How to Hollow Out a Tree Stump (Guide)

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Last updated: March 7, 2022

For many home gardeners, tree stumps are a blight on backyard landscaping. However, you don’t necessarily need to go through the effort of removing rogue stumps to improve the look of your yard.

Instead, consider hollowing out unwanted tree stumps and repurposing them into something a little bit more decorative.

In this article, I am going to explain hollowing out tree stumps as an alternative to costly and complex removal. Read on to learn how to hollow out a tree stump and what you can do with it to transform your outdoor space.

Why Create a Hollow Tree Stump?

Removing a tree stump can be a time-consuming and often expensive process, even when you do it yourself. Choosing to hollow it out instead can save you time, money, and frustration regarding your backyard landscaping.

Fully removing tree stumps can also disturb the soil in your yard, making it more difficult for other plants to take root. If you live in an area with heavy rainfall, it can also increase soil runoff.

In some cases, completely removing a tree stump may affect nutrient levels in the surrounding soil. The root system may be home to beneficial insects and bacteria that can no longer survive once you remove it.

Because of the risks associated with the removal process, it can sometimes be safer for your land to keep an old stump in place. It’s also safer for you, as stump removal procedures can be dangerous if you lack the necessary skills and experience.

Backyard Decoration

Perhaps the biggest reason one might choose to hollow out a tree stump instead of removing it is to repurpose it.

There are plenty of ways that you can turn a hollowed-out stump into a natural decorative accent or even something more functional.

Here are some ideas:

  • Fill the interior with compost or potting soil to create a unique planter for your garden.
  • Create a “gnome home” or fairy cottage by adding tiny accents such as doors, windows, and flowers.
  • Use the stump as a pedestal and add a bowl or basin, filling with water to create your very own birdbath.
  • Add a flat surface made of wood, glass, or metal to create an outdoor table.
  • Cover or fill the hole and top with a cushion to make a comfortable, all-natural stool.
  • Fill the hole and paint the top of the stump to create a ready-to-use outdoor board game such as chess.

The planter idea is perhaps the most suitable purpose for a hollowed out tree stump. It works incredibly well, it looks fantastic, and it really lifts the overall backyard experience.

Planter in a hollow tree stump

No matter how you decide to reinvent your stump, it’s bound to make a notable addition to your backyard setup.

Tree stump decor goes particularly well with rustic, natural outdoor decor schemes, though you can incorporate them into just about any design style.

Check out my list with ideas to repurpose old tree stumps for even more great options for turning that garden stump into something useful or magical.

3 Ways to Hollow Out a Tree Stump

Hollowing out a tree stump can make a significant impact on your yard’s landscaping.

There are a couple of different ways to effectively hollow out a tree stump depending on the size of the tree stump you’re dealing with, your level of experience, and your personal preferences.

1. Use a Chainsaw

Using a chainsaw is a quick and easy way to hollow out a tree stump, but it’s important to remember to take proper safety precautions.

Each year, thousands of people in the US suffer from chainsaw-related injuries, some of them fatal. However, as long as you follow basic safety rules, a chainsaw is an effective way to hollow out a tree stump.

Here are the steps:

  1. Wait until the stump is completely dry, ideally after several days or weeks with no rain.
  2. Carve out the central area that you want to remove. Use a chisel to remove the top layer.
  3. Use your saw to separate the wood down closer to the base. You may need to carve outwards from the center in a star pattern to create easily removable wood chunks.
  4. Use your chisel to remove wood pieces, then smooth over rough edges.

If you’re repurposing your stump into something like a planter, you may want to add a drainage duct to your stump to prevent overwatering and root rot.

You can also add a chunk of charcoal to the base of your stump to absorb smells and promote better air filtration, reducing the risk of mold and pests.

2. Do It Manually

You can also hollow out a tree stump with manual labor and some tools. Using a drill, hammer, and chisel is one of the most common ways homeowners choose to hollow out tree stumps.

Most people already have the tools they need waiting in the garage, making it an economical option. Chiseling can be more time-consuming and labor-intensive, but it also tends to be safer, especially for the inexperienced.

Here are the steps:

  1. First, allow the wood to soften to make it easier to chisel. You can either soak it in water or wait until after heavy rainfall.
  2. Drill a series of holes around the stump, spacing them through the section you wish to hollow out and remove.
  3. Using a chisel and a hammer, chip between the drilled holes and remove wood piece by piece. Make sure to keep the chisel at a 45 degree angle for best results.
  4. Once you’ve removed the bulk of the wood, use your chisel to smooth and clean jagged edges. Make sure to wipe away or vacuum up excess sawdust.

With the hammer and chisel method, you’ll find yourself with a pile of scrap wood at the end of your project.

You can recycle this, compost it, or even use it as free mulch in other areas of your garden. If you have enough leftover material, you may even be able to sell it.

Small hollow tree stump

3. Use Fire

Using fire is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to remove a stump. However, you need to be careful not to leave chemical residue from any chemical accelerants that you use.

If you live in a dry area, you also need to take steps to make sure the fire doesn’t spread. With proper preparation, though, fire is a popular way of hollowing out stumps.

Here are the steps:

  1. Remove dry items from the immediate area, including sticks, leaves, and even backyard decor made of wood or other flammable materials.
  2. Drill a large hole into the center of the stump, working at a 30 degree angle. The hole should be deep enough to reach the roots of the stump. You should also drill more shallow holes on the top of the stump to promote oxygen circulation.
  3. Fill each hole with an accelerant such as potassium nitrate or kerosene.
  4. Pile dry scrap wood over the stump and light it. Wait until the fire has mostly burned out and the interior of the stump is gone to douse it.

When working with fire, always keep water on hand in case of emergencies. You should also make sure to thoroughly clean your hands after handling chemical accelerants such as potassium nitrate.

If any seeps into the ground, you may have to extract it from the soil. You can dissolve unused potassium nitrate from inside your stump using hot water.

Check out my guide to preserving old tree stumps for more ways to keep that old stump in place rather than removing it.

Final Thoughts

If you have an old tree stump sitting in your yard, you don’t necessarily have to rip it out of the ground. Knowing how to hollow out a tree stump gives you endless possibilities when it comes to transforming your garden.

No matter what method you use to hollow out stumps in your yard, it’s often a cheaper and easier choice than complete removal. What’s more, you can easily repurpose it to add a unique focal point to your front or backyard.


Guide to hollowing out a tree stump

Thomas Dunnett

The backyard is the perfect place to bond with family and friends, to have a good time, or to simply relax with some fresh air and a bit of sunshine. With this website I am hoping to share my passion for the backyard with you.

  1. Would building up along the edge on top of the tree stump with landscape bricks and filling that in with dirt to make a planter? Without hollowing the tree stump.

    • Hi Sue, yes that sounds like a good idea.
      It might look less natural perhaps, but I would argue it’s worth trying as an alternative approach.

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