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 11)
on Aug 03, 2004
To Brian: The panel can be sold for 110.00 minumun. The panel costs the franchise moe than 85.00! It also should include all the electrical work in that figure. You are paying for warrantys, years of tech, and the product itself. You cannot campare it to drywall nor the labor involved. You should have taken the price the salesman gave to you in the first place instead of trying to get a bigger better deal. When face with an exclusive product you get what you pay for. You do not want to pay for it, that is fine...you don't get it. What your belief is does not matter, that is the reality of the situation. The salesman misquoted you if you had taken it the compant would have had to honor it and eat the difference. Instead the manager figured the real numbers and how low he could go and that is what you got. Sometimes the early bird gets the worm. Next time if you want something and you like it and can afford it...BUY IT.
on Aug 05, 2004
Just wanted to reply to this comment
"One other thing about the walls that I have initially noticed as well is that they are not as forgiving if you apply any pressure to them or possibly bump things into them. Now obviously one is not going to go around punching your wall but what I did was applied a little thumb pressure to an obscure part in the wall and basically the insulation behind the fabric material caves in so when you pass your fingers over the spot you can feel the indentation in the wall."

We have had this sytem for a while now. Our room is a rec room, not for kids (we don't have them) but for us. Complete with bar, pool table, darts, and so on. We've had some parties.
I find the walls to be extremely durable. I can't even count how many pool sticks jammed into the wall and not a dent in them, and you can imagine how hard that could be. Darts, so on. The room looks awesome, we get so many compliments on it. I couldn't be happier with it. Also have to comment on the clean up on the walls. Any marks that have gotton on the walls cleans up like a dream. I use the magic erasers.
As far as Owens Corning not being responsive, we had a few problems with the room. The contracter (ass) who did it was blowing us off to fix the stuff. I called OC in the evening, about 6, the very next morning the contracter called us (teary eyed because his job was threatened) and he was right over to fix everything. So I can't say much for the contracter, but OC took care of business real quick.
on Aug 05, 2004
I hap a rep out to my house for an estimate. If you want to see how the experience will be watch the movie Tin Men starring Danny Divito, Funny movie and it seems Owens Corning is bringing the Tin Men out of retirement.
on Aug 05, 2004
To everyone in the Detroit Area:

Thru some work contacts at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills, MI I heard that the local franchise here is going to have a showroom at the mall. If its true, then I can't wait to see the system. My wife and I had a salesperson out in June and he employed all of the "Tin Men" tactics people in this forum have been warning us about....we didn't buy, but, do love the product.
on Aug 06, 2004
In response to your Tin man comments. These guys are still trying to feed their family! A business man knows that if you buy the first time out it saves them $, plus they can see other customers instead of seeing people 2 and 3 times! If you love the product and can afford it why didn't you buy? Do not blame the tactics of so called salesman on your ability or lack thereof to be able to afford the product! Owens Corning does not "bring out the Tin Men" it is the franchisee. But really, when you get down to it, isn't about you getting the best deal you possibly can? How they get down to a price that is affordable to you is moot. Know this, that when a salesman drops price he also drops his commission!!! Less money to feed his family! Don't care! You should, he cares enough to work on getting you the best deal pssoble, NOW.
on Aug 11, 2004
I appreciate the comments people have made on this site. I read them with interest (and a grain of salt), and decided to go ahead and schedule an OC salesperson to come to our home. And yes, they asked to make sure that my wife would be there.

The salesman, I'll call him Rob, showed up about 15 minutes late, which upset me, particularly given the stories on this site of 3 to 4 hour visits. Upstairs, I told Rob that I wasn't willing to pay over $35 per square foot, and that, if he couldn't meet or beat that number, the appointment was over. He laughed a little and said that he couldn't come up with a per sq. foot price until he saw the basement and what we had in mind. In retrospect, he had a fair point - for all he knew, we wanted to put walls all over the place.

