Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
My review and experience with it
Published on May 1, 2005 By Draginol In Home Improvement

If you decide you want to finish your basement there are lots of options to consider.  Do you do it yourself? Do you contract it out? Maybe do a little in between? For me and my wife, we just aren't handy enough to try to finish a basement on our own.  So we decided we'd contract the whole thing out.

Once you decide you're going to contract it out, then it's a matter of deciding what direction to take with it. Do you go with drywall? The problem with drywall is that it takes months to put in (how long do you want contractors going in and out of your house?).  It makes a lot of mess (expects months if not years of drywall dust to be floating around your house), it's susceptible to damage from a wide range of sources (water, normal wear and tear due to it being in a basement).  So we wanted our basement finished but drywall had a lot of negatives to it.

That's when we heard about the Owens Corning Basement System.  After intense negotiations, we had it done.  And below you can read about our experiences during the sales process, installation, and after effects.  I hope you find it useful.

The Owens Corning Basement System has been in place now for our basement for about a month now so I've had time to get used to it.

The project went pretty smoothly except for a few hiccups that I'll talk about here. So what's the verdict? Here are the things I really liked about it:

  1. It's fast. In 2 weeks it's all done.
  2. It's clean. No dry wall dust all over.
  3. It's durable. It's virtually impossible to damage. Basements, unlike the rest of the house, are more prone to dings since that's where most people store things too.
  4. It's virtually sound proof. This was an unexpected benefit. But the kids can go and play down there without having to hear music, TV, yelling throughout the house.
  5. It looks pretty nice still (but not as nice as dry wall in my opinion).
  6. It is nice to know that in 20 years it'll look the same as today. Dry wall in basements tend to not look so good. At best you'll have to repaint larger areas. With this, you don't have to.

The big thing for us though was the speed of it. My first basement was done with dry wall and I have no regrets about that. It was nicely done. But it took months to do and over a year for the house to stop having more dust in it than before. The dry wall dust simply gets everywhere.

If you're as unhandy as me, then you likely want contractors to do pretty much all the building. It can be uncomfortable having strangers in your house for months. In contrast, the Owens Corning Basement System was installed in our roughly 1100 to 1200 square foot area in about 2 weeks (closer to 10 days).

In short, I was willing to pay a premium to not have to deal with a summer of construction. The fact that it looks nice and can't be damaged easily was a real bonus. My 3 year old already put that to the test by taking a permanent marker to one of the walls. In a few minutes we were able to wipe it off with some bleach and you can't even tell where it was. Contrast that to having to repaint that area with a dry wall basement. Not to mention all the nicks and gouges that would be there due to moving stuff down there.

That said, here are things that I ran into that I didn't like that you should be aware of:

I really didn't like the sales strategy of their sales people. High pressure combined with little specifics created a lot of headaches during the project.

First off, people who can afford to pay a premium for their basement being done aren't fools. Even so, they used the same tactic on us as they would on some gullible yokel. No offense, but the reason we can afford this stuff is because we have some financial savvy. So don't march into our houses with magazines showing that the "Average" basement costs over $50 per square foot to finish. Because that's nonsense and does more to harm your sale than anything else. Sure, if you're going to have bathrooms and kitchens and tiled areas and wet bars and such it will cost more, but the Owens Corning System doesn't take care of any of that. They just do the "walls", drop down ceiling, electrical, and a few other things. They're not going to build you a bar or tile your floor for you (unless you make a special deal with them). Just for reference, a typical basement done with dry wall with nothing too fancy done shouldn't cost much more than $20 per square foot. Our last dry wall basement cost around $17 per square foot.

The price you should try to get with the Owens Corning Basement System is somewhere between $25 and $35 per square foot. They may balk at $25 but $35 they should certainly take. I paid about $28 per square foot. $30 per square foot would be good. Anything much higher and you're paying too much. Which is why they do the high pressure tactic to get you to sign right there.  To the sales guy's horror, I made him sit there while I had my laptop doing net searches on how much other people have paid. By the way, be aware that most states do have a law that allow you to back out of contracts within 72 hours. So if they did manage to get you to commit for $55 per square foot or something you aren't up the creek.

