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 12)
on Aug 17, 2004
You are right about drywall. I had Owens out last year, way too much money. I had a contractor put in drywall. For 1/4 of the cost! Now 11 months later I have mold and a bill for 60000.00+ for mold reemoval and abatement. My insurance company tells me it is not covered because drywall and wood should not be in a basement. They cause mold! No Kidding.
on Aug 17, 2004
Amen to drywall problems. My husband and I had Owens Corning out and my husband told the salesman he was full of it. We had a contractor out and asked him about mold and he said not to worry! 4 months later our sump pump went out and we had a little water. 3 months later we had a smell of musty. 1year after we had our basement done, we are now having it taken out. total cost 45000.00 that includes the mold abatement! Insurance does not pay for it, we had to take and borrow and dip into our childerns college fund. I am sorry we didn't listen. Problem is when we are done we will have paid more than it would of cost if we would have done Owens corning. Now we cannot afford anything.
on Aug 17, 2004
I live in rochester NY. Had a Owens corning guy out (Name is Kevin) what a know it all. He showed me articles from the EPA and CDC and the Dept. of Energy on mold and what you should not put in your basement. I told hime I grew up in a basement that was finished with drywall and that he was full of crap. His price outragous. I put drywall in. What a mistake. Everything he said would happen did. I am sorry I did not listen to him. (so is my wife and kids) I mistook his knowlege for arrogance. When I gave him crap he did not budge. He stood by the facts. He told me I was making a mistake but now that I had the information about mold and wood and drywall, if I still made the mistake then I would have noone to blame but me!! My insurance company laughed when I asked them to pay the claim.
on Aug 17, 2004
I had dry wall put in. I used greenboard because I was worried about water problems. Its been 4 years and I never had a problem. OC seems to make a good product but for what you will pay you could redue your drains, have your yard graded, water proof your basement, put in the top of the line dehumidifier and drywall for the same price or maybe less. My basement is fine and Ive been in plenty of very nice finished drywall basement that are several years old. As far as toxic mold goes in basements its very rare. I have no reason to doubt anyone on this board but the chances of getting toxic mold in your basement are similar to getting stuck by lightning. When I finished my basement I contacted my insurence agent to see if mold was covered just in case. He said it was not but I could add a rider. He told me the odds of getting toxic mold(cant remember numbers now) was very very rare and I souldnt worry or buy a rider but I could if i wished to. The number of claims for toxic mold per year per dwelling was too low to justify me buying a rider. Like I said it sound like OC makes a good product but you will pay a lot for it and I dont care for the panel look. To me it looks like a park model trailer.
on Aug 17, 2004
Also I wrote my above reply because I found it odd 3 people all replied with mold in drywall problems all on the same day? After they all contacted owens proir to this? wierd odds I guess.
on Aug 17, 2004
Also I wrote my above reply because I found it odd 3 people all replied with mold in drywall problems all on the same day? After they all contacted owens proir to this? wierd odds I guess.
on Aug 18, 2004
Mold is so low and not a big deal! It will top the 2 billion dollar mark this year. It is not covered because of the cost. Insurance companys got burned with asbestos, they are not going to get burned with mold. I am sure that the people who wrote in did not get mold on the same day!! funny how when postitive things come on this web site that do not agree with certain opinions...The Owens product was developed on and because of science, nothing else. Your facts are not facts. The number of mold case are going higher and higher each year. The EPA considers it the next asbestos. Starting next year mandatory mold testing will be done on all home sales!!! Not a problem. I know, the they hide those facts in newspapers and books and the internet. It is Nice that you got infrormation to back up your buying "greenboard". But many homeowners will buy based on facts and science not hearsay.
on Aug 18, 2004
Come on you know I didnt mean they all discovered mold on the same day. I found it odd they all replied with the same problem on the same day after this topic has been open for almost 1 year and nobody cried mold until 3 people did in 1 day.
on Aug 18, 2004
And here is a little research for you. Im sure you could do a google search and find other research that refutes this so you believe who you want and ill believe who I want. I know mold can be a problem I also know if I go to the doctor for minor surgery he/she could kill me. Thats life there are no gaurantees. Well malpractice insurence will double this year for doctor so going to your doctor must be more dangerouse now than ever? How many people do you know that have toxic mold? I know 0. Now how many people do you know whos been killed in a accident? Off the top of my head I can name 3 people I knew personally that have died in car accidents. These are odds I deal with not rising cost odds fuel by lawyers and insurence. Oh well heres 1 article I found

The Real Story on Mold and Workplace Hazards
Posted byjohn on Tuesday, April 29 @ 00:00:00 CDT
Contributed by john

What do we know about mold that leads investigators to recommend abandoning or burning buildings and even abandoning all possessions when certain fungal species are found? What credible new information do we have that requires full protective suits for mold remediation? The surprising answer is nothing.

It is no surprise that mold is currently the primary indoor air quality issue.
Some researchers attribute brain damage, memory loss, toxic encephalopathy, cancer, immuno-suppression, pulmonary hemosiderosis, and infant deaths to toxic mold exposures through indoor air. In addition to researchers’ findings, lawyers have taken notice of the hazards and outcomes of toxic mold exposures, creating a growing industry.

