Cliffs Notes of a DIY Tree Stump Fire Pit Tutorial
This post offers you the granddaddy of all hillbilly DIY ideas: when you need a stump removed – no need to call a service to grind that stump into oblivion. No siree, JIM BOB!
I’m gonna show you how to burn yer very own tree stump fire pit!
DIY your own backyard fire pit in three easy steps!
#1: Chop down a big as
h tree. (really, any big tree will do)
#2: Have the stump properly shaped for burning. (yes, the crew will give you a side-eye. channel yer inner Granny Clampett!)
#3: Burn ALL THE THINGS! (burn the random collection of twigs and cut branches from the felled tree! and s’mores! and all those pesky love letters from yer dirty dirty ex)
After writing this fire pit post, I was shocked to find it’s one of the most popular (but not as popular as chocolate cake!) I have ever written.
You are my people.
You get me and I get you.
Who knew so many of you were looking to make a hobo pit like we did!
Now I know and I’m so glad you came to check thangs out.
Let’s get to it!
BEFORE WE BEGIN, HERE’S IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT BURNING A TREE STUMP:
#1: This information is PURELY for your entertainment.
This post is about how we handled a new (read: green – and less likely to burn out of control) tree stump – I am NOT recommending you do this at home.
This is simply for you to read and decide for yourself.
Fun Fact: Loads of folks will decide I have lost my mind, and that’s okay.
Just know, our stump-burning ways were done with the UPMOST safety practices in mind.
#2: Safety first if you decide to burn a tree stump.
Always have copious amounts of water at your disposal.
Fires can be unpredictable. A handy hose, ready to go, is always recommended.
We would literally drag our hose to a few feet of the stump each and every time we lit that bad boy.
#3: Never ever leave a fire unattended.
You’d be surprised how many folks will walk away from a fire in a fire pit.
Like an active fire, you know, with flames and embers. Just walkin’ away like Smokey Bear* approved.
* FUN FACT: his name is actually Smokey Bear, without the “the” added.
All the nopes.
Don’t do it.
Now that you have the safety info, let’s get to it!
What happens when you do a Google search on tree stump ideas?
You mostly get planter ideas.
This is kinda that, except it’s a planter for FIIIIIIIRRRREEEE!
Why a stump fire pit instead of traditional tree stump removal?
We thought it would be fun and it would save us the cost of having the stump either dug up or ground down.
The plan was to safely burn it over a couple of year’s time, enjoy the fires, and then once burned sufficiently, cover the area with grass.
Safety glasses on, folks.
#1: Have a dead or dying tree that must be taken down.
Consider a removal company for this task, especially if the tree is a giant like ours was.
This was our beloved giant ash tree, or as we lovingly referred to it: the Big Ass Tree (clever, bordering on the profane is a gift…).
Ash trees typically have a lifespan of about 30 years and that’s pushing it.
This one was 35-years plus and it was throwing off branches the size of mid-sized cars; it was time for it to come down.
Our arborist said it was a testament to our care that it had lived so long and looked so good, but that once the giant limbs start breaking off, it’s time to bring down the entire tree, or risk it coming down during a storm.
The tree shaded most of our house, but the nail in its coffin was that it was located in close proximity to our bedroom.
I’d get out of bed during every violent storm to see if it was gonna come crashing down and crush us.
Can’t be having that kind of nonsense.
We said our sad goodbyes and took down that mammoth badboy.
#2: Have the crew cut the stump low and semi-inverted.
Or DIY, if you’re that much of a badass by cutting down your own giant trees.
The poor crew. Out tree was bigger than anyone imagined.
As they kept cutting; it seemingly grew new branches.
So. Much. Tree.
Soon, they got it down to working size.
Come on, fire pit!
Truth is, this pic still makes me sad, because it was a great tree and I hated to see it go.
I explained what I was shooting for in the pit and the guys got to work:
The stump was a monster.
Success (took a few hours of work and discussion)!
The desolate scene of the crime. Things were looking bleak.
Not for Dexter: MINE!
The minute the crew left, he declared the stump his.