The second thing I didn't care for was the amount of vagueness to the agreement. Because of the high pressure sales tactics, the sales guy didn't write down a lot of our specific needs on his "agreement" (which was literally just a 1 page form he hand wrote notes on which I was pretty unhappy about). For instance, we said we wanted padded carpet so he suggested Home Depot. Which we did. But they didn't cut the doors so that they would fit on padded carpet so when we put in the carpeting, we had to take off the doors. It took us 3 weeks to get them to make good on this. They argued it wasn't their responsibility to fix the doors. Nonsense. We told them up front that we were going to get padded carpet. For us to fix would have meant bringing in another contractor. They agreed to fix it only after I made it clear that I would ensure that my experiences with the Owens Corning Basement System would show up high on google. It took the guy 30 minutes to fix it once he dropped by. So they made good but it did mar an otherwise fairly seamless experience.

So make sure that you are clear (and document) exactly what they do and what they expect you to do. The Owens Corning contractors don't tend to do as much as regular full service basement contractors. They weren't planning on putting in our phone and cable lines for example but luckily that was written into that agreement.

Thirdly, the only negative I've run into since putting it in is that it is, contrary to what they said, not that easy to hang things up on the walls. Since they're not drywall, you can't just put in a nail and put stuff up. You have to use special clipper thingies. These work nice on light things. But they didn't give us any samples or directions or order forms to get things for putting up heavier items (like a big white board for example). This has been a source of some ire since it's turning out not easy to find these "mending plates" in low quantities. Office Max and Staples don't seem to have them. None of the hardware stores we've looked at have them. I've looked on the net and I can buy them in quantity (like 1000 at a time) but I only need like 5. My suggestion is to insist that they provide you with 100 of the t-pins (small stuff) and 100 mending plates (big stuff) as part of the agreement.

Fourthly, this gets back to the "customers are suckers" sales pitch. The sales guy and his materials really went hard on the mold scare tactic. Mold is definitely something not to blow off. But it should not be your motivating factor to spend a third again as much on a basement. Would you pay $15000 more on your house for a "lightning strike resistant" design? The kinds of houses most people who would put this stuff in are usually newer and on the premium side. The basements, in short, don't get wet very easily. That isn't to say they shouldn't mention mold, but it should be more of a "bonus" feature rather than as the principle selling point.

Now that it's all done, I'm pretty happy with it. I like knowing that I won't have to mess around with painting or touching up the basement in a few years. I do wish it was easier to modify with other things. For instance, I can't just build out a bar from it. But that is no biggie really. The basement does what it was supposed to do. And even better, since I want to have a theatre down there eventually, it's got incredible acoustics. If you have the money and are more interested in having your basement be finished quickly and cleanly rather than having some incredible basement palace created, this is something you should seriously consider.

Completion date: September 2003.

Update: September 2005: I have created a second article for people who want to share their experiences (good and bad) with the Owens Corning Basement System. GO HERE to discuss.

update: 10/2003 - still pretty happy with the basement. thanks for all your emails. if you have any questions, ask them in the comments area or you can email me at bwardell@stardock.com.

update: 5/1/2005 - still happy with how it's turned out. I get a  lot of email on this stuff from people, I don't usually get to answer it. But I will say that we are happy with it still. It absorbs sound. But I maintain that the main reason to get it is that you want to save time. If you don't mind having people working on your basement for 6 to 10 weeks and the drywall dust and other dirt that is inevitable with dry-wall then get the dry-wall.  But for me, having it all over in a week or so was the key and no mess afterwards.


Comments (Page 1)
on Sep 16, 2003
Draginol - Wish I read your message a few days ago, I just made a deposit on the system for $40 a sq. ft! They started at almost $70 a sq ft and I laughed out loud. One mystery rebate later, it was down to $58 a sq ft. I just shrugged my shoulders and said "still way off". One phone call later and it was $40 a sq ft, which was consistent with Bob Vila's comment when reviewing the product on This Old House.

Who did your installation? In what state? I'd like to use your info to bargain for a better price before the 3 day cancel window ends. Help please!

