How To Remove Roots After Tree Removal

By Tree Expert Codey Stout
Updated On

Are you wondering how to remove the remaining roots after you’ve taken down a tree?

You’ve come to the right place!
In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Why you should remove tree roots and common root problems
  • Stump grinding and root removal
  • The costs associated with root removal

And much more!

Removing Roots After Tree Removal

So, if you’re looking for answers to how to remove a root system, keep reading our detailed guide below to get answers to all of your questions!

Why Should You Remove Tree Roots?

Even after a tree has been removed, it’s possible that you might see new growth sprout from the remaining root system or stump face, depending on the species. This is why it’s important to cut roots and remove the bulk of the root system as well.

Most woody and fast-growing species (trees and plants with bark) will regrow shoots/sprouts after they’ve been cut down. For example:

  • Cottonwoods
  • Elms
  • Ficus
  • Willow 
  • Poplar

This is a survival mechanism to facilitate regrowth after forest fires. Some of these species will try to regrow from the top of the stump (even if it’s flush to the ground, which is why we recommend tree stump removal) and others will tend to shoot sprouts from the original, structural roots in the soil around your yard.

Tree species like elms, ficus, willows, and especially cottonwoods are notorious for this.

Even if you mow over the twig-like, fresh cottonwood growths all over your yard, it’s no guarantee that you’ll fully kill off the original tree’s root system. 

If you continue to chop at the new sprouts from a stump above ground with an axe or a stump grinder, the root crown is still growing below. Thus, the roots will be even harder to remove when you finally decide to do away with them because they will have continued growing. 

Even the use of strong herbicides is no guarantee that you have effectively killed the root system.

This is why, rather than attempting to DIY this process, it’s better to have a tree specialist, arborist, or landscaping specialist come out and remove the root system to ensure that it won’t continue coming back and wreaking havoc on your yard.

Stump Grinding and Root Removal

Stump grinding and root removal should all be a part of the same process because if you leave a stump alive, it will only be a matter of time before it starts sending up shoots again. 

So, if you want to guarantee that the tree won’t continue to regrow, you’d be wise to contact one of our professionals or a professional in your area to remove the stump and the roots together.


A professional will have the tools and the skills to ensure that the tree isn’t going to begin a cycle of regrowth that will become a nuisance to your yard. 

Tree specialists will grind out the existing stump and then “chase” the structural roots and backfill the hole to allow the ground to begin filling in and compensating for the loss of the tree and the root structure.

When the “heart” is finally taken out of the root crown, you can be certain that the entire structure is dead, and there will be no more sprouting shoots.

If you’re ready to either remove existing, trouble stumps from your property, or you have concerns regarding your standing trees, give us a call and we’d be happy to help evaluate your situation.

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How Much Does It Cost To Dig or Grind Out Tree Roots?

When it comes to removing a root system, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $350 dollars depending on the size of the root ball to be removed by hand, backfilled with soil, and tamped down

If you need to have the stump ground at the same time it will cost more, as a grinder will need to be brought in. 

Though this is less labor-intensive, it could still cost anywhere from an additional $200 all the way to $1000, depending on a number of factors (or stumps) involved. 

All things being equal, however, this option generally takes far less time.

It’s important to note that if you’re planning on felling a different tree or two within the next season, it might be best to wait for when you’re ready to take those down and then clear all of your remaining stumps at once.

We often bundle our services to offer a discounted price if we know we have multiple stumps or root systems to remove simultaneously because we only need to bring the equipment out once and we can save time in the process.

What Are The Different Methods of Root System Removal?

There are many different ways to approach removing a tree’s root system, but some are better than others.

Ultimately it comes down to using the best method for your unique situation, so let’s go through some of the more common methods and their advantages and disadvantages. 

Killing Tree Roots With Herbicide

Using herbicide is one way to kill a root system that can be effective, but it does come with some drawbacks as well. 

For instance, it may take at least one season (and multiple applications) for that root system to finally be killed. Plus, using herbicide can be dangerous as you’re working with caustic chemicals that can be harmful to your health. This method is not advised if you have children or animals on the property who may come into contact with the herbicide.

