A greenhouse builder in Austin, TX

Find a greenhouse builder near Austin, TX

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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What is a general contractor?

When starting a home remodel or new construction project, you will probably hire a general contractor. A general contractor is a professional who is qualified to take a set of building plans and construct them as outlined. The general contractor may help perform the day-to-day building, or they may just hire workers and oversee all the work activities. In either case, the job of the general contractor is to see that your project gets built.

When you have a building project, ask for bids from various contractors. The bids tell you how much each will charge and what their scope of work will be. Once you have selected a bid, you sign a contract with that general contractor outlining the specifics of the project and the milestones during the project when they will receive payment installments. Once the contract is official, the general contractor will bring in their crew to begin construction. The contractor will manage the workers and subcontractors (anyone who doesn’t work directly for their company but that they need to outsource, like a marble installation pro), order all the materials, obtain work permits, and confirm that all the workers and subcontractors are completing their projects as planned. They typically handle all the payments to the workers and subcontractors, and send you invoice. For all these reasons, it’s also especially important to follow a few smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor.  If you are organized and competent to oversee construction projects, and are able to make sure everything is being built properly and meeting code, it’s possible you can be your own general contractor.  

How much does it cost to landscape your front yard?

Prices for landscaping your front yard can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the scale of your front yard project. Your landscaping price will reflect how much change you implement, how much labor is required, and the cost of materials.

Landscaping is typically made up of softscaping and hardscaping. Softscaping refers to selecting trees, bushes, flowers and plants to achieve a desired aesthetic and to meet goals such as having a drought-tolerant yard. Hardscaping refers to moving earth, installing structures, and putting in decorative stonework, sidewalks or lighting. For softscaping, you may want to hire a landscape designer to consult on your plants and layout, and then do the digging and planting yourself or hire a gardner to handle the heavy lifting. A landscape designer’s hourly rate may range from $50 to $150 or more. If you want a turnkey approach, meaning someone who works with you to create the vision and then executes all the work, landscaping pricing will typically come down to a cost per square foot rather than an hourly rate. It’s a solid investment: Great landscaping can add up to 28 percent value to your home.

How do you choose a commercial general contractor?

A commercial contractor provides similar services as a residential general contractor but specializes in working with large-scale projects for businesses, schools, nonprofits, governments and development firms. When researching commercial general contractors, review their portfolio of work and confirm they have ample experience working in the area you need. For example, if you are building a small strip mall, ask if the contractors have experience successfully incorporating all the needed elements such as a parking lot, meeting ADA requirements, accessing the proper permits, and completing work on time.

Once you’ve identified several qualified candidates, request bids for your project and then compare the scope of work with your needs and budget. Your commercial general contractor should oversee design, permitting, construction, materials purchase, and adherence to building code and zoning regulations, as well as sticking to an agreed-upon budget and schedule. It’s important to establish clear communication with your future commercial general contractor, as this will mean a smoother process for everyone. For all these reasons, it’s also especially important to follow a few smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor.

What do general contractors charge?

If you’re doing a home remodel, building a new home or embarking on a commercial building project, you’ll hire a general contractor. A general contractor is a professional who is qualified to oversee and execute construction projects. Each construction project is unique; even two duplicate homes built on lots next door to each other could have different construction costs due to factors like different excavation costs when building the foundation. Since each project is unique, many general contractors make bids on potential construction projects. These bids can then break down to a per square foot cost that encompasses the labor of all the workers needed for the job, materials, the scope of work, and any equipment needed. Materials and finishes make a major difference in your cost per square foot. For example, choosing standard kitchen tiles at $3 per square foot will result in a lower total project cost than imported marble tiles that cost $63 per square foot. Where you live will also affect how much general contractors charge, as labor and the cost to do business can cost less in many regions than in high-cost areas like New York or San Francisco. Here are some examples of average costs general contractors typically charge in various regions:

  • Home addition in San Francisco: $250-$270 per square foot.
  • New home construction in Knoxville, Tennessee: $100-$200 per square foot.
  • Kitchen remodel in Tennessee: $40-$80 per square foot, depending on finishes.
  • Bathroom remodel in Vancouver, Washington: $110-$170 per square foot.

Be sure to check out our smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor.

How much does it cost to have landscaping done?

Professional landscaping can help reinvent your outdoor space, boost your curb appeal and get a major return on investment with. Landscaping can encompass anything from adding new plants, trees and shrubs, to leveling the ground and laying sod for a lawn, to building in hardscaping such as sidewalks, water features or retaining walls. The national average landscaping price is $10,160. Landscaping prices can be far lower (with hourly rates ranging from $50 to $150) if you’re only seeking professional help with softscaping or seeking consultation on landscape design. Softscaping means adding or changing horticultural elements, such as planting a garden or adding a hedge. Hardscaping is where costs can really start to rise. Hardscaping requires labor and heavy equipment to excavate the earth; you may need to pour concrete, or you may need a pro who can transport and place gravel and other inorganic elements. Your total landscaping cost will vary based on the amount of work you want done, how much labor is required, and the cost of the materials you are using. A good rule of thumb for a major landscaping project, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects, is to budget 5 percent to 10 percent of the value of your home.

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