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

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 14)
on Aug 28, 2004
Live in Maryland...had the salesman out last night. Very plesant but..the final quote which included a bathroom, electrical, carpeting etc. with all the rebates was almost $100 a sqare foot. No budging on the price!! Almost 40 thousand for a 405 sq.ft job is insane. Too bad, really like the system.
on Aug 29, 2004
To Mar: Don't know what prices are out there , but 90 to 100 for elect, bath( more expensive because it is in a basement isn't bad. Options. Asked if they will do the walls and electric and ceiling, for 50.00 a sq. Hire some one else for the rest.
on Aug 29, 2004
"Any product that is not covered against mold, water or a Class 1 fire rating should be less expensive"

The OC system is not guaranteed against those either. What are you talking about?

on Aug 29, 2004
Nice, that you can use God as a crutch to not make a decision.

Funny how you think that any decision made won't be made by God. He made the decision to allow you to post and he made the decision to put air in your lungs this morning. Don't take it for granted...less the air in your lungs may be taken away.

And another thing...all this stuff about..."the guys got to feed his family." It's such a load of crap. I sold cars for 3 years and if I ever used that line I'd be fired before I could finish this sentence. Not to mention the fact that it is just a cheap way to justify poor sales technique. If something is a good product and the salesperson represents a good installation company, then the sales will work. You typically cannot "Scare" someone into spending 20k+ on anything. And, at the same time, as a salesperson, your just asking for problems.

I've been watching this blog for nearly 6 months now. The OC stuff is being installed in my basement tomorrow. As someone who deals with the general public in various types of customer service...some of the things I've read really do scare me. Yes, we have had some difficulties getting to an agreement and getting to a point for the install. Yes, a call was made to OC central. But the bottom line is that I'm dealing with a sales person that is doing his job...Customer Service. No one wants to be sold, but people typically respond well to be taken care of when making any type of purchase. My belief is that the OC stuff has some real merits, but it's biggest fault is the sales process. The product appears to be good stuff, the installers seem to be fairly sensible, and now that I'm dealing with someone who cares enough to return my phone calls and answer my questions, we SHOULD be all set. I'll let you know how it goes. Our basement is nearly 1500 sq. feet. We got a decent rate, I hope the rest is smooth from here.
on Aug 30, 2004
To robert: It is read the warranty. Will not support or grow mold, panels can get soaking wet, take them out, dry them put them back in. It is the only class one fire rated product for basements on the market today. Stain resistant
on Aug 30, 2004
You blame the salesperson, but the truth of the matter is that the sales person is trained by the company. We cannot vary from what we say or do or how we represent the product. When you complain about a salesman, he might get fired or a good talking down to but they will just hire and train someone else the same way. So you " hate the player-not the game" when all of your petty complaining just helps a guy "not feed his family" if you do not like the process don't piss and moan about the salesman, he is just following orders, piss and moan about the sales process. Some of you people want a pound of flesh when you do not get your way. Like the salesman had a personal vendetta agianst you. Grow up, you can't afford it! Cool, do not buy it
on Aug 30, 2004
Bill question to you is this...Is it the local franchise training them in that way or is it OC Central? Anyone with half a brain, that knows anything about proper selling technique knows that these tactics won't work. They will only cause the problems that you see in this thread. And you seem to have forgotten to look at things from your customers point of view. Another major mistake. From your customers point of view, they were abused by a salesperson, not by a company. It was the salesperson that pushed too hard or pulled the silly games. The customer only sees the salesperson, not the "company training" style. If the sales person is worth his weight, it won't take long to realize that the technique he is using only seems to upset people and frustrate them. Only a fool continues to beat his head in the wall after it starts bleeding. And by the's not a game. It's people's homes, peoples lives, peoples money. Keep refering to it as a game and see how long you last. Keep that "Me against You" attitude and you'll go nowhere in life and bitterness will eat you alive.

And another thing...only a fool would believe that people only complain when they cannot afford it. I can afford it and I have purchased it, but I still complained because the salesperson didn't treat me right and didn't do what he said he would do. When it got cleared up, I spent more money because I wanted more done. And was happy to because I was being taken care of by a salesperson that has good customer service skills. Or maybe I should say...good listening skills.

