If you have a large tree stump you would love to use as a piece of furniture, planter, or anything else, you can’t leave it on the yard to rot—you have to preserve it. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can do it.
Here is an expert guide on how to preserve a tree stump.
First things first. Uproot it
Regardless of your preservation method, you will have a hard time keeping a stump in good condition if it’s still connected to its roots.
As long as the tree stump is drawing in moisture and oxygen, it’s only a matter of time before it begins attracting rot, mold, and pests.
If you love a given stump, the first thing to do is to cut it out. Saw the stump evenly and level as much as you can, a few inches from the ground. You can do the work yourself or hire a professional to help you out.
Dry it out completely
Your next move should be to dry out the tree stump completely. Place the stump in a dry, covered area or in the garage where it won’t encounter rain and other sources of moisture.
How long the stump takes to dry out depends on plenty of factors such as:
- How wet the surface the stump is sitting in
- How wet the surface stays after prolonged rain
- How much rainfall your area experiences
- The type of tree
In most cases, tree stumps dry out within 6 months to one year, but they can take longer or shorter than this.
As the stump dries up, large segments of it will develop cracks, so if you see them, they are normal.
Avoid drying the stump too fast as the cracks can get too big, giving your stump an ugly look. Sometimes the cracks are too big such that you can’t use the stump.
Remove the bark and sand the tree stump smoothly.
It’s normal for the bark to loosen as a result of drying so you will have an easy time removing it. If you are having trouble removing it by hand, use a wood chisel, hammer, or pry bar.
Once the bark is off, sand the stump smooth. You can use different tools to get the work done.
One of the tools is the planner. This is a power tool with a flat head you run around the top and bottom of the stump and remove any rough spots.
You should continue running the planer until you have smoothened the top and bottom edges.
You can also use 80-grit sandpaper to get the work done.
Rub the sandpaper on the stump in a circular motion, getting rid of the top layer of wood. The sandpaper is also highly effective at evening out the top of the stump, so you have level grain.
Is the stump too dirty or rough? Use an electric sander to smoothen it. Run the sander back and forth over the stump, revealing the fresh wood underneath.
Once you are done, use a piece of cloth to remove the wood dust.
Fill the cracks with filler.
As mentioned above, it normal for the tree stump to crack. Sometimes the cracks are too deep and unsightly that you have to cover them. What better way to do it than to use a wood filler such as clear epoxy?
To prevent the epoxy from leaking, put tape on the sides and bottom of the stump. For best results, apply the filler in layers. Apply the first layer then let it dry overnight, after which you should apply the second layer.
Apply wood stabilizer
If the tree stump dried out properly and there are no cracks to fill, go ahead and apply the first layer of wood stabilizer. Apply little stain while going in circles. You should do this until you cover the entire surface.
Follow up by covering the stabilizer with plastic for two to four hours then apply the second layer. In most cases, applying two layers is enough, and you can start using the stump according to your plans.
If you were planning to use it as a table or chair, add legs to it. Did you want to use the stump as a planter? Move it to its new location.
What if you can’t uproot the special tree?
If your beloved stump has deep roots or it’s going to be too expensive to uproot, you shouldn’t ignore it and watch it rot away as there are plenty of things you can do with it. Some of these things include:
Create a container garden on the tree stump.
Begin with forming a basket using an old wire basket or create one from galvanized steel field fencing that has been cut to size.
While an uncut tree stump will rot fast, you can extend its life and discourage insects by applying a preservative such as polyurethane.
Once the basket is in place, pack it with moss. Fill the perimeter of the basket by compressing the moss in and around the wireframe then add soilless potting mix containing fertilizer.
After removing air pockets from the soil and watering, now plant the basket by adding the plants of your choice.
Cut a bench
Is the tree stump big? Why not cut a big bench from it that gives the visitors a serene spot to stop and enjoy the scenery?
Use a commercial chainsaw and design a bench of your dreams. You should then use a smaller chainsaw to sculpt away the interior wood to form the back, sides, and seat.
Have a birdhouse
If your desired stump is tall, you can go ahead and use it as a natural base for a birdhouse or bird feeder. To give the birdhouse a log cabin look, construct it from branches.
Remember to add a wide plastic or metal baffle around the stump to discourage squirrels or cats from climbing up and eating your birds.
Have a sculpture
Are you one of those people that don’t mind having sculptures in their yards? Then why not turn your desired stump into a work of art?
If you have the skills, you can do the artwork by yourself, but if you don’t have the creative gene, hire an expert to help you out.
To keep the sculpture in top shape, periodically seal them with a coat of clear marine finish or any other penetrating exterior sealer that will prevent the stump from splitting.
Design a farm table
Do you have a large yard that can accommodate a large farm table? Create your table with the stump that isn’t coming out. First, ensure the surface is as flat as possible to give you a level base.
For the tabletop, you can use any material. You can use metal, concrete slab, or any other material of your desires. To keep the tabletop stable, use one or more large bolts through the top of the slab and into the stump.
For more ideas on what you can do with a tree stump, read this article.