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How to Choose the Right Stump Grinder: 5 Key Elements to Consider Before Choosing a Stump Grinder

In this article we will be covering oSgs2ne of the things Barreto knows best: walk-behind stump grinders. These stump grinders come in a variety of sizes, with some of the smallest on the market weighing in at around 100lbs and running on as little as 7hp. On the larger end of the scale, you have your tracked machines, with power options of 30-40hp and weighing around 1,500-2,000lbs. 

With such a range of equipment to choose from, here are four things to consider when making your choice.

  1. Types of Stump Grinders
  2. Condition of the Stump
  3. Cutting Dimensions
  4. Area Surrounding the Stump
  5. Quantity of Stumps


Types of Stump Grinders

You will find two main categories when looking for Stump Grinders: wheeled handlebar machines and tracked machines. Both options have their advantages.



Handlebar machines are usually smaller, belt driven stump grinders, where the operator manually controls and manually maneuvers the sweep and depth of the cutter head. The compact size and weight makes them easy to move and fit into tight spaces. They are usually your most affordable option and can be easily transported without the need of towing equipment. These grinders are most efficient on smaller, softer stumps in tight spaces. 



Tracked machines are larger, track driven machines, equipped with all-hydraulic controls that operate both the cutter head and drive system. Their size and weight offer stability and traction, while the added horsepower makes them a top selection for quickly eliminating tough stumps. Hydraulic machines also utilize relief valves, which relieve pressure before damage can be caused to the machine, allowing for minimal repairs. These machines are the straightforward choice for large jobs and ease of use. Consider your budget and ensure your ability to transport a larger machine.

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Condition of the StumpStump

The condition of the stump should be considered when choosing a stump grinder. An older stump that has begun to rot, will be softer and easier to grind. While both tracked and wheeled trenchers will make short work of a soft stump, you may have an opportunity to save on overall costs. A fresh and healthy stump will have an increased hardness and will take more time to grind, requiring a more powerful machine. 

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Cutting Dimensions

30SG Stump Grinder65

The diameter of your stump will likely be the most important factor for choosing your stump grinder. While a handlebar stump grinder can be used on a wider stump, you will sacrifice operator comfort, excess machine and tooth wear, as well as increased hours on the jobsite. The height of your stump and the depth at which you wish to go below ground should also be considered. With a wheeled stump grinder, you are limited to grinding stumps about 14” high and a maximum grinding depth of about 8”. On the other hand, a tracked stump grinder can handle heights of about 32” and grind as much as 12” deep.

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SGB_20170721-226Area Surrounding the Stump

You may be faced with difficult terrain when removing a stump. Tracked stump grinders offer greater stability in uneven terrain, decreased turf damage, and increased safety when operating on slopes. Wheeled stump grinders are preferable for operating in close conditions, can fit through narrow gateways, and are efficient where increased maneuverability is required. 


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Quantity of Stumps30SG-0791

While size is a key factor, quantity should be assessed as well. One or two small stumps is easy work for a handlebar machine. At ten or twelve small stumps, though, you may want to consider a tracked machine. While the handlebar machine is capable of clearing them all, it may not be the clear choice as the larger, more powerful machine will complete the job in much less time, creating a comparable cost while also reducing excessive wear on the operator.

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Each stump and job is unique, but considering these key components will help you make the best choice for your project and your budget.


Remember that tree roots will grow around and through all obstacles in their path. Always Call 811 and identify any utilities before you dig. Happy Grinding!


Read Next: How to Remove a Stump With a Stump Grinder: 5 Steps to Removing Unsightly Stumps