If you find yourself with a dead, dying, or removed tree, but it still has a viable base, here’s how to preserve a tree stump. There are a couple of ways to go about this, depending on your end goal. If the stump is left in the front or backyard, it might attract pests who perceive it as a nice, comfy future home. This is a scenario that you want to avoid, as the down-the-line consequences could wreak havoc on other parts of your yard, garden, or property.
At Mr. Tree, our expert arborists and staff really care about trees. If you find yourself with questions about the viability of a tree on your property, we’re happy to investigate and see whether you are able to save it. If not, we also offer services to remove it: we offer stump grinding services.
What Can I Do with the Stump?
Depending on the size, you can preserve it where it is or remove it and preserve it to use as additional outdoor seating, an outdoor table, or even a planter. If it’s a thinner piece of wood, then perhaps you’ve just found your next coffee table or hanging piece. The wood needs to be sanded and finished with a wood stabilizer (see below for the how-to specifics). It’s a process that can add a new tasteful art piece to your home, add a new planter to the garden, or even serve as a natural, recycled furniture piece.
How To Select the Right Stump
When you have a tree stump that’s still in good condition, you have the option to preserve the stump through a few-step process and repurpose the stump in or around your home. In selecting a stump (from a tree that was already removed from the ground), you’ll need to find a good wood, as not all are created equal when it comes to the preservation project.
The best wood is durable and isn’t going to decay or break apart easily. A few examples of good woods include redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), oak (Quercus spp.), or western red cedar (Thuja plicata). The redwood grows in hardiness zones 7 through 9, the oak in zones 3 through 9, and the western red cedar in zones 6, up through 10. You’re bound to find an available stump. In addition to being more durable, they are also easier to work with.
For Trees with Roots Still in the Ground
For trees that fit the wood type requirement but are coming out soon, things are a little different. First, you’ll want to fully remove the tree and saw off the portion you want to use. The wood will need to be fully dried before you start the sanding and treatment process. Drying it outside for at least six months is about the time you’ll need, depending on the thickness of the selected piece. With the climate in the Pacific Northwest, it’s probable that there will be moisture and rain, so dry it in a dry spot, like a garage or a shed.
Why a Preservation Method is Necessary
Treatment of the stump is important for a couple of reasons. Without the preservation process, the wood is still exposed and available to termites or other small pests that might migrate into your yard or try to infiltrate your home. Heat and moisture are two main reasons that mold could grow on the stump or pests could be drawn to the location.
How to Preserve a Tree Stump
After the stump is thoroughly dry, you can prepare the wood by removing the bark. First, wipe the top and bottom of the stump with a cloth to clear off any debris like dust or dirt, and then, with a hammer and chisel or crowbar, you can begin stripping the bark. You can opt to keep the bark around the wood, as it provides a more rustic aesthetic, but if there’s a black ring or anything that looks diseased, it should come off.
Preparing the Stump
After the bark has been removed, start sanding the large faces of the stump. Thereafter, you can sand the sides of the stump, where the bark used to be. An 80-grit sandpaper is recommended for taking off the top layer of wood. You may also opt to use an electric sander if the wood is particularly gritty, rough, or misshapen. This will need to be done in a circular motion until the surface is smooth to the touch.
Filling Cracks and Tending Imperfections
At this point, you’ll want to wipe down all the sawdust from the wood’s surface, and if you want, you can add some wood stain to boost the color. Let it dry and then move on to the next step. Fill in any nooks, nicks, or cracks that would otherwise be exposed. This can be done with clear epoxy. Be sure to tape around any place where the epoxy could leak out. It will need to dry overnight.
Faces and Bark
If you skip any sort of stain and there are no cracks to fill, you can go ahead and start applying the first layer of wood stabilizer, about half a cup. Start little by little, going in circles, covering the entire surface with a layer. Cover in plastic for two to four hours and then apply a second layer. Repeat the drying process for each layer.
For the bark, you can apply a sealant spray if you’ve opted to keep it on. Let it dry overnight.
Otherwise, you’ll have covered the whole surface with at least two layers of wood stabilizer. After it’s dry, you can add legs if you’re making it into a table, a few hooks if you’re hanging it, or move it over to its new stump-planter-box location.
If you can’t bear to uproot a special tree, know that there are other ways to preserve a stump, including transforming it into a container garden.