Ballpark estimate: $144 to $750+ depending on size and location
If you’ve recently had trees removed from your yard, you may now be wondering what to do with the stumps that are left behind. Not only are they often unsightly, they can also create obstacles to lawn mowing and even be dangerous to children (or adults) playing in the yard. While there are several ways to remove stumps, the most popular solution is to grind the stumps into wood chips and remove the chips as waste.
Should I Hire a Contractor?
If you are serious about do-it-yourself projects in the yard, you could rent a stump grinder and try this somewhat challenging task on your own. While there are a couple of other options for removing stumps, such as chemicals that dissolve the wood, grinding is still considered the best option. One rather old fashioned approach (you may have seen this growing up) is to light a fire on top of the stump and burn it out; however, this can be a long and frustrating process, especially if the tree was recently removed and the stump is relatively green (think about burning green wood in a fireplace or campfire). When you consider the environmental impact of days of tending the fire with thick, black smoke billowing out into your own yard and any close neighbors, burning is probably not the best approach.
While stump grinding is probably the best option, it’s no simple endeavor and requires some very specialized knowledge, equipment, and experience. All factors considered, stump grinding is probably better accomplished by a professional. The equipment is large and cumbersome and can be quite dangerous without proper safety training. If you do decide to take the plunge, however, you can look for rentals at a home improvement store or specialty rental location. Just be sure to ask for specific safety guidelines and follow instructions carefully
Choosing a Contractor
If you decide to play it safe and hire a stump grinding contractor, there are some important factors to keep in mind. For instance, you’ll need to look for a contractor that has a good local reputation. One way to help you make a good choice is to look for members of the better business bureau (BBB) and be sure to check the BBB website https://www.bbb.org/ to see if there are any complaints against a contractor before hiring. Another option is to ask friends or neighbors who have had similar work done and ask for recommendations. Contractors should be registered or licensed, depending on where you live. Also be sure to ask about liability insurance, since any good contractor will carry it. Finally, you’ll need to know if the contractor will remove all of the wood chips and clean up the area when finished. If not, the cost of disposal and removal should be factored into the overall price.
Preparing for the Job
Once you settle on a contractor, you’ll need to schedule an appointment and prepare the area in advance. Remove any obstacles that might impede access for the grinding machinery, which can be fairly large and difficult to maneuver in tight places. If you have lawn ornaments or furniture, move them away from the stumps to a safe location before the stump grinding is scheduled to take place. You or the contractor should also check with Dig Safe http://www.digsafe.com/ , or a similar local organization will help you determine if there are any buried utility lines in the area, thereby avoiding dangerous and costly repairs should these items be damaged during the project. If the stump is very close to a building, retaining wall, or other structure, the contractor may have more trouble getting the equipment into positon and may need to use alternative methods. For example, stumps can be removed by digging around the perimeter and down into the root system. This will probably add time and thereby increase labor costs.
What to Expect
Assuming all goes well for your stump grinding contractor, the actual process probably won’t take very long You can expect one to two hours on average. Of course, the complicating factors mentioned above could add time, but generally the entire project will take half a day or less. Once the stump is removed, you’ll end up with a bit of a depression in the terrain that was previously occupied by the stump. Typically, stumps are removed to a depth of 8 to 12 inches, depending on your expected use of the space and the contractor’s standard procedures. Plan to fill the depression accordingly or have a landscape contractor take care of this step for you.
Cost for Stump Removal and Grinding
Stump grinding costs can vary considerably depending on the choices you make, the cost of labor in the area where you live, and the practical considerations discussed above, such as accessibility and hardness of the wood. Many contractors base their prices on the diameter of the stump and the cost can range from $3 per inch of diameter to $10 per inch, with most contractors requiring a minimum charge of between $100 – $250. On the high end of the spectrum, you can expect a good size stump in a metropolitan area with a high cost of living (such as Boston, New York City, and San Francisco) to cost up to $750 or even more.
If you are having multiple stumps removed, you may get a significant discount for each stump after the first, because the contractor has already deployed staff and machinery to your location.
Keep in mind that your project may vary in price from the average based on the cost of labor in our city as well as any specific complications such as very hard wood, wet soil conditions, or how accessible your property is to construction equipment.
If you do decide to use one of the DIY options mentioned earlier, rental costs for stump grinders vary by size and capacity from a low of about $100 on up to a high of about $225 per half day. Be aware that some stump grinders are large and difficult to transport so consult with the rental agency to see if you have an appropriate vehicle before reserving your stump grinder. Finally, you can purchase “stump dissolving” chemicals from home improvement stores for $5 to $25 per container. Just note that this option may not be a great choice, since these chemicals are highly caustic, can cause burns on people and animals, and do not always provide acceptable results.
With any construction project it’s a good idea to plan ahead and get a price quote from more than one reliable company, unless you are working with someone you have done business with in the past. Generally, consumers are happy with the results of stump grinding and are often surprised at what an improvement it will make in aesthetics, convenience, and overall safety for the property.