Guide to Burning Tree Stumps

If you are looking for an inexpensive and easy way to get rid of old tree stumps, you should consider burning them down. This method is a very popular way to remove tree stumps without using any major equipment or tools. Furthermore, the cost is drastically lower than professional stump removal or stump grinding service since all you need are a few over-the-counter, store-bought products. You can expect to spend anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the size and quantity of the tree stumps. Additional tools may be required as well, such as a power drill with wood-boring bit, a gardening spade, compost, and more. Continue below to see what you’ll need this particular method of stump removal.

How to Burn a Tree Stump

This method is not recommended for anyone that does not have experience working with open flames and fire. It is also never recommended for areas that are dry or combustible. If you do choose to burn your tree stumps, it is vital to use strict internal safety standards. Learn what these are before getting started.

You must also ask your local fire department about the local ordinances for burning tree stumps. A permit may be required in your community, or it may not be allowed at all. Also, potassium nitrate is a highly-explosive chemical, so there could be bans, restrictions, or storage regulations in your county.

What You Need:

  • Potassium Nitrate or Saltpeter
  • Dry Scrap Wood
  • Soil (optional)
  • Grass Seed (optional)
  • Power Drill
  • 1-Inch Wood Boring Bit or Spade Bit
  • 8-Inch or 10-Inch Bit Extender
  • Garden Trowel
  • Bucket
  • Funnel
  • Hot Water
  • Shovel
  • Matches


After you have checked with your local fire department and city ordinances regarding fire use and burning tree stumps, you are ready to get started. Never attempt to burn anything outside during a dry season or fire ban. This could result in devastating injuries and damages.

Here’s how to get started:

Put your drill and drill bit together along with the bit extender. Fill your bucket with a gallon of hot water.

Starting at the top-center of the stump, drill a hole at a 30 degree angle and drill 10 inches deep.

Clean out the inner debris and continue to drill holes throughout the entire stump, starting from the center and ending at the edge. Keep holes 1 inch apart.

Use your garden trowel to fill each hole with your potassium nitrate or saltpeter. Do not fill all the way to the top.

Top off each hole with hot water using a funnel or spouted cup. Continue to pour hot water in the holes until the potassium nitrate is fully dissolved.

Position the dry scrap wood on top of the stump. Try using a “V” or “tee-pee” shape, starting at the ground, and ending as a cone around the entire stump. This sometimes delivers better combustibility.

Use your match to light up the scrap wood. You may need to use a fire starter material along with it, but NEVER use lighter fluid or gasoline.

Stay with the stump as it smolders down to ash. This could take a few hours. You may even have to repeat the burning process more than once.

Once all the stump has turned to ash, use your shovel to break away the leftover pieces of burnt wood and tree roots.

Optional: Fill in the hole with new soil and cover with grass seed.