifficultyEasy ●●○○○
DurationAround 6 days
Things You NeedVegetable oilCharcoalLighter fluid

Using charcoal is one of the more traditional methods and is actually one of the most labor-intensive and time-consuming. 

This is because you’ll have to ensure that the charcoal is continuously burning. It’ll need to be fanned every now and then to keep it lit, which can get tiring. 

Charcoal is also known to burn rather slowly so you shouldn’t expect your tree stump to be completely incinerated within a day or two. It can actually take several days, so pack a lot of patience.

Nevertheless, this method is most advisable for those who’d prefer a less flammable technique that can easily be controlled. 


What To Do

Fill the holes with vegetable oil to the brim. For added measure, you can coat the entire surface of the stump with vegetable oil. 

Repeat this step for about 2 to 3 days to ensure that the stump has soaked up as much vegetable oil as possible.

For best results, you’ll want to repeat this for about a week to ensure complete penetration.

Cover the top and side of the stump entirely with charcoal. Add charcoal around the ditch surrounding the stump, too.

If you’ve got a large stump, you can simply leave the charcoal inside of its bag to act as an encasing, preventing charcoal from falling. Just open the bottom half and create incisions all over the bag for air to circulate.

Alternatively, you can start with a smaller amount of charcoal and gradually add more once you’ve got the flame going. 

Using lighter fluid, set the charcoal on fire. Carefully monitor the progression of the burn. Since this is a slow-moving method, it could take days before the stump is completely burned down.

Keep the surrounding soil moist to prevent an underground fire.

Before nightfall, remove the charcoal and set it aside on a grill to prevent it from burning other materials. Cover the stump with a metal basin.

The following day, restart the fire with lighter fluid and add the charcoal back.

Once the stump has completely burned down, allow the ashes to cool thoroughly before disposing of them. 

Using an ax or shovel, break apart any of the remaining roots into smaller pieces so that they’re easier to handle.

3. Motor Oil

Motor Oil
Image: Car and Driver
DifficultyModerate – Hard ●●●●○
DurationAround 2 days
Things You NeedFunnelMotor oil

If you’re in a rush to get rid of an unwanted tree stump, then the motor oil method is your best bet. 

Since it’s highly flammable, it only takes a few hours to a couple of days before a stump is completely incinerated.

Having said that, it also means that using motor oil is one of the more dangerous methods. This is because water can’t be used to put out the flames.

Instead, you’ll have to cover the flames with a metal lid such as a cooking sheet or a baking dish. Afterward, use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. 

Alternatively, you can pour a liberal amount of baking soda to put out the flames. However, this only works if the fire is small. 


What To Do

Using a funnel, pour a couple of tablespoons of motor oil into each hole. Afterward, cover the top and sides of the stump with motor oil, too.

Allow the tree to soak up the motor oil for a couple of hours.

Afterward, set the stump on fire. Keep an eye on the stump as it burns with a fire extinguisher in hand just in case.

Don’t forget to ensure that the soil surrounding the stump is constantly moist to prevent an underground fire.

Once the stump has completely burned down, allow the ashes to cool thoroughly before disposing of them. 

Using an ax or shovel, break apart any of the remaining roots into smaller pieces so that they’re easier to handle.

4. Gasoline

Gasoline
Image: The Spruce
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
DurationAround 4 days
Things You NeedGasolineLarge metal barrelFlammable materials such as firewood and dried leavesCharcoal

Similar to the diesel and kerosene methods, this technique is also one of the most full-proof ones but requires a day or two of soaking in order to be effective.

For optimal results, you’ll need to prepare the stump by filling each hole with gasoline and allowing it to thoroughly soak the fuel. After a while, check on how much fuel has been absorbed and add more if necessary.

Don’t be discouraged by these somewhat time-consuming preparatory steps as this helps make the tree burn easier and faster.

