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Can You Burn Tree Stumps? Facts & FAQ

tree stump in the woods

Technically, you can burn a tree stump. However, in many areas, it is illegal to do so. Other times, you’ll need to get permission from the local authorities before you burn a stump. The main reason is that you could harm a nearby sewage line or gas main. You’ll need to have someone who knows where these lines are so that they can ensure you don’t damage one.

Furthermore, burning a tree stump can take 12 to 24 hours. During this time, you’ll have to remain close to ensure the fire doesn’t take off—you can’t start the fire and then leave. Therefore, you’ll have to have a full day (and usually part of the night).

There are also a few species that can be toxic when burned. Therefore, you’ll need to research the species and ensure that it can be safely burned.

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Is It Safe to Burn Tree Stumps?

You can burn a tree stump. As long as you do it correctly, you can burn a tree stump pretty easily and relatively inexpensively. However, unless you want to put in quite a bit of work, it is often best to have a professional do it. For those with the extra time, though, you can usually remove and burn a tree stump without much of a problem.

Firstly, we recommend checking the local laws to ensure that it is legal to burn a stump in your area. In many situations, this isn’t legal, as you may cause gas or sewage lines to explode. This isn’t safe. Therefore, you should check for these lines in your area.

You’ll also need to remove anything flammable from the area. These stumps can burn very slowly or very quickly. Small sticks and leaves on the ground can be a flammable risk and you should rake to remove them.

Furthermore, you’ll need to use the correct chemicals to burn the stump. You don’t want a huge fire—you want a slow burn. You should keep the surrounding area wet, if possible. You can do this with a bucket of water or a hose. However, you’ll need to re-wet the ground as necessary. This will keep the ground from catching fire.

Finally, you’ll need to ensure that the stump won’t release toxic fumes. As you’d guess, these can be a serious issue, especially if you don’t know the type of tree. Most trees burn safely, but there are a few species that don’t burn well.

tree stump covered in moss
Image By: ashbrauw, Pixabay

How Long Does It Take to Burn Out a Stump?

Burning a tree stump takes a very long time. There are some things you can do to speed up the process. However, there are very few ways to burn a tree stump very quickly that are also safe. You should plan on the stump taking between 12 to 24 hours to burn safely. You’ll need to stay close the entire time to ensure the fire doesn’t spread.

You’ll also need to continuously wet the ground around the stump to ensure that nothing catches fire. This job is big and long. Therefore, it is usually a team effort, though you can do it by yourself in some cases.

For this reason, many people hire professionals to burn their stumps. While it is possible to do it yourself, it can be difficult for one person to accomplish this successfully and safely.

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What Wood is Toxic to Burn?

There are a few different kinds of wood that are toxic to burn. You should never burn stumps or anything made up of these woods. If you aren’t sure about the species of the tree you’re trying to burn, you should always double-check.

The most common toxic species are poison oak, poison ivy, poison sumac, and poisonwood. While these don’t grow into trees, they can grow on and around stumps. In this case, even a very straightforward burn can become dangerous. Therefore, you should clear out these plants before you set the wood on fire.

Driftwood is often toxic, as it can release chlorine when burned. While this isn’t necessarily going to kill you instantly, it is a carcinogen and can cause serious problems.

Greenwood, pinewood, construction wood, non-local wood, and similar types of wood should not be burned. While these aren’t necessarily huge issues all the time, they can cause a series of problems if burned. For instance, non-local wood can release spores and diseases into the area, which local trees may be susceptible to.

Moldy wood can also be toxic, though it is the mold that is toxic in most cases. Furthermore, moldy wood also produces a lot of smoke, which can help carry these toxic components into our lungs.

What is the Best Fuel to Burn a Stump?

Preferably, you’ll mostly be using the stump as fuel. After all, that’s exactly why you’re burning it. However, you need to get the fire started and keep it going, so you’ll need a different type of fuel too.

Diesel and kerosine are the most useful substances. These are effective and efficient. Plus, they’re very easy to use. Charcoal and gasoline are not recommended. While these can be used, it is much more difficult to keep the fire even and tame. Gasoline fires can quickly catch and speed up. Therefore, it is best to stick with diesel or kerosine.

tree stump
Image By: fapro1, Pixabay

Can I Leave a Tree Stump in the Ground?

You can leave a tree stump in the ground. However, it will stay there. Tree stumps take a long time to decompose and may not decompose at all. If friendly trees are nearby, the stump may continue to be fed by these trees. Therefore, don’t expect the stump to disappear on its own. If you leave it there, it will probably stay there.

Sometimes, the tree’s roots will keep growing—even if the top has been removed. In these cases, the roots can cause damage to your property if that was previously a concern. If a tree is damaging your pipes or foundation, there is a chance that it will continue to damage these things even after the top is cut off.

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Tree stump removal can pose a problem. Usually, they can only be removed through burning, which loosens the tree stump enough to allow removal. However, burning can be a bit more complicated than you might think. For instance, you may find that the tree stump is poisonous, or it may be too close to sewer or gas mains.

Therefore, while you can do this job yourself, a professional may be required. You should especially consider that tree stumps take 12–24 hours to burn, and you’ll need to stay with the stump the whole time.

The last thing most people want to do is stay up with a burning stump for 24 hours!

Featured Image Credit: Ninadoiron, Pixabay


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