After the stump was cut to a manageable size, we advised the crew we really wanted a DIY fire pit.
We had to drive home that we weren’t kidding!
Oh, the looks they gave us.
We knew we wanted a secure place to place the wood to be burned, so we had them cut a basic “v” into the stump.
The inversion: the inside was cut in a slight V angle, so the soon-to-be burning wood would have a place to rest.
This was what the sad yard and pit looked like last summer after everything was cleaned and we were ready to burn stuff.
The tree was so dense that even Texas shade-tolerant St. Augustine grass refused to grow underneath it.
#3: Start burning ALL THE THINGS in your stump, aka, new fire pit.
Then we built our first fire and both of us were hooked.
All Hail, Tiny Fire!
That first year, we enjoyed the fire pit frequently (even on hella hot days) and loved that we didn’t pull the stump out.
Since these first pics, we have sodded the area and had many many fires.
Although, Dexter’s enthusiasm has waned; he’s not too happy with our choice.
He hates when we have a fire.
We’ve bribed him with treats, but no-go.
He refuses to sit with us.
We’ve come a long way since that tiny first fire.
This is what our fires look like a few years later:
Build it and OMT! will come!
Grab a drink and let the fire get started:
This is livin’, yall.
We keep going until either the wood is spent:
We’re thinking of adding a fun modification, since Sweet E will be hanging out with us at the pit.
Garry is going to find/build a grate with legs that can be attached to the pit when we want to grill a few hot dogs and a small pot of chili.
There is some concern that by using the old stump, we might accidentally ignite a fire in the root system, so here is what we do:
#1) The tree was green when we cut it and it hasn’t been a problem.
#2) We extinguish all fires with an overabundance of water from the hose after we are done having our fun.
#3) If we ever conclude there is a danger, which we monitor closely, we’ll proceed from there with a new plan.
This is what the pit looked like after a year or so of burning.
As you can see, progress was being made, but since the tree was green when we started very little of the stump had given way.
With a little TLC and some new sod, this is what she looked like the next year:
You can see that the grass has fully grown in and that the remaining tree roots add an interesting design to the hillbilly fire pit.
Underneath the kindling, is a burnt out spot that grows deeper with each fire. Once the pit burns down far enough, we’ll add stone around the perimeter to retain the shape:
Usually there are chairs and a small table out here.
After all, one needs sustenance and adult beverages if one is going to engage in a proper fire pit conversation.
Making a fire pit out of your tree stump is better than using your tree stump as a table for your potted plants!
Take that Google search!
So far, so good, but as for you and your stump pit, err on the side of caution.
If you think there is a danger to igniting anything other than the stump, don’t do it!
But, if you’re not as hesitant…
And most definitely, more of this:
When I first ventured this idea to Garry, he was skeptical.
So Texas hillbilly!
Now, he loves that pit as much as I do.
Nothing better after a long day than to head out back, sit by a roaring fire (although, not in the summer. that’s just torture) and let everything go.
Any one else with a DIY fire pit from a tree?
Hands down, this has been one of our favorite DIY projects.
It’s great to have a unique fire pit to have a drink by at the end of the week or to start the week.
Can’t wait to get the grate and make some memories with Sweet E.
Like Garry said, “We had so much fun as kids by the fire when we went camping.”
To which I added, “The difference this time will be that we’ll have the luxury of bathrooms and soft beds.”
Yeah, I’m not so much a camper…
What does the tree stump fire pit look like today?
It’s been 6-years since I originally wrote this post, and today there is nothing but grass where the stump once was.
We successfully burned the stump to the point where we could easily remove what was left.
After that, we covered the hole with new dirt and sod.
You’d never know a giant tree was once in that spot.
We didn’t have a problem with the root system burning, but maybe that was because we used abundant caution when extinguishing the fire each time we enjoyed the fire pit.
Happy DIY, my babies!
Original post: August 14, 2013. Updated Post: May 30, 2019.
~I am not a professional fire-pit maker, so know that this tutorial is purely my experience of what we did. Proceed with caution and safety for your situation.~