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Using the Right Excavator for Stump Removal 

Using the Right Excavator for Stump Removal 

The most challenging part of killing a tree is removing the tree stump. The tree stump is usually the remaining portion of the trunk connected to the roots that are still underground. 

You will need to call in the “big guns” to remove a tree stump – that is, an excavator. In this article, we’ll help you find the right size of excavator for that pesky stump!

What are the different types of excavators?

1. Small Excavator

Small Excavator
Image: IVT

These mini excavators can handle 1 to 20 tons of weight. You can use them for stump removals in your backyard. 

Other uses include work in tight spaces and small-scale landscaping.

2. Medium Excavator

Medium Excavator
Image: ConexExpoconAgg

Medium-sized excavators can handle 20 to 50 tons of weight. They are usually used for small demolition projects, tree stump removal, and digging a lake or a pond. 

This excavator can also be used for trenching, light construction projects, and handling raw materials. 

What size excavator is best for removing stumps?

What size excavator is best for removing stumps
Image: Fecon

It’s best to use a small excavator when removing stumps of small to medium-sized trees. In contrast, a medium-sized excavator is suggested for large trees. 

Here’s a comparison between the two excavator sizes for removing tree stumps:

Small ExcavatorMedium Excavator
Weight1 to 20 tons20 to 50 tons
Type of TreeSmall trees (less than 15 feet) Medium trees (15 to 40 feet) Large trees (40 feet above)
ExamplesAlmondCrabappleDwarf AlbertaEastern RedbudGoldenball LeadtreeHinoki CypressCrape MyrtleFlowering DogwoodPaper BirchJapanese MapleServiceberryCoast RedwoodDouglas firGiant Mountain AshGiant sequoiaBhutan CypressSouthern Blue GumManna GumKlinki PineString barkRed CedarEucalyptus regnans

Factors to consider before using an excavator

There are two main factors to consider when choosing an excavator – the weight of the tree stump and root ball. 

Let’s find out how to calculate these and their estimates for popular tree species. 

Weight of the tree stump

Weight of the tree stump
Image: Elite Tree Care

The tree stump is the primary consideration for an excavator. 

To calculate the weight of a tree stump, we will use this formula:

Weight = Volume*Density

  1. Begin with finding the volume of the tree stump by multiplying pi or 3.14 with ½ of the diameter and height (V = 3.14*½ r*height).
  2. After getting the volume, you can multiply the answer by the density of the wood to get an estimated weight of the tree stump. (See the chart below)

Here is the list of the wood densities per cubic feet of the most common tree species to complete your variables for the weight formula:

Tree SpeciesWood Density per Cubic Feet
White Ash48
Paper Birch50
Yellow Birch57
Black Cherry45
American Elm54
Black Gum45
Red Gum50
Honey Locust61
Evergreen Magnolia59
Red Maple50
Silver Maple45
Sugar Maple56
California Oak66
Live Oak76
Red Oak63
White Oak62
Yellow Poplar38
Black Walnut58
White Pine36
Red Spruce34
Source: The Yardtable

If you do not want to manually calculate the weight of the tree stump, here is a table of the estimated weight of 1-foot-long tree stumps of popular trees per average diameter:

White Ash2638516785104126150177205
Paper Birch2739537088109132157164214
Yellow Birch31456180101124151179210244
Black Cherry253548637998119141166192
American Elm2942587595118142169199231
Black Gum253548637998119141166192
Red Gum2739537088109132157164214
Honey Locust33486585108133161192225252
Evergreen Magnolia32466382104129156185217214
Red Maple2739537088109132157164192
Silver Maple253548637998119141166239
Sugar Maple3144607899122148176206282
California Oak36517092116144174207243324
Live Oak416081106134166200238280269
Red Oak34496788111137166198232265
White Oak34486686109135163194228261
Yellow Poplar21304053678399119150188
Black Walnut32456281102126153182213250
White Pine20283850647895113128145
Red Spruce19273647607490106125154
Source: The Yardtable

Weight of the root ball

Weight of the root ball
Image: NW District

You also need to consider the weight of the root ball of a tree when removing the tree stump. 

Here is the weight of the root ball of a tree depending on its average diameter and rootball size. 

Weigh (lbs)Size of RootballAverage Diameter of Rootball
5000 – 600066-726-7
7000 – 800084-908-10

How to remove a tree stump with an excavator

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to remove a tree stump using an excavator. 

1. Dig a trench

Dig a trench
Image: Ashridge Trees

Begin by digging a trench 3 feet wide and 8 feet deep around the tree stump.

You can also pull away the loose roots and find the weight of the root ball underneath to choose the correct excavator size.

2. Find the roots

Find the roots
Image: Todds Marietta Trees Service

Locate the thinnest roots and push the tree stump away from them.

You can now use the excavator to move the stump toward the roots and pull it from the ground. 

3. Scoop the stump away from the hole

Scoop the stump away from the hole
Image: Triton Landscaping

Get the right angle to wedge the stump out of the hole and roll it several feet away. 

4. Fill the trench with organic materials.

Scoop the stump away from the hole
Image: GrowVeg

Refill the hole with grounded stump bits, wood chips, and other organic matter. Finish off by toping the hole with compact soil and flattening the ground evenly. 

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to dig or grind stumps?

It is better to grind tree stumps than dig a hole to remove them. Stump grinders chew away the remaining trunk and grind the root system below the ground, thereby preventing further regrowth.

Is stump grinding the same as stump removal?

Stump grinding is different from stump removal. In stump grinding, the equipment chews the trunk and roots to pieces, while stump removal requires digging a hole and using equipment to pull the stump from the ground.

How much force is needed to pull a stump?

You will need less than 60 kilonewtons to wholly uproot a tree stump with less than or equal to 61 centimeters in diameter.

How do you calculate the diameter of a tree stump?

To calculate the stump diameter, measure the tree’s circumference at 6 inches above the ground.

How long does it take for a buried stump to rot?

It takes ten years for a tree stump to disappear by natural process. However, if you apply potassium nitrate, it will speed up the tree stump’s rotting process.

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