There is no excuse for treating people poorly, regardless of how they are trained. There are few things that aggrevate me more than when someone acts like a jerk and then blames it on someone else. The bottom line...YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS! This was something I learned in 2nd grade!
on Aug 30, 2004
Nice try. But these techniques have and will be around forever. A true salesman or a closer will always close on the first night. Anything else and you are an order taker. If someone says the like the product and the only reason they would not buy is affordibility, then of course the order should try to be written. The only pressure is from the customer because they want it and want the savings but can not pull the trigger that night. The only thing that changes if the salesman comes back is someone must be bumped out of the schedule. If we saw everyone twice it would be impossible to make a decent wage. Time management being key. It is a game, and the good ones win by not only closing the first night but buy giving people what they want. It truly is a fine and sometimes lost art. P.S. You really sound bitter, lighten up
on Aug 30, 2004
Amen Bill, The O.C. francise will write over 200 million this year. They are doing something write. In home closers are some of the highest paid people in the world. You fail 6 out of ten times, but a six-figure income is standard (all-commission) You bet your ass they are cocky and have a little bit of ego. If they do not sell...they do not eat. It is either feast or famine. the goods ones do not get many complaints. But you should get some or you are not pushing hard enough! The problem comes from the amatures who equate one night closing with hard sell tactics. That is not what it is about. Not everyone one can do it. Next time ask your salesman how long he has been doing this, if it is more thatn 3 years or so he probaly is successful because he is a good listener and a good one night closer. Look at the way he is dressed, shoes shines? Nails clean? Close pressed? What kind of car does he drive? Is it clean? How can you trust you hard earned money(in the OC case twenty or thirty thousand) with someone who looks like they do not make over 25000.00 a year? Think next time, it is not only what you buy but who you buy it from..
on Aug 31, 2004
Interesting Blog, I happened upon it after entering a radio contest here in Detroit for a free OC Basement Finishing System. Seems like a pretty neat product and if I don't win, I think I might have it priced out for my house anyway. The most suprising thing I find by reading these posts is the unhappiness with the people who sell it. As a career sales professional -everything from popcorn to stamping presses- I've always found it shocking that people are amazed when a salesperson finishes a presentation and then asks for an order because asking for an order is the only logical way to end a sales presentation where all the possible information has been presented to the customer.
Please don't confuse a sales person asking for the order with someone putting a pen in your hand and standing over you to sign a contract. That's not sales, that's bullying. However, reducing prices or changing time frames seems perfectly logical to induce a signed contract. I find it interesting that the gentleman who sells cars says he would be fired for asking for an order while the customer was in front of him that day. With all the cars I've bought over my lifetime, I've never gone back to a specific dealer because the salesperson there didn't ask me to buy. In fact, I usually take the price and ask the next dealer to beat it...then buy the car there.
I guess it just comes down to trust, I've never bought anything from someone I don't trust, so I try to act in a manner that woudl make my customers trust me. I apologize for the ranting, and I'm not sure this is the place for it, but sometimes I feel the need to defend a job I find most noble...sales.
If I do have the OC company out to my house, I will report back on my experience.
Thanks for the time.
on Aug 31, 2004
Please forgive me if I sound bitter...I'm really not. I have a significant amount of respect for anyone who is a Professional Sales Person. Emphasis on professional. As stated is a bit of a lost art. Professional Sales is not a game. Those people who are good at it deserve a handsome reward. My gripe, frankly, is with those who are professional sales BULLIES. Those people I have NO respect for and care to distance myself from. It is those people who make the art, a mockery. It is those people who take a good product as this and destroy it by a pushy presentation. High problem...high problem...rudeness and arrogance will result in nothing but problems. It's really that simple. Jim, I don't know if you were refering to my post but just to beef is with the notion that the excuse of "I gotta eat and provide for my family" is an acceptable reason to be the rude and pushy salesperson. I completely agree that the end of a presentation should be asking for a sale. We've all heard the old addage..."There is no such thing as a be-back." But you don't tell a customer that if they don't buy tonight, you, as a salesperson, can't eat or feed your family. That's not professionalism, it's not an excuse, frankly, it's desperation and if it is a reality, then the salesperson needs to find another job.

