DIY stump killer

Updated April 17, 2017

Trees are removed because of storm damage, maintenance issues or the need to build. In some situations, a tree spade can be used to completely dig up the tree -- roots and all. However, if a tree spade is not feasible, then removing the tree and killing the stump is the next best option. Although slower than stump removal, stump killing prevents any roots from sprouting, or suckering. From the primitive method of hand pulling saplings to the modern convenience of herbicides, there are several ways for homeowners to kill a stump.

Hand pulling for saplings

Cut down the sapling. These small trees can be cut with loppers or shears.

Remove soil from around the stump. Use a shovel, as tree roots can go deep.

Rock the stump. Pull back and forth on the stump to loosen the earth around it.

Keep digging. As the soil breaks loose, remove the soil to continue exposing the roots.

Dig and rock the stump alternately. It will takes several tries to completely expose the roots deep enough to damage the stump.

Pull on the stump. There will be some resistance due to the roots.

Cut the roots. If the roots go under a house or path, it is best to cut them away from the stump. For future reference, use an herbicide to prevent roots from sprouting.

Pull out the stump and roots. Removing as much of the stump and roots possible will prevent future growth.

Use soil to fill in the hole that was left by the stump and roots. You may need to add more soil later, due to settling.

Cut stump herbicide application

Cut the stump. For most cut-stump applications, a fresh cut is needed.

Cut the stump level with the ground. This will prevent run-off of herbicide during spraying.

Buy herbicide made for cut-stump application.

Read all directions and labels on bottle. Some herbicides are highly toxic to humans.

Dilute the herbicide. If the herbicide is a concentrate, it must to be diluted with water or oil according to the directions.

Put the diluted herbicide in a sprayer. It is best for the herbicide to be sprayed on. This will coat the stump with herbicide evenly.

Inspect the stump. This should be done to remove items from the stump before spraying, and to check for foliage or sprouting.

Spray the cut. Because of the toxicology of many herbicides, always follow the manufacturer's instructions. You may have to spray the cut more than once for best results.

Drill technique

Remove the tree. For large trees a chainsaw may be needed.

Drill holes in the stump. Drill the holes at an angle, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter, and around 25 cm (10 inches) deep for the best penetration of herbicide.

Dilute or mix the herbicide. Most commonly-sold stump killers must be mixed or diluted with water or oil.

Put on gloves. Herbicides can be toxic to humans and can be absorbed through the skin.

Fill in the holes with herbicide. Carefully pour or use a stream spray nozzle on a sprayer to fill in the holes.

Allow the herbicide to soak in. Most herbicides are absorbed rapidly and can spread down 90 cm (3 feet) to kill the roots.


It will take a few days for herbicides to kill the stump.


Consider all herbicides toxic to humans, wildlife and fish. Only experienced personnel should operate a chainsaw.

Things You'll Need

  • Stump killer herbicide
  • Shovel
  • Loppers
  • Chainsaw
  • Gloves
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About the Author

Specializing in home and garden topics, Nina Stanley begin her freelance career in 2009. She received her Bachelor of Science in horticulture in 2007 from Sam Houston State University and Associate of Science in 2002 from Blinn College. Through her writings, she shares her knowledge of plants with others on various websites.