Tree stumps stump
July 20, 2021 7:36 AM   Subscribe

We cut down some large trees in our backyard. Yay! A chainsaw turned four of them into perfectly sized sittin' stumps, but how to preserve them?

We bought a fire pit earlier in the summer so we now have actual tree stump for folks to sit on (an unexpected bonus). Is there anything we can do to keep them in decent nick?

(I do not know what kind of wood.)
posted by Kitteh to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Many coats of lacquer on the cut ends and remove all the bark or it gets filled with bugs and lacquer that too.

Do something though, or they turn nasty quick. I just painted mine from a cut-down oak tree. Don't do that unless you want to create insect habitat.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:41 AM on July 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Are these stumps as in "large logs" or are they stumps as in "still rooted to the ground"? Either can be dealt with, but the latter will invariably rot, though you can slow the process.

Step one: remove the bark.

Step two: sand the surfaces depending on how smooth the chainsaw cuts and bark removal were. A (more or less) smooth finish will help the next steps and make for a more comfortable sitting surface.

Step three (optional): apply a wood stabilizer such as Minwax Wood Hardener. Protect the stumps from the elements during this process if you can.

Step four: fill any small cracks or voids with resin or epoxy.

Step five: apply a sealant such as an exterior polyurethane. Sealing the cut ends in particular is necessary to avoid (or at least slow and reduce) splitting as the wood dries. If color is important and you're using a clear sealant, then you should stain the wood before applying the finish.
posted by jedicus at 8:26 AM on July 20, 2021

Response by poster: Are these stumps as in "large logs" or are they stumps as in "still rooted to the ground"?

Large pieces from a felled tree!
posted by Kitteh at 11:12 AM on July 20, 2021

You'll want to get them off of the ground to prevent rot from spreading upwards. Even something as simple as putting them on some 2*4s would help. That said if these are fresh cut and large chunks you're going to see a lot of splitting and cracking as they dry. That's essentially unavoidable.
posted by Ferreous at 11:17 AM on July 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Drill holes in the stumps and insert borate rods, such as brand name Bor-8. The borate slowly permeates the wood to preserve it. Check from time-to-time to see if the rods have been used up, and then replace them.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 11:58 AM on July 20, 2021

The only thing I'd do would be to smooth the top to prevent splinters and then screw a couple pieces of 1x pressure treated to the bottom (cross grain) to prevent moisture wicking into the round from the ground. Around here that sort of thing would allow the round to last decades. If it rains a lot where you are it might be worth it to bring them someplace where they can't be rained on when not in use for a couple years and then give the tops a couple coats of the deck preservative of your choice. Doing this they will weather but still provide a seat for a long time.

Be aware they will eventually crack lengthwise but will likely maintain their round shape even with the cracks.
posted by Mitheral at 12:57 PM on July 20, 2021

I live in Maine, wood chunks are always available for free(craigslist or side of the road), and I'd just use them and replace as needed. If you really want to keep them, use an oil-based wood preservative.
posted by theora55 at 2:55 PM on July 20, 2021

Seconding theora55. Use 'em till they degrade, then replace them and give them a funeral pyre. Circle of life.

So, no paint or varnish or polyurethane or anything that might emit toxic fumes when burnt. Oil, at most. Maybe move them somewhere dry in winter, if possible.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:44 PM on July 20, 2021

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