An Internet search of lawyers who handle toxic mold cases produced almost 16,000 hits, demonstrating the growth in this area. Recent cases include a $12 billion dollar class action suit in New York City and a $32 million dollar jury verdict awarded to a single family in Texas. However, no credible evidence justifies the current drastic tactics taken to remediate mold from buildings.

It should be clarified that exposure to mold can cause adverse effects, with the most likely outcome being allergy reactions in sensitized individuals. Other known outcomes are infections, with fungal infections from indoor molds being rare in otherwise healthy individuals. Also, it is believed that fungi are one of many triggers that can initiate asthma attacks in susceptible asthmatics. Note that none of these adverse outcomes require a toxic hypothesis. Therefore, the following criticisms are limited to the alleged outcomes of inhalation of fungal toxins in indoor air.

How Mold Became Gold

How then did the “mold is gold” frenzy get started? In the mid-1980s, researchers alleged that toxic mold caused a myriad of symptoms in a family home in Chicago. The symptoms reported in a case study were not the traditionally accepted outcomes to fungal exposure. The authors assumed that headaches, backaches, alopecia (hair loss), and other reported complaints linked to fungal toxins were plausible in part because of the known mycotoxicosis in agriculture of animals ingesting mold-contaminated feeds.

It is well established that ingesting toxins in mold contaminated food can result in serious illness; however, it is a huge leap to assume that exposure to fungal spores of the same species indoors will also result in an adverse outcome. Nevertheless, with the exception of a few believers, this case study was not well accepted at the time, and toxic fungi remained on the back shelf until the early to mid-1990s.

Investigators of an outbreak in Cleveland reported pulmonary hemorrhage linked to the same toxigenic fungus. This investigation included personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thus giving it credibility. The fact that one child in the outbreak died and some of the others were seriously sick, made the outbreak an important and newsworthy event.

Finally, there was proof vindicating those already convinced. The few believers in toxic fungi now had instant credibility. Seminars on the topic flourished. A few other researchers published small studies on toxic fungi and the list of adverse effects from toxic fungal exposure in indoor air now grows to include immunosuppression, fatigue and memory loss.

One physician even alleges toxic encephalopathy. Committees of various organizations developed remediation criteria as they grew the number of types of toxic fungi considered hazardous from Stachybotrys to include other genera and species. The 1996 AIHA Field Guide published that the mere presence of Stachybotrys atra, Fusarium moniliforme, Aspergillus versicolor, and others require “urgent risk management decisions.”

In 1998, the Cleveland study was finally published in the peer-reviewed literature implicating Stachybotrys, a fungus now rapidly approaching household name recognition status. Results of the study reported an odds ratio of 9.8 per 10 colony forming units, which is a strong association with exposure to this fungus.

As the symptoms attributed to toxic mold grew, as well as the toxic mold types, so did the toxic mold business. Plaintiff lawyers have since appeared on the scene, some specializing entirely in toxic mold litigation. New mold testing laboratories now pop-up around the country, all trying to provide the latest toxic mold analyses. Currently, indoor air quality conferences are heavily weighted toward toxic mold sessions.

Big Business vs. Good Science

Big business does not necessarily mean good science. The CDC ultimately refuted the association reported from the Cleveland study in March of 2000. The flaws uncovered by a two-year CDC internal investigation and external review were staggering.

The reported 9.8 odds ratio was found to be substantially elevated due to a number of flaws including miscalculated Stachybotrys levels, and the use of an imputed value. The reported blinding of the investigators in the study was also not correct, resulting in approximately twice the number of samples collected from case homes compared to control homes.

Other important details not reported in the study were that no Stachybotrys was isolated from the home of the infant that died in the outbreak. Adjusting for the quantifiable errors, the odds ratio dropped from 9.8 to 1.5 per 10 colony forming units. Non-quantifiable errors, such as non-blinding of investigators and the treating of case and control homes differently, further reduces the meaning of the 1.5 odds ratio. Furthermore, a similar outbreak in Chicago that occurred around the same time yielded Stachybotrys in only the control homes. With the hallmark study refuted, the only significant study connecting indoor hazards to toxic fungi essentially vanished.

This leaves us with a few case reports and ecological studies that are all too small and limited to rely on. The remaining studies that allege toxic outcomes suffer from serious shortcomings, including lack of a rigorous case definition, a moving target for exposure ascertainment, and small numbers ranging from only one to a few buildings.

To show a causal association with toxins, a study must include the following basic criteria:

• Identification of the disease studied. Study bias is introduced when the disease outcome is not pre-defined and remains a moving target based on occupant complaints from building to building.

• Definition of the toxic exposure. Again, unavoidable bias is introduced in a study when the measure of toxic fungi is a moving target. For example, if Stachybotrys is not present, researchers then look for Aspergillus, then Penicillium, Trichoderma, or Fusarium. It is virtually impossible to find any building without occupant complaints and these or other fungi.

