Anyone can grind a tree stump, right?

So you might recognise the closing statement from one of my other articles, extracted below:

“You see, as with so many things, it’s horses for courses. You wouldn’t expect a £30 axe to do the same job as quickly and effectively as a £30,000 piece of specialised equipment. And you’d certainly expect the latter to do a great job. Well, that’s also down to the operator, but that’s another story and you get the idea?”

I’d like to tell you about that other story. The operator.

You’ve heard of the phrase, ‘All the gear, no idea’? Well that’s true in so many walks of life, and stump grinding is no exception. Just because somebody has the proper kit to do the job, doesn’t mean they have the know how, or the skill, or the experience. They might well be in the right industry, but arboriculture, like so many industries, is a multi skilled and multi disciplined industry, and just because you can cut a tree down doesn’t mean you can grind the stump. Or rather, it doesn’t mean you can grind the stump well – as in do a proper job, safely, and to client specification if required.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are many great tree surgeons out there who can do a really good job of stumping, and have the time and resources to do it, and care about it as much as they care about their great tree surgery. In fact I know there are – I’ve met several and now regularly work for them, doing all their stumps because they never want to see a stump grinding machine again. They can be difficult machines at the best of times, and they recognise the speciality and are pleased they can now focus on the stuff they do best – all the sexy stuff with chainsaws and climbing trees!

There are of course a great number of tree surgeons and other arb / hort industry professionals who do include tree stump grinding in their daily work, but are just not very good at it, and often to be honest just hate doing it. Again, they may be truly genius tree surgeons, pruning and reshaping, and felling with great precision, but give them a stump grinder and they generally either just don’t care or can’t do a good job – at least that’s how it feels when I’ve been along to re-grind the stump (for a second fee) which they just didn’t do well in the first place. Often these stumps have been taken to just about a single inch below ground level and covered over with a bit of dirt.  Sadly, that’s just not a good job – and is significantly below the accepted industry standard of 6″ or 15cm below ground level.  Personally I feel that industry standard is still quite inadequate in terms of a great job, and unless there’s reasons not do, I will always aim for at least 8″ and usually 12″ below ground level, at which point we can usually be sure that most, if not all, of the immediately adjacent roots are severed and the chances of regrowth are minimal.

I guess such tree surgeons are knocking this type of grinding job out at knock down prices while they’re on the job – but be warned: ‘pay right, or pay twice’.

Even paying right however, doesn’t guarantee you a good job – there are plenty of poor jobs done by people charging good money – or even over the odds too. I think that in life, you generally get a good job if you go to a specialist. And you know what – specialists have a far better understanding of the costs in their area of specialism and often benefit from many things such as economies of scale, so you may well get the best job at a less expensive price!

Finally, if you’re thinking of hiring the guy who rocks up on your doorstep saying ‘he’s working in the area and him and the lads have got an hour spare (two hours if you want your drive tarmaccing too), would you like that tree down love?’, then just don’t!  Or at least be prepared to pay a second time to get the job done right.a badly and partially ground stump

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