When and Why to Use a Stump Grinder
After felling a tree, you’re left with what many consider to be an eyesore and a nuisance: a stump.
Believe it or not, a tree stump will attempt to regrow into a tree by sprouting shoots. So how do you get rid of it completely?
There are several methods available, but using a stump grinder is the most efficient and thorough way.
Stump grinders quickly grind the stump into mulch that can be buried, burned, or used in a garden. So what do you need to know before you buy one?
See below to get the answers you need to the questions you have:
What’s a Stump Grinder?
Stump grinders are powerful tools used for eradicating tree stumps.
By gradually chipping away at a stump with a multi-toothed cutting wheel that spins at high speeds, stump grinders are able to rapidly tear and strip away small pieces of wood, progressing deeper with each pass.
The operator makes repeated passes over the stump until all of it has been chipped away into mulch and sawdust.
Why Remove the Stump?
While it’s possible for a stump to rot and decompose naturally, it can take months, if not years. Plus, in some cases, shoots may sprout up in an attempt to regrow the tree.
Cutting into the stump and covering it in compost or soil will help speed up the process, but problems can still remain. Honey fungus, which tends to spread and infest other live plants, can begin to grow on dead rotting wood.
Grinding the stump until you’ve ground four inches or more into the ground, then covering the hole and anything remaining inside it with compost and topsoil, will be your best option. This will help to ensure no shoots spout up and no sunlight can reach the remaining stump to grow fungus.
Why Should I Invest in a Stump Grinder?
If you live on a wooded lot, you’re familiar with felling trees and clearing branches whenever a major storm passes through. Part of maintaining your property and helping it stay healthy is getting rid of the stumps left behind.
For forestry work, felling trees is a regular part of the job, so stump removal likely becomes a reoccurring task.
Whether you’re a homeowner or a professional, owning your own stump grinder means you always have one available whenever you need it, and you won’t have to worry about recurring rental fees adding up to more than the cost of owning your own.
What About Wheel Size and Cutting Depth?
This is one of those situations where you should be careful not to judge a book by its cover. The size of a stump grinder’s cutting wheel can be deceiving.
Simply choosing the largest wheel doesn’t necessarily guarantee the deepest cut below the slope and level of the ground, or its grade. Many factors affect how far below grade you can cut:
- The design style of the safety guard
- The angle of the unit on its axle
- The distance from the axle to the point where the cutting wheel is mounted
Pay close attention to the cutting depths for each grinder to determine if it will provide the cutting depth you need. Below-grade cutting depths can range anywhere from 9″ to 18″ depending on the model you choose. Most models cut 16″ to 17″ below grade, with 9″ and 18″ being the exceptions at either end of the spectrum.
Above-grade cutting depth is important as well. The above-grade cutting depth determines how tall of a stump you can grind above ground level. Above-grade cutting depths can range anywhere from 10″ to 24″, though the majority of grinders have an above-grade depth of 20″. If your stump is too high to grind, you’re going to need to cut it down to size with a chainsaw first.
What About Stump Grinder Safety?
As with any other power equipment, following proper safety procedures is a must. The circular blade that rotates on a stump grinder moves at very high speeds and is capable of causing severe life-threatening injuries.
Be sure to wear proper personal protective equipment, or PPE:
- Steel-toed boots
- Long pants
- A long-sleeved shirt
- Safety glasses
- Hearing protection
- Gloves with elastic wristbands or wrist closures (no gauntlet-style gloves)
Be sure that anyone present in the area to observe or assist with the stump removal is also wearing safety gear or is standing at least 50 feet away to avoid injury from flying debris.
Keep all feet and hands away from the blade at all times, and be aware of flying debris.
How Do I Locate Underground Lines?
The last thing you want to do is hit an underground line while grinding a stump. Tree roots tend to grow through and around anything in their path, so be sure to check with a local utility management service to locate buried cables before operating.
Whether it’s a power line, gas line, or sewage line, you want to steer clear of it to avoid causing harm to yourself, your machine, or your utility lines themselves.
States have different names for their surveyors, but look up the contact information for your local underground utility surveyors and make an appointment to have them marked. This service is generally state-funded, so there’s no charge to you.
In many states, it’s required by law to have an underground utility surveyor mark where the underground lines are before you perform any kind of digging or ground work.
It’s an extra step, but it’s an important one to take to make sure that you’re able to enjoy all the convenience and efficiency your stump grinder provides.