• Definition of the does and its presence. Establish the dose required to cause the defined illness and determine that the dose was present in the building.

These are some of the basic criteria used to establish causation. Currently, these criteria and others have not been met. Unfortunately, today’s science more closely resembles investigator zeal and self-fulfilling prophecy than objective methodology.

In the majority of cases, mold issues can be handled in a much more responsible and cost effective manner than abandoning homes and evacuating schools and businesses. The unnecessary cost of overreaction to mold cases in this country probably measures in the billions.

Conclusion

The CDC internal review process of the Cleveland study is one of the most significant and well-documented scientific repudiations of recent times. The CDC now recommends treating Stachybotrys like any other ordinary common mold. Without any convincing and credible evidence supporting an indoor toxic hazard, the safety industry should revisit the potential hazards of mold, going back to basics, including defining toxic molds in terms of species and toxins and in the context of indoor air. If claims are made regarding the hazards of mold, we should request proof from credible peer-reviewed studies; at this time, they do not exist.

When investigating indoor air quality complaints, the growing trend to specifically assess “toxigenic” types and toxin levels provides little beneficial information and only serves to limit the investigation. If mold is a potential concern of an investigation, consider all potential water sources and all potential sources of fungal exposure – “toxicity” has not been shown to be relevant.

(Source: Brian G. Shelton, Compliance Magazine -

on Aug 19, 2004
Interesting, sounds like you work for a rival company of Owens Corning.
The Dept. of Energy Office of building tech. year 2000. did a full study on how to properly insulate a basement and refinish it. Would and drywall are taboo. Science will not and cannot refute that When you have moisture, and warmth when you add food (cellulose) Wood. paper, Drywall(It is not the dry wall it is the paper, the drywall just keeps the moisture in an absorbs it. You get mold. True not all mold is toxic. But when those things come together in a basement you have a lab experiment. You might feel fine fine and have all the support you want, but most people will not play russian roulette with thier family aour house value. That is why mold testing is becoming mandatory before you sell a house and if you have mold your house becomes worthless. Mold not a problem!!! tell that to the thousands(realestate magazine 2001) that cannot sell thier homes because they are wothless. Look for articles in Dallas, Florida, New England, Ohio, Washington. Not a problem..
on Aug 19, 2004
I sound like I work for a rival? OK you busted me im the owner/inventer of wood and green board. Yes I do play russian roulette with my family everyday. I let them ride in cars, eat red meat, go to there friends house, play sports,ect... all carry higher injury/fatality rates then putting wood and drywall in my basement. Do you live in an OC bubble? Whats the rest of your house built of? My point is mold can happen but toxic mold is rare. There are greater odds in other dangers you and your family partake in everyday. I didnt spend 30k too mold proof my basement so that means im playing russian roulette? give me a break.
on Aug 20, 2004
Don't live in a bubble. Rest of my home is wood. It is designed for this environment. Wood and drywall are not made nor can they exist in a basement. Wrong environment. Houses are so much more energy efficent that breathability becomes the issue. Wood or drywall does not let that happen, nor green board or blueboard. Again, science says when you have moisture, warmth, and cellulose. You get mold. Not a chance of getting it, you get it. This is not OC propaganda it is scientific fact. Toxic mold is becoming a huge problem. There will always be dangers in life as you so eloquently put it, but at least this one you can avoid, obviously by your own words you choose money over reality and choose to believe what you want to to justify not spending the money to get the job done right. Money over safety and love of family!!! You are not alone and are certainly not the type of customer that OC would want...One that chooses to believe what they want to believe and ignore the rest. There is not enough science in the world for someone like you. An educated person can change his or her mind my getting new facts. I am sorry for you. No,not you, you choose your position. your family does not have a choice but to live by and suffer from your ignorant mistakes. Good for you and your "family"
on Aug 20, 2004
Amen to drywall problems, HAHA give me a break. Your right I dont love my family and now they will all suffer. HMMM I guessing you work for OC. Seem like you have the scare tactic pitch down. You can avoid 95% of all dangers in life. Take your family to your OC basement and only leave for supplies. You make me laugh with your get OC in your basement or you will kill your family pitch. You really think OC cares if im their type of customer? Im sure anyone that would pay their named price would be their kind of customer. First you accuse me of working for a rival company now you state I not the type of customer OC would want. Why because I can read and think for myself. You think everyone on this board is bashing OC because they work for a rival? No its because OC is overpriced and uses very poor sales tactics. Im sorry if I hurt your feelings stating my thoughts, I had no idea you worked for OC and posted the last three mold/drywall posts using different names.
on Aug 20, 2004
Again, your bitterness and anger give you away. I did not post those messages. They are not scare tactics..just facts. I am sure you can read somewhat, and I am quite positive you can think. But not on a high level. Good luck on your basement. I sure OC will suffer greatly because of "educated " people such as yourself.
on Aug 21, 2004
No OC will be just fine. There are enough people who will over pay to have the product. I spoke my peace and just have 1 last question. Do you work/worked for OC?