If you think using an herbicide to kill your tree’s root system is the best course of action for you, please make sure you do your due diligence during the process to ensure proper application and use. 

Any herbicide you purchase should have detailed instructions on how to use it effectively so make sure you adhere to those guidelines exactly.

Also, before applying any herbicide, it’s a good idea to deeply score, drill holes, or otherwise create channels for the stump face to best absorb the chemicals.

Then, steering clear of the topsoil, use a paintbrush to apply herbicide to the freshly cut, and deeply scored stump face. 

All safety precautions should be utilized during this process – including goggles, gloves, respirators, and any others that may be recommended by reading the application instructions. These chemicals may include potassium nitrate or glyphosate and are extremely hazardous. 

Please check with your local laws and ordinances before using these. Again, please take special care in working with any such chemicals. 

If this is the route you choose to explore but you’re not comfortable applying herbicide yourself, feel free to give us a call for a consultation.

The Cons of Herbicides

  • You’ll still have to wait for the root system to die away before digging it up by hand with a tool like a mattock. 
  • One application most likely will not be enough to get the chemicals all the way into the cellular structure of the root system— to effectively kill all new tree growth. I could take a full season of applications. 
  • Certainly take into account children, animals, and your own health when working with these toxins.

Burning Out The Roots & Stump

Burning out a stump and root system is one of the oldest methods to root removal.

This is usually done by drilling a hole from the top down and then meeting it with other horizontal holes to feed a flame you’d start in the center. 

This option does present some major safety issues though – so please do your research and set aside plenty of time before attempting this. This will most likely take longer than you first anticipate. 


Though the situation might look safe, creating an open flame for a long, slow, uncontained burn IS a fire hazard! Also, be aware that fire can burn and spread, just under the surface, feeding on duff and the off-gases. Do NOT use this method during a dry season or if there is a burn order in effect.

And please, if you have any concerns regarding this method, don’t hesitate to contact one of our professionals to handle it for you. Playing with fire is not wise for those who are inexperienced in the stump and root removal process.

Rotting Roots Away

If you’re dealing with a stump that will not send up shoots, rotting a stump away is as old as time itself. 

Most slow-growth species will not send up shoots. Some examples are:

  • Pines
  • Palms
  • Oaks
  • Maples

Just pay attention to what’s going on with the stump over time (especially in a high-traffic area). Stumps and roots that are left to rot can create soft spots in the ground, which leads to hazards and dips in the area that humans or animals could trip on. It can also catch equipment like lawnmowers and damage them in the process.

The downside is that this technique takes plenty of time to work (but so does the herbicide stump killer process). 

So, if you’re looking for an immediate solution you’d probably be best served by just having it cleanly ground and cleared from your property so you can get right to work on your garden.

When Should You Hire A Professional To Remove Your Tree Stump And Root System?

Given the information above, and considering the experience our tree specialists have, hiring a pro to grind out a stump is nearly always our recommendation. It’s clean, fast, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective— especially when bundled with our other services.

Large trees create large roots and if you have a particular species of tree that can present new growth, like a cottonwood (as mentioned above), then it’s best to have professionals like us take care of it once and for all.

What Should You Look For In A Tree Root Removal Specialist?

First of all, you must make sure that any company you contract with can safely and aptly deal with the size of the tree, or roots you have in question. 

Some can’t, and even if they’re insured, it’s possible that they’re quite willing to overstep their abilities, or limits of their equipment to gain your contract.

Make sure that whatever company you decide to work with is thorough in their evaluation and can answer all of your questions about how they plan to handle your project.

If you’re ready to have your situation assessed and you want to work with seasoned and experienced tree specialists, feel free to give us a call.

Meet Your Tree Expert

Codey Stout

Codey Stout is the operations manager for Tree Triage and has years of experience removing trees. His expertise has been featured in publications like Yahoo, The Family Handyman, Homes & Gardens, and many more. The only thing Codey likes doing more than removing intrusive trees, is removing unsightly stumps.
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