Windstorms, ice storms or disease can destroy trees. Owners are frequently left with an unsightly tree stump. But, there are lots of opportunities to turn that tree stump into something useful for the outdoors or inside the home.
1. Tree stump coffee table for the living room
Recycling a tree stump for a coffee table can create a breathtaking center of attention in the living room. Most coffee tables are between 16 and 20-inches tall. So plan on excavating down far enough to recover part of the roots as well as the above ground stump.
2. Side tables for the family room or den
Building new side tables for the living room or den is an ideal use of smaller tree stumps or trunk. Most indoor side tables are 20 to 24-inches high. A two-foot length of trunk is easy to handle and repurpose as furniture. Start by cutting each end square. For a more contemporary look, consider adding 6-inch metal legs found at most home centers. They’re available in chrome and black.
Store cut pieces of stump inside the house or garage for several months to dry and adjust to the inside humidity, especially if the wood was recently cut. The cut ends will be moist to the touch when green.
Remove the bark using a hammer and chisel, drawknife or pry bar. Once the bark has been removed, sand the sides and ends with medium grit sandpaper and slowly move to finer grit sandpaper. A small ¼ sheet power sander will make this part of the project go much quicker. But, it can also be done by hand with a sanding block. I recommend frequent breaks with your favorite beverage if sanding by hand.
Apply a finish to the side tables. Wipe down the stumps with a tack-cloth then apply a coat of stain. If using an oil based stain, be certain to apply it with a natural bristle brush. Some stains need to be wiped off after several minutes to get to the desired color. Each coat will darken the color, so approach this slowly. When dry, finish sand with extra fine sandpaper. Seal the wood with polyurethane clear. The top and bottom will require additional coats to seal them. Attach the legs if needed and the side table is complete.
3. Back yard planter
If all that is left of the tree is a short stump of 12 to 18-inches: all is not lost. Hollow out the center portion of the stump and use it for a planter. Vertical plants or cascading plants will make a more interesting planter.
4. Outdoors dining table
For smaller trees here’s how to build a simple tree stump table in just a couple of hours. Dining tables are usually 28 to 30-inches tall. Begin by cutting the tree stump to a height of 23 to 25-inches high. Be careful to make the cut level.
Cut two 2x4s to the width of the tabletop. Attach these two cross brace boards on their edge to the stump using lag bolts. Use a long level to keep everything straight. Counter bore the holes so the bolt head will seat below the top edge of the 2×4.
Cut 2x6s to the length of the table. Attach to the 2x4s using 3-1/2-inch deck screws. They will survive in the weather. The tabletop boards attach perpendicular to the 2 cross brace boards. It is a good idea to pre-drill and counter sink the holes in the tabletop boards. This makes assembly quicker. The countersink hole will help prevent splitting in the future.
5. Garden steppingstones
Cut slabs from the tree trunk 2-inches thick. These can make unique steppingstones for a pathway through the garden. The path will be more visually interesting with slabs of various diameters. Place the largest slabs first, then the medium-sized slabs and the smallest slabs last.
Fill the spaces between the slabs with pea gravel, sand or plant the spaces with creeping thyme.
6. Child’s tree house
A short tree stump several feet high can become the base for an exciting tree house for kids. The stump should be sturdy without and signs of tree rot. The trick to tree house construction is to keep it light. Frame the platform base out of 2×6 lumber. Attach it to the stump with diagonal braced 2x4s or 2x6s set at a 45-degree angle. Secure the braces to the stump with lag bolts. Once the platform frame is secured, sheet the platform with 1×6 tongue and grove boards set at right angles to the platform joists. Nail the boards with zinc-coated nails. Install railing around the perimeter of the platform. This can be framed out of 2×2 lumber and needs to be securely attached to the platform sides with lag bolts. Railings should be 30-inches high and capped with 2x4s. Leave a narrow area open for a rope ladder or steps to the tree house.
7. Home made teeter-totter
A tree stump teeter-totter makes a fun addition to any yard and can be built with simple construction grade lumber in an afternoon.
Cut the stump 12-inches above the ground. You’ll need a 10-foot 2×8 board and two 10-foot 2x4s for the teeterboard or seat. Attach the 2×4 to the under side of the 2×8 centered and on edge in a “T” position. Drill through the 2×4 and attach it to the 2×8 with deck screws or lag bolts. Cut two pieces of 2×4 24-inches long, glue and screw these pieces to the center of the 2x8s to reinforce the center section of the teeter-totter. Drill a 1-inch hole through the reinforced section for the pivot pipe.
Build the attachment bracket out of 2-inch lumber in an inverted “T” configuration and attach this to the stump with 3 or 4-inch lag bolts. The teeter-totter will require two of these. Bore a 1-inch hole through the attachment bracket for the teeter-totter to pivot. Use 1-inch galvanized pipe with pipe caps to close both ends of the pipe. The attachment bracket should be 12-inches high to the pivot hole and approximately 18-inches long. When assembled the teeter-totter should be 24-inches off the ground at the hinge point.
8. Table lamp from log or stump
Smaller lengths of stumps, logs or limbs can be used for a unique table lamp for the home. Cut the length to 16-inches and remove the bark. Stain, or seal the wood as desired with several coats of polyurethane sealer. Drill a hole through the length of the log with a bell installer’s bit. These are available in 5/16, 3/8 and ½-inch sizes 18-inches long. Install a threaded lamp pipe in the hole and attach the lamp socket, lampshade holder and bushings to hold everything in place. Add the electrical wire and the lamp is finished.