On any given workday, you may have two, three or more clients scheduled. They’re all eagerly awaiting your arrival and expect you to show up and get the job done – they’ll rarely be very gracious when you need to reschedule.
This means that you’re often in a rush to complete one job and move on to the next. But this is not a wise strategy. Not only do you want to slow down enough to ensure the safety of your crew, you want to be sure that you complete the job. And for professional arborists and tree-care services, this means dealing with the stumps left behind after tree removal.
There are obviously cases in which your client doesn’t want to pay the additional costs associated with stump removal, but most – particularly those in upscale areas or with well-manicured properties – will want the area to look pristine once you leave. And this means removing the stump completely.
Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can remove stumps for your clients. We’ll discuss four of the most appropriate below.
Although it isn’t technically a type of stump removal, you’ll sometimes find it necessary or preferable to simply cut the stump as flush with the ground as is possible. This obviously won’t yield similar results to proper stump removal, but it’ll still provide more pleasing aesthetics than leaving a large stump intact.
One of the biggest benefits of this approach is that it won’t require any additional tools – you’ll use the same chainsaw you used to fell the tree. Similarly, it won’t require your crew to learn to use any additional types of equipment or chemicals, though they may need practice to become proficient at cutting the stump as close to the ground as possible.
Grinding stumps is likely the most popular method of removal. In fact, many businesses provide standalone stump grinding services, as it can be easy to become very proficient in the use of these machines, which means these services can be quite profitable.
Essentially, grinding a stump entails using a large, typically push-style, tool to chew up the stump and convert it into mulch. This won’t do anything about the subterranean portions of the stump, but once the area is covered in sod or some other ground cover, it’ll look as though a tree was never there.
You can purchase a stump grinder outright, or you can simply rent one on an as-needed basis. Obviously, it is preferable to purchase one if you intend to use it frequently, but many tree-care professionals start by renting one. Then, once they’ve created enough demand to justify the purchase of such a tool, they’ll buy one.
Digging Out the Stump
This is certainly the oldest method of removing a tree stump, and it is also the method that requires the most elbow grease. However, it is still the best option in some cases. This includes scenarios in which the area is not accessible to grinders or other large equipment, as well as cases in which chemical removal isn’t possible or prudent.
Essentially, this method will require you to use a combination of cutting tools, shovels and some ingenuity to free the stump from its roots enough to allow you to pull it free of the ground. You’ll typically begin by circling the stump and cutting through any large roots that are present and digging into the earth as necessary to access them. Eventually, once you cut enough of the roots, you’ll find it possible to use a pry bar to pop the stump free.
Alternatively, if you have access to a backhoe or some other heavy vehicle, you may be able to use brute force to simply yank a stump out of the ground. You’re unlikely to be able to do this easily with a 3-foot-diameter walnut tree stump, but it’ll typically be easy to pop out a small dogwood or cherry tree stump in this manner.
Chemical stump removal requires the least amount of labor, and it doesn’t require you to purchase any specialized tools. You’ll typically need nothing more than a drill, a tarp, an axe and a bit of potassium nitrate.
Begin by cutting the stump as close to the ground as you can. Then, you’ll need to drill several large holes in the remaining stump and root system. Follow the directions provided by the potassium nitrate container, but you’ll usually want to add the chemical to the holes and follow up by adding large quantities of water.
From there, you’ll cover the stump with a tarp and then cover the tarp with a thick layer of mulch. Periodically, you’ll want to return to the site, inspect the stump to see how things are progressing, and occasionally add more potassium nitrate. After four to six weeks, the tree stump should be spongy enough to allow for easy removal – just use the axe to cut it into smaller pieces and remove them one by one.
This method will require you to return to the job site at least once, but in many cases, that will still represent a better option than any of the other ways to remove a stump.
Removing stumps after tree-felling operations is not only a great way to ensure your clients are happy and the property looks perfect after you leave (which will help with word-of-mouth marketing and generate repeat business), it is also a fantastic way to increase the bold-type figure at the bottom of your invoices.
Just be sure that you select a stump-removal method that makes sense for the site, your crew’s skill set, and your business model. And be sure that you employ all reasonable safety measures too – stump grinding can be just as dangerous as tree removal for the employee manning the grinder.
Do these things, and you’ll enjoy happier clients and a better bottom line.