-Bob
on Sep 18, 2003
Recently I have the contractor to install the system at $20/ft. We signed the contract and they started the work on it. But after the first day work, they said the size of the job is bigger than the original plan, so they stopped working on it. After some communications and a complain to the owen headquarter, the owner called me and explained situation (the sale guy was too aggressive to get the contract without realizing the job couldn't make money...). Since I am not really in need of the basement, so I will let them refund me the money and undo their first day work in my basement. I just want to share this unusually experience with this board. P.S. the owner said the bottomline is around $28/ft, just like Joe said. If you are paying $40/ft, I think it's too much for me!
on Oct 02, 2003
Thank you so much for this review. I recently had a local rep. out to look at my basement. The initial estimate did come out much better than $70/sq foot but it was still really high. They gave me a price of around $56/sq ft. After the same lousey sales tactics they came down to $41/sq ft. I have not signed an agreement but am very interested in this system. As a result of this review I will try to get them to less than $30/sq ft. If they won't do it my basement may remain unfinished for a while.

Also, just so everyone knows Owens Corning now has a competitor. Champion, the window people, have a product they are calling Basement Living Systems. I just got back from a home show tonight where I took a look at it. It is identical to the Owens Corning system. It is so close I wonder how they are not legally in trouble. Not for sure if Owens can patent this but if they did.... I don't really know all the details about this system but I am going to have them out for a FREE estimate. Just do a search on the web for Basement Living Systems and you will find it.

on Oct 04, 2003
Excellent post. We live outside ATL and had the local rep, Rembrandt Remodeling, come out and do a qoute. They really played up the mold thing too, which is a classic tactic to play to women. FYI - they would not make an appointment if my wife was not present - I would guess for that reason.

My qoute, after 6 different discounts and rebates, was $30 per square foot. However, to get that price they had discounts for everything from >1000 sq ft, to Sams Club Discounts, to my blood type. It was rediculous. Lastly, to get that price I had to commit TODAY, RIGHT NOW!!! Yeah right!! I don't decide to plop down THIRTY GRAND on the spur of the moment.

ANyway, thnaks for all of your great posts, especially the very informative one from Draginol!! It sounds like we got a fairly good price for the system, but maybe they can go a couple of dollars lower still. Also, many thanks to Mark for informing us that there is a competitor.

on Oct 14, 2003
Fantastic Info.
I recently purchased the owens corning basement system and there a couple key points regarding the price.
My salesman,lets call him steve, originally quoted me at 30 per sq. ft. which came out to be 22,000 for the complete renovation of my basement. The ceiling,using acoustic ceiling tiles, carpet,all electric (lights,switches) and of course the wall system. After prying out of steve the names of the components he would be using i found them and compared their price to another contractor doing it themselves. Heres my results.

The ceiling tiles that owens corning uses which are at any lowes or home-depot are armstrong sahara 2x2's. The total price of me bying these tiles along with the suspended grids it would go into cost me $1000.

The carpet was a no name carpet. A simple good Berber will do. This cost me another $1000 installed.

I had an electrician come to the house and give me a quote on wiring all the lights and switches which came to roughly $700.

I then went back to Steve and told him all i wanted to purchase was the actual walling system. It dropped to $8000!!!! My total square footage price went from 30 to 14.

Adding the 8000 for owens corning,1000 for the ceiling, 1000 for the carpet and 700 for the lighting the total cost I am now paying is $10,700. Remember the actual quote for owens corning to do all this was $22,000!!! Now are you wondering who gets that extra 10000+ if i bought it from steve? Steve does. After the contract was finalized and work was completed with my walls I asked steve how did he justify me paying 8000 for the walls opposed to 22000 for everything? I put him in the corner with this question. I really wanted to know why or how can an extra $14,000 be for carpet,ceiling tiles and electric? He responded that the normal homeowner is to naive to think of subcontracting out the carpet,ceiling and electric making him act like he can do it all with one price.

My advice to all of you looking at the numbers end of this product is that i got it for $14 a square foot. Walling only. If you think about it thats all you really need them to do is the walls because thats their product and we as customers cannot just go buy it anywhere. They have us there but I stress to you all,do your research on subcontracting the rest out and you will see that you save over half than if owens corning did it themselves.
The product itself is outstanding. Accoustically it is more quiet in the basement then any other house. The warmth it holds is fantastic. I highly recomend the product to everyone interested but if you want to save alot of money and not pay "steve" an extra 10,000 then id seriously look into subcontracting out the other work.
I hope this helped some of you in deciding. I visit these forums regularly so if you have a question or a complaint to what i have said (or a nice comment) feel free.
on Oct 28, 2003
Champion's Basement Living System is being rolled out slowly. It won't be available in the Atlanta area until June 2004. It will have wiring built into the walls and 4-6 different colors as opposed to Owens 1.