So we went down to the basement, and things got weird. He started into his mold hard-sell, which I interupted by explaining that mold was not a concern of ours, and was not the reason we were interested in the OC system. He responded with this bon mot: "You know, Darold, it's cheapskates like you who waste my time that make sales so hard. You can get f*cked. Toxic mold can eat your a*s, for all I care." Then, I kid you not, he actually dropped his pants and deposited a steamer on my basement floor! I was just too stunned to do much of anything; I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Me, my wife, and Rob just stood there looking at his dump. Eventually, I snapped out of it, grabbed a 7-iron out of my golf bag, and cracked Rob in the left kneecap. He hit the floor, and I stood over him with the club raised, exclaiming "come on, freak, EAT IT! Eat your own dookie!" and gestured to the crap on the floor. Well, Rob must have felt threatened because, sure enough, he ate it, but he didn't look happy, and he never provided me with a quote. For all I know, the OC system is wonderful, but because of sh!t-eating salesmen like Rob, I'll never know . . .
on Aug 11, 2004
Thank You Darold!!....... After sitting at my computer reading every single comment and learning more than I would ever want to know about a basement system, your post really broke up the monotony and made me laugh my head off. (shit-eating salesmen??) That was too funny:)
on Aug 12, 2004
To Darold: What a great story, I really laughed. You really put things in perspective about what to believe on this sight. I need to have OC out for myself and see. Great job. Thanks
on Aug 13, 2004
Interesting site. I just had the local OC rep come into my house tonight and he stayed for 2 hours giving the exact same pitch mentioned in every post here. He wasn't too high pressure, and didn't make any calls, but it was something I've seen before. Can you say MLM or Kirby vacuum?

He quoted a price of $19,347 for 400 sq ft rectangle room, 8 recessed lights, 4 phone/data/video cables, ceiling bulkhead boxed, 2 doors and 12 electrical outlets. The price for "today" was $14,800. Of course I didn't sign anything today, but I told him if I did decide, it would be for the $14,800. I would never pay $19,347. That being said, I know nothing about construction and it was pretty obvious to this guy, so I'm sure its a higher price than what a contractor would charge. I need to get quotes on that.

Now considering the light fixtures, 2 doors and everything else I mentioned, is that a fair price? It seems high to me. I really like the idea of it, despite the sales pitch, with the big negative basically not being able to add anything like shelves. Those are the cons. But I mostly want a home theater room, so the material is a big plus. Now... how do I hang the surround speakers???

-Robert
on Aug 13, 2004
Thanks Darold, I read your post and laughed so hard I woke my 18 month old daughter up. My wife had the baby monitor on and now she woke up(by the way it midnight here). I guess if I spent 30k on some panels my home would be quiter. Well I better go get my daughter before my wife gets out of bed and sees me reading posts about guys eating turds.
on Aug 14, 2004
Reply to Robert. Do not hold your breath on getting theat 14000.00 price. They are offered on the first night for a reason!!! It is to business NOW. Think they need your money? The Owens Corning basement dicision should hit 300 to 400 million dollars in installed business this year. The franchise will stick to there guns. You lose.
on Aug 14, 2004
Tom: It sounds like from previous posts that you work for one of the installers. How do you know the minimum pricing and sales tactics? In any case, it's their loss. If I can't get $14K for my basement, I can get it under $10K easily for drywall. I'm not paying $19K. They gotta be crazy. I redid my kitchen for $6000, including new flooring, counter tops, etc.

To everyone else: That being said, it still intrigues me, but I don't find the system a necessity like the sales people lead you to believe. However, I'd love to see pictures of some OCBS finished basements from people on this board. If you have it, how do you like it? Any regrets? Can you post pic links?

-Robert
on Aug 15, 2004
To robert. Knock yourself out with drywall. As long as it is guaranteed against , moisture, mold and has a class 1 fire rating go for it. If it does not...it should be way cheaper. Not Everyone understands the why you can't put drywall or wood in your basement. But.. I am sure you know better than than all the science out there.
on Aug 16, 2004
DAROLD-YOUR A FUNNY GUY!!!!!!
on Aug 16, 2004
DAROLD-YOUR A FUNNY GUY!!!!!!
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