How to Burn A Tree Stump?

Once you have cut down and removed a tree, you will be left with an unsightly stump. One of the most common ways of getting rid of a stump is to burn it. There are a lot of factors when it comes to burning stumps correctly. Doing it the wrong way can not only be dangerous, but it can also ruin your yard. Let’s take a look.

You can use oil, diesel, kerosene, coal, and gasoline to burn a stump, but diesel and kerosene are the most ideal substances as they are effective, efficient, and easier to perform. Using charcoal and gasoline is not recommended as they can be either dangerous or slow.

burging tree stumps how to guide

What Are the Safety Precautions While Burning a Tree Stump?

When you are going to be burning a tree stump, of course, you will be dealing with fire and fuel which can be quite dangerous if not handled properly.

Make sure you are wearing a full-sleeved cotton shirt and pants. Also always have some form of a fire retardant around you in case the fire goes haywire, this can include a bucket of sand or a portable fire extinguisher.

Do not use water as most of the fuel will end up floating on top of it and keep on burning.

Also remove any dry leaves, pieces of wood from around the stump as they can spread the fire. You can also make a circle around the stump using stones to contain the fire in an area.

One more thing which you need to keep in mind is to only burn the stump if the day is not windy as fire embers can travel long distances and your nearby property can also catch fire.

Different Methods of Burning a Tree Stump

There are a lot of different methods for burning a tree stump, this can range from using charcoal to diesel or kerosene. But some of these methods are preferred over others.

Keep in mind that most of the steps involving the different methods remain the same with only some small changes required.

Preparing the Stump

This step largely remains the same for all the techniques.

Make sure that you have a dry stump, freshly cut stumps have a lot of moisture inside them which can make it really difficult to burn them. The usual time it takes for a stump to completely dry out is between 12-18 months.

First, remove the dry leaves around the stump and created a barrier around it, this is done so that you can contain the fire and stop it from spreading. You will need to get a large drill bit, at least 5-6 inches deep. You will also need an ax or a chainsaw.

First, cut the stump to as close to the ground as possible using an ax or a chainsaw. After this, dig around the base of the stump, about a foot deep to expose as much of the stump as possible.

Using a drill bit, drill into the stump from the top, at least 5-6 inches deep. Drill holes into the base of the tree and if possible, into the roots as well. Keep about 1-inch space between the holes.

These are the basic requirements for preparing the stump, depending on the method you choose, there might be certain changes required.

Diesel and Kerosene

Using diesel or kerosene is one of the most common methods of burning the stump. There are two most common methods to go for here.

 Method 1

The first method is quite simple, and it should be preferred especially if you are in a hurry.

You just need to fill the holes that you made earlier completely with diesel or kerosene and let it get absorbed for about half a day (some people recommend letting it soak for a few weeks but that is not necessary).

Once the stump has been fully doused, light it on fire and observe from a safe distance. Don’t leave the stump alone as the fire can be a major health hazard.

Method 2

The second method takes a bit more time and you will also need some boiling water and potassium nitrate or saltpeter.

Once you have drilled the holes into the stump, fill these up with saltpeter or potassium nitrate and pour boiling water on top of them to help them get absorbed. You will have to leave the stump for about a week to let it get soaked.

After this, pour diesel or kerosene onto the stump and again let it get soaked for a couple of days.

Once this is done, light the stump on fire and observe it till it fully gets burnt.

This method, although will take much longer than the first one, allows the stump to catch fire in a much easier way.


The other method which you can go for is using charcoal and other logs to light the stump on fire.

You don’t need to drill holes into the stump, on the other hand, you will need to make a small hole in the middle of the stump, about 5-6” wide.

Burn some coals separately and put them inside this hole and on top of the stump as well. Cover the coals with a pile of thin sticks and let them catch fire. Once the sticks catch fire, the stump will also slowly start burning.

This method is not very effective as the stump has a much denser wood when compared to a tree’s branches which means that it is much more difficult for it to catch fire this way. And it can take a really long time for the stump to completely burn.


Some people also tend to choose oil instead of kerosene or diesel. But oil should not be the preferred medium because although it burns very hot, it does not get fully absorbed within the stump.

Because of this, the stump only ends up burning from the outside, but a large section of the core wood does not get fully burnt.


Some people also tend to use gasoline instead of kerosene or diesel, the steps are similar in this method as well but using gasoline is not recommended at all. This is due to its high flammability which can get quite tricky to control.

Post Burning Care

Sometimes, a stump can take a couple of days to fully burn. You don’t have to stand and observe the stump fully burn this entire time though. Once the larger structure has burnt and there are only the smoldering parts left.

After the stump has been burnt, you can either spread the ashes around the area as this can be an excellent way to provide nutrition to the soil or you can also simply throw it away.

What is the Best Way to Burn a Stump?

If you are in a hurry, then using kerosene or diesel as a method for burning would be the best. It is both efficient and effective at the same time.

But for the best results, the second method involving boiling water, saltpeter, and diesel or kerosene would be the ideal choice.

When to Burn A Stump?

The ideal time to burn a stump would be during the fall season or the summer season, depending on the area you live in. You need to keep in mind that the stump needs to be completely dry during the time of burning, so if the winter season in your area leads to snow or frost, then the stump will have a lot of moisture trapped within it. So, in this case, you will have to wait for the summer season for the best results.

You should also be careful about the wind conditions during the day of burning. Any wind faster than 5-8mph can carry fire embers long distances and this will make your nearby property vulnerable.

Why Are Stumps So Hard to Burn?

The type of wood in a tree stump differs greatly when compared to a tree branch or small twigs. Tree stumps are very dense and usually, they have a high amount of moisture trapped within them. This is also why it takes such a long time for them to completely dry out.

How Long Do Stumps Burn?

Depending on the size of the stump and on the species and its condition, it can take anywhere between 12 hours to up to a week for a stump to completely burn out.

The dryer a stump is, the faster it will burn. Similarly, the bigger and thicker a stump is, the longer it will take. You should also take into account the species of the tree as well. Some species have denser woods which will take a longer time to burn.

Most backyard stumps will completely burn with a day or two, which is a lot slower compared to conventional stump removal.

Is It Legal to Burn Stumps?

This highly depends on the area you live in. Some local authorities have a complete ban on burning stumps as a method of getting rid of them. While in some areas you need to take express permission before doing so.

Similarly, some areas have no such laws, and you are free to burn a stump within your property.

Always make sure to check the local laws in your area before going ahead.

Is It Safe to Burn Tree Stumps?

If you take all the proper safety precautions and use the fuel carefully, then the burning stump is completely safe. But of course keep in mind that you are dealing with flammable substances and fire and if not taken proper care of, can destroy property as well as cause grave danger to your health.

Why You Should Avoid Using Gasoline to Burn Stumps

Gasoline is extremely flammable, much more when compared to diesel, kerosene, and charcoal. This makes it very hard to control as a substance and can lead to a lot of accidents and uncontrolled fires.


The best method for burning a tree stump is by using diesel or kerosene. After drying out the stump, drill 4-5-inch-deep holes into the stump and pour the fuel over the entire stump. Let it get absorbed and light it on fire. You can also use oil, charcoal, or gasoline but the latter can be really dangerous.

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