The only city/metro that I know it's available in is Cincinati but it is available I think in about 5 other markets. There is deliberately no information on this product on Champion's web site (www.championwindow.com). I got my information by calling Atlanta's Champion Window rep.

Thanks to all of you. This Blog was real helpful to me. I had a rep in my house yesterday and he gave me the same tired speel and made the fake phone call to get me a better price. He even raised his voice to the phone demanding a better deal. I felt like I was talking to a used car salesman. It was really pathetic. I told him I had to research the product and he offered to hang out with me while I did. I had to pull out a New Yorkish attitude to get him to leave. I thought my sales experience was individual but it's apparently how they're trained. My thought when he made the fake phone call was I am not buying anything from this man. Unfortunately I thought they were the only game in town till I came here. There are only two installer for the entire state of GA and only one in the Atlanta half of the state.

For two rooms (about 500sf) his initial price was 38k. He came down to one room (240sf) for 9k. Thanks for letting me know what I should be demanding. I will probably finish out the rest of the rooms and wait on the walls until June. Let's see what competition does for us.
on Nov 09, 2003
I was contacted by Owens Corning Systems by a flier that was attached to my door. After two months a representative contacted me to make a appointment which I confirmed. I received a confimfiration call on the Saturday and Sunday prior to my Monday appointment. I am still waiting for the appointment to be completed. Owens Corning don't waste my time. If you are too busy then don't call. I am sure that I can find another way to complete my basement requirements. I am just glad I did not comitt to using them as a basement finishing system. Other user beware!!!!
on Nov 09, 2003
I had the rep here yesterday for the OC basement system. For the area I am planning to do, we already have about 2/3 drywall, tile floor, and suspending ceiling with fluorescent lighting. The sales rep noticed some water/mold marks on the drywall and thought we have a mold problem with the drywall. Obviously, he said it should all be replaced with the OC system.
So we got a quote for the system including carpet, ceiling, electrical, lights, tV/cable connections as well as demolition of the exisiting drywall and suspended ceiling. The list price was almost $65/sf but after the 15% discount and a 10% discount if we buy today, it came down to about $48/sf.

Right now they are coming back for a walk thru and to be sure they can do the demoliition work without a major mold problem.

I plan on contacting them to renegotiate the cost at this time.

Thanks for all the comments. I should have checked it out before the rep came but I did not thing my wife would move that fast on it.
on Nov 13, 2003
Thanks to everyone for your postings. I live in the Detroit area and just had the estimator out. He turned me off to the whole company and frankly has diminished my opinion of Owen-Corning.

I first had to lie to the appt setter that my wife would be home and when I told the rep he almost wanted to reschedule. The appt went downhill from there. He had no brochures, samples or professional looking materials to leave behind. The estimate sheets were sloppy generic with NO mention of this firm or Owen-Corning, can you say "used-car salesman" ?

After the mold scare performance, I'm surprised he didn't start a coughing fit and blame it on the mold, he presented an estimate of $18k for the walls and a little electrical work - no floor or ceiling work. When I balked he slowly wittled it down to under $13k - if I was prepared to move now. When I explained that we had only heard of the system days earlier and needed time to examine the budget, he whipped out the financing crap ..... can you afford $160 per month? I just wanted to scream GET OUT!

I assumed this was a one time, bad rep thing but now know this is par for the course. All I heard for an hour was how BUSY they were and how many crews and reps they have added, but when I started to backout, I thought he would start to cry and tell me how he needs the sale to pay for his childs operation.

btw - this firm was pricing the walls at $160 per LINEAR foot.