What To Do

To prepare the stump, soak it in gasoline overnight or for about 2 days. Pour the fuel into the holes and continually add more every couple of hours as the stump soaks it up.

Afterward, put a metal barrel with an exposed top over the stump. This will help hold the sources of fuel and maintain a high temperature as the stump continues to burn.

Ensure that the barrel is big enough for the stump, flammable materials, and empty space for air circulation.

Put some firewood, dried leaves, and charcoal on top of the stump and inside the holes, if possible.

Douse a liberal amount of gasoline all over the materials.

Once that’s all done, set the stump on fire. 

To keep things under control, continuously wet the surrounding soil to maintain dampness.

Continuously monitor the fire, adding more gasoline or flammable material as necessary.

If the stump hasn’t completely burned down on the first day, set the fire out a little before sundown.

Prepare the stump for the next day by re-drilling any holes that weren’t deep enough and refilling the holes with gasoline.

The next day, set the stump on fire again.

Continue to monitor the progression, putting more fuel if needed.

Once the stump has completely burned down, allow the ashes to cool thoroughly before disposing of them. 

Using an ax or shovel, break apart any of the remaining roots into smaller pieces so that they’re easier to handle.

5. Potassium Nitrate or Saltpeter

Potassium Nitrate or Saltpeter
Image: Encyclopedia Britannica
DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
DurationAround 2 days
Things You NeedPotassium nitrate or saltpeterBoiling waterWooden sticks and string

Using potassium nitrate or saltpeter to burn a tree is one of the more organic methods. This is because it’s an organic, powder-like compound that can naturally stimulate decomposition.

As a result, it’s also beneficial to add potassium nitrate or saltpeter into the wood even before the burning process as this speeds up the dehydration process, helping the wood break down quicker.

You can easily find potassium nitrate or saltpeter at your local garden or hardware store. Alternatively, they’re available online, too. 


What To Do

Fill each hole with a generous amount of potassium nitrate. 

As a precautionary measure, avoid directly touching the substance. Instead, use a trowel or scooper.

Next, carefully pour hot water into the holes full of potassium nitrate.

Gently pour boiling water until the potassium nitrate has completely dissolved. For an easier and more accurate application, you can use a funnel to avoid splatters.

Using wooden sticks and scraps, create a teepee-like cone over the stump. Ensure that the top ends of each stick touch one another. 

For extra combustibility, you can add dried leaves, bark, and similar organic, flammable materials around the stump. 

Light the wooden sticks and scraps from the bottom of the teepee-like cone. In most cases, it could take a while before it catches fire.

Having said that, it can take a bit of time before the stump itself ignites. 

It’s important to note that you cannot use gas to light up the flammable materials.

Once the fire has begun, continuously observe and add more wood as needed to keep the fire burning.

If the stump hasn’t completely burned down on the first day, set the fire out a little before sundown.

The following day, reignite the fire. 

Continue to monitor the progression, putting more fuel if needed.

Once the stump has completely burned down, allow the ashes to cool thoroughly before disposing of them. 

Using an ax or shovel, break apart any of the remaining roots into smaller pieces so that they’re easier to handle.

FAQs

How long does it take for a tree stump to burn completely?

It can take a stump anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks for it to burn completely. 

This depends on a variety of factors such as the fuel type, size of the stump, and environmental conditions, among others.

Why is it so hard to burn down a tree stump?

It’s difficult to burn a tree stump because it’s thick and full of moisture. Hence, you’ll want to dry out your stump first before setting it ablaze. 

Is it legal to burn a tree stump?

In many places, it’s completely illegal to burn a tree stump or other materials.

However, in some areas, it’s allowed as long as you’ve obtained authorization from your local authorities and fire department. 

There may also be additional requirements and prerequisites before you’re allowed to burn a tree stump.

Can I burn the tree roots?

You can burn the tree roots as it’s an effective way of ensuring that the tree won’t be able to grow back. Make sure that you drill several deep holes within the roots for a more efficient burn.

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