How to Dig Up a Tree Stump in Paso Robles, CA

We receive countless questions at Cut Rite Tree Service, a go-to tree service in Paso Robles, CA. One of the most common queries surrounds how to dig up a tree stump without breaking your back.

The surest way to get this right is to hire a professional, particularly for stumps of large trees. However, if the roots aren’t too extensive, expert tips for digging out tree stumps may help. 

Below is what you need to know about getting rid of the offending tree stump.

The Right Process of Excavating a Tree Stump

If you’re dealing with a manageable plant of a fairly small size, you only need a few simple tools. 

Let’s look at some efficient methods for digging up tree stumps.

Let It Rot To Make Removal Easier

If you want to get at the tree stump with ease, you can speed up the process by drilling holes in the sides and surface. Place these holes about four inches apart. Then, cover them in organic matter, compost, or mulch.

After the rot sets in, you can break up the wood with a spade or ax and then dig it out. 

Dig Out the Stump Manually

Brute force might work for smaller trees. However, with larger ones, you’ll need earth-moving equipment. 

Professionals like Cut Rite Tree Service use these steps for excavating a tree stump:

  • Water the soil well a couple of days before (moist but not muddy).
  • On the day, cut through as many of the roots as you can see to loosen the stump.
  • Position a pry bar underneath and lift the stump.
  • Put a spade into the gap and uproot the plant.

Use a Stump Grinder

Technically, this isn’t how to dig up a tree stump. However, it’s a cost-effective alternative that won’t leave a big crater in your yard. Experts often take this route rather than removing tree stumps with digging because it’s more efficient time and labor-wise.

The grinder turns the offensive stump into wood chips. However, be aware that tree professionals will always know how to use the machine properly and wear the right safety gear. It’s also important to note that this method may require some digging to expose the stump properly.

It’s best to grind the wood down to at least three inches below the surface for a level job.

Alternative: Burn the Stump

Burning is an unusual addition to digging techniques for tree stump removal. However, it can be helpful to reduce the stump before trying to dig it out. Of course, it’s essential to check the area’s bylaws beforehand and take safety precautions to prevent a fire from spreading through the neighborhood! 

Here’s how professionals do it:

  • Drill holes all over the surface. 
  • Let the stump dry out (a few days).
  • Pour kerosene or vegetable oil into the holes. 
  • Let it soak in for 24 hours, and top it up again.

Then, place charcoal onto it, light it, and keep a fire extinguisher handy. 

Regrade the Area To Flatten the Stump

With this final technique, you avoid the entire process of extracting a tree stump. You would first need to remove as much of the stump as possible so that it’s beneath ground level. You could then place turf over it.

If you wanted to, you could create a garden bed. However, you’d need plants with fibrous rather than tap root systems. With the latter, the old tree roots may get in the way. 

Contact Our Stump Grinders for Assistance

Now that you know how to dig up a tree stump and how much work it entails, the benefits of stump grinding might look attractive. Call Cut Rite Tree Service at 559-320-7723 to schedule a consultation!


We are a locally owned company that prides ourselves in providing the best service possible for the residents of Fresno, Clovis, Madera, Sanger, Folwer, Reedley and the surrounding areas.

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1806 N Temperance
Fresno, CA 93727


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