Attention Owen-Corning - I bet you are monitoring these postings....... wake-up!!! the Aluminum Salesman days are OVER! These reps are a reflection on you - a POOR reflection. It's hard to believe how great the product is when the presentation is so damn poor!
on Nov 14, 2003
Glad I stumbled upon this site today! We had the rep here yesterday and it was probably the WORST sales experience I have ever had! and obviously we were not alone. The high pressure sales tactics turned us off to the point that I do not think we would purchase this product from Owens Corning. When we appeared shocked at the price suddenly there were a million discounts he could offer, if we signed TODAY...made us wonder just how much the markup was. When we told him that we were not going to make an $18,000 decision in 20 minutes he angrily told me that he had spent 90 minutes of his valuable time with us and he felt sorry for us that we were such procrastinators. Oh yeah...now I want to give this company my very hard earned money! When I told this "gentleman" that I was currently a stay at home mom and we had to watch our budget carefully he asked me when I was going to get a job!
BTW he was quoting us $35/ sg foot. I am pleased to see there is going to be some competition as we liked the product but we will not purchase from this company based solely on our sales experience.
on Nov 15, 2003
O-C is following the same old sales gig as any basement refinishing company. Low paid, usem' up and tossm' out salesmen who will do anything for a sale. It's simple math. Plan as many sales calls as you can + pressure + used car selling tactics = low-hanging fruit with no education/information and some money to spend. In the long run they make money. If anyone came out with a system to work with educated customers in an honest way they would do well. Home Depot could be our hero. A letter writing campaign to them to pressure O-C into letting them retail a DIY system with installation education we could put the bad-guys out of the big picture.
on Nov 18, 2003
I am wondering what kind experience all of these negative responces must have had. I purchased the Owens Corning system and I love it. The salesman was professional and answered all of our questions. They did give us a "discount" for our flexability with the time that they would start the installation which brought the cost down to about $36 per square foot which was in line with the other estimates we had.

The best part came three weeks after we had the system installed and out sump pump stopped working. We had several inches of water in our newly finished basement. The system allowed us to just take out the wall panela and dry everything out. Our insurance adjuster loved it. He said that if we had dry wall, we would be " cutting out the lower 3-4 feet" and replacing it all over again.

Our experience has been a positive one, maybe it's because we live close to the Owens Corning World Headquarters.
on Nov 18, 2003
I live in Sterling Heights, MI and I had an Owens Corning Sales guy come over last weekend to estimate the finishing of my 775 sq ft basement. The estimate was a little less than 30 dollars per square feet. What is mind boggling is the electrical and drop ceiling costs. My guess is they make great substitutes for dry wall - but why bother for anything else. If they get the walls done and you hire a separate contractor for drop ceiling, electricals, doors and carpet you could bring down cost to less than 20 dollars per square feet and achieve the same results.

Molds are definitely a problem here and CO walls are great as anybody can remove them and clip them back. It is also great while selling your house since you can pull the wall apart to show how the walls behind are. It does add value to your home. I fully agree that the selling tactics of CO needs drastic improvement...they are trying bite (you) more than they can deliver.
on Nov 20, 2003
Well, I'll add my experience to these posts, and it was very similar. Had a salesman come out tonight to give me an estimate. Same stuff: wounldn't come unless both wife and I were home; spent nearly two hours at my house while we're trying to get kids to finish homework and off to bed. The system looks great and I was very impressed. But the sales tactic stinks. If I decide tonight, some special deal. I told him straight out that wasn't going to happen so I never heard the extra discount. Such a tactic is, in my view, deplorable. Ended up with a quote of $56 per square foot, if I decide within 48 hours. Otherwise, about $69 per square foot. I like that they will do everything, but the price is way too high as I now see. Trouble is, they're exclusive franchises. I tried calling the other dealer near me but they referred me to the first contractor, citing exclusive territories. Anyway, thank you all. They'll be some hard bargaining ahead, and if I don't get the price I want, I'll wait or check out Champion.
on Nov 21, 2003
I think I have forund the loophole. I too had a similar expierence and had decided to just go without. After several days of being pissed, I decided to call the franchise and talk to someone about my frustraiting expierence. I wound up talking to the "general manager" who at least seemed to be genuinely interested in what I had to say. He asked to personally come out to my house and discuss the project and the expierence. When he came out, he was appoligetic and offered to do the project for "just over cost". I had heard things like this before, but I wanted the system so I gave him a chance to hit my price. He remeasured everything, which took longer that I wanted, and came up with a price. It was just a touch more than I wanted to spend but definately reasonable and about 40% less than the original quote. I decided to go ahead because I wanted the system and the price was in the range of what I would spend. I was a bit leary of how it would go, but he seemed genuine and offered to personally track my job to completion. So far, So good. I am scheduled for installation in the next few weeks and I will give you all an update.

If you want the system and want the best price, I suggest you call the general manager and see what he can do for you. I guess two can play at this change the price game.
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