I'm looking forward to my installation being complete in the next 30 days.
on Sep 03, 2004
I have a question. does anybody have any info on whether a basement needs to be "waterproofed" before installing the OC system?

My basement leaks a little when it rains hard.


on Sep 03, 2004
Jeff: If you're not planning to finish the area that "leaks" then technically no you don't "need" to waterproof your basement (though you probably should.)

Robert: As far as the cost comparison between sheetrock and the BFS, I explain it to clients honestly this way: Sheetrock and the supplies to complete a room with it are commodities, and anyone can access them -- reputable, competent full service remodeling contractors (such as OC) as well as the recently-laid-off-for-drinking-on-the-job-drywaller who ran off flyers at Kinko's and had his girlfriend print him business cards on the home computer. Its a wide range. The reason the home improvement industry has such a bad reputation is due to folks that reside on the "less professional" swing of the pendulum -- and the "low-bid" customers they attract that "enable" them (and who often get burned later.) There are a lot of "one-man shows" who don't know how to manage their lives let alone your basement job who will tell you they will build it for cheap money, because they don't know how to estimate a job. These are the guys -- otherwise good men -- who will be the low bidder that, once they figure out what it will really take to build the job, will ask you for an additional sum to cover the expenses and if you won't pay, they abandon it (because they can't pay their bills and honor their promise to you also.) Or they slam it together quick. When you call them on their cell phone, you can't reach them. When you complain to the Better Business Bureau, you find out they aren't members. When you sue them, you find out they're already bankrupt. You get the picture. Of course there are many fine and reputable small-time "handymen" who will do a good job, but in our market (the Northeast) carpentry talent is at a premium, so the good ones typically know what they're worth (and they will not be the low bidder.)

The upshot of all this is that if you take two reputable, professional, full service remodeling companies -- Owens Corning and XYZ Home Improvement, let's say -- who have staff who answer the phones, return your calls, appreciate your business, carry all the necessary insurances, have all the required liscences, have a bona fide place of business for you to visit them at, and the financial and managerial stability to honor their contract with you regardless of project pitfalls, what you'll find is this: Even though the local OC franchise has to warehouse and drop ship their own product to your home (unlike XYZ who simply calls the supply house to have it delivered) and has to pay a royalty to OC on the job, the OC BFS price will often be LESS than XYZ's price for sheetrocking a similarly configured basement. Unfortunately, too few people seek out the same caliber of company to sheetrock their basement as they do when vetting contractors for a kitchen remodel, for instance.

In addition to obtaining the very best basement finishing system available anywhere (a bold but true statement), the added benefit to you as a homeowner is that Owens Corning -- the corporation itself -- has already done the "vetting" for you. It is a rigourous screening process a company has to survive to be awarded the right to sell the BFS. So its not just about the cost of the materials but really the cost of doing business the right way.

(I love this product and working for this company -- can you tell?)

on Sep 03, 2004

I couldn't agree more with you on the "gotta feed my family" line. I agree that it i usually used by salespeople who have missed something along the way during a presentation and are throwing anything and everything at the wall at that point and looking for something to stick. However, the one legit place I could see it being used is in a situation where the client has completley wasted the time of the salesperson by setting up conditions that will never give the salesperson any chance at all of a sale...i.e. taking phone calls, reading, or taking part in any activity that takes the client's full attention from the salesperson. After all, if you agree to take a meeting with a salesperson, the salesperson believes you are a potential client who could put money in his pocket. My feeling is, if you already have your mind made up that you will never be sold a particualr product, why would you wast your own time taking a meeting, let alone the time of a salesperson who does feed his family by selling the very product you have decided never to buy.

on Sep 04, 2004
Cooper, I respect your opinion, but you are far off on your pricing. Simply put, the OC system is too expensive, whether I use a cheap carpenter or a seasoned professional backed by a company. I would like to take the plunge on it, but not when its literally twice (read: 100%) more expensive than what I can do elsewhere.