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 15)
on Sep 09, 2004
The Owens Corning Basement System is by far the best product on the market today, and it is by no means in any competiton with drywall or wood paneling. That would be like comparing a 4 cylinder car to a Ferrari. The OC system is priced where it is because of all of its advanced properties and customer benefits. There is no reason to ever be critical of a product simply because of its price. If a new big screen monitor, or wool blend suit is too costly for your budget, so be it. You don't need to go to the store manager or company and complain. Simply decide it is not for you. In this world, you get what you pay for. And if a high-quality product and peace of mind is the way you make your purchases, the OC Basement System is definitely the right choice.
on Sep 21, 2004
When you talk about square footage, are you talking the square footage of the wall area or the floor space of the basement?
on Sep 22, 2004
Thank you one and all for your very helpful comments. We just had the Toledo, Ohio area OC Basement System sales guys out for the estimate and pitch. I ditto all of the negative experiences related previously related!!!!!!!!!! So, just on principle I will not buy from the "Basement Experts" franchise. We have Champion company in the area too, so I'm off to see their offerings next. Thanks again.
on Sep 22, 2004
Gee Bill S., you should like a shill for the OC basement systems sales guys. A bit unethical, pushy, manipulative.
on Sep 22, 2004
Gee Bill S., you sound like a shill for the OC basement systems sales guys. A bit unethical, pushy, manipulative.
Cheers
on Sep 22, 2004
Help! I'm wondering if we did the right thing. It's not too late to back out, but I don't know how to convert the pricing. We're only having two walls done, totalling 30 linear feet. So, it doesn't really make sense to call it a 17 x 13 space. The price - after the State Fair discount (12%) and the "commit today" discount (8%) and a discount on their ridiculous "one price for pulling permits regardless of the size of the job" we're talking $6128 for the job. This is just the walls with wiring, jacks, etc., but no ceiling (it's already finished). I'm writing this at 9 pm CDT on Wednesday. If anyone can tell me how to calculate that for price per square foot I'd be most appreciative. If I figure that a 13 x 17 room would be, I think, 221 square feet and $6000/221 = about $27/sq ft then we're doing okay. ADVICE?
on Sep 23, 2004
That price is ok you might be able to get them to knock off 1000.00 to 1200.00 and they would still be ok. Good Luck.
on Sep 28, 2004
I had the sales guy out and he measured, gave the sales pitch and quoted me a price of $32K. I think the area is around 700 square feet. Way too high I thought. My sister did a larger basement with drywall for $12K and it looks great. I am willing to pay more, but not almost three times as much. My logic is that if by chance my basement does flood I could replace all the drywall and still be way cheaper. Or have my house tested occasionally for toxic mold, still way cheaper.

My complaints regarding the salesman. He would not break the price down and he would not give me a price for just the walls without the ceiling and electrical, etc... He said he would get back to me with some more pricing information, but I have not received a call yet. It's been two months now. The rep was in Naperville, Illinois.
on Sep 29, 2004
Spoken like a true idiot. If that is the case , asbestos is way cheaper than drywall, then when the Dr. says you are sick, think of all the extra $ you will have for medical bills!! There is a reason that the EPA, and the CDC and the Dept. of Energy, Office of Building tech. says you cannot and should not put drywall in a basement, of course it is cheaper you idiot, anything that will devalue your house and guarranteed to cause your family ill health shiuld be cheaper, as a matter of fact they should pay you. I love how you people try to justify saving money at the risk of your family.
on Sep 29, 2004
I echo the comments of many above. We like the system and would like to use it, but I am concerned that we are being charged too much. We actually signed a contract last night that equals about $45/sq. foot. I'm now having second thoughts after reading these posts. I called the sales rep today and he insists that it is a fair price because we're going to have 6 doors, we need to have an electrical subpanel installed, and the layout of our basement is such that some panels need to be installed as interior walls (as opposed to being on the outside walls) thereby actually increasing our price per square foot. I'm looking for some advice from those on this board about the validity of his points. Does this sound reasonable or are we being gouged?

Thanks.
on Sep 29, 2004
To Tom T: Are you calling me an idiot? What did I do to you? You seem to take any comments about the Owens system a little to personal.
on Sep 30, 2004
Just experienced the 4 1/2 hr pitch last night. Same tactics I've read on this forum about the Toledo guys, but I think I got some value out of the experience.
a) Salesman gave us good ideas on basement layouts we hadn't considered
He chalked the floor to show the possible layout options so now I have quick way to show same layout to other contractors
c) unusual from what I see here, he left us with a written quote. This might come in handy when I contact the Saginaw franchise if they are allowed to do work in this area

Jennifer,
For our area of Michigan (Grand Blanc), he quickly worked his quote down to $26/sq. ft for " tonight only". That included 20 recessed can lights, electrical (except the electrical panel because 2 open breakers slots are available), 4 6-panel doors (30 and 36inch), and 3 4ft by-fold doors for a 1300 sqft basement. Also much of the wall system included interior walls but using the 1 inch wide model vs. the thicker one for perimeter walls.
As typical on this forum the "discounts" included the "no expiration" 15% coupon that turns out to be only good for the initial visit, signing up for the flex install schedule, and so forth.

I'd recommend taking the advice I've seen here. See if they are willing to install the wall system only. Find other contractors for electrical, flooring, ceiling and/or DIY on the things if you feel comfortable doing. I'm going to check into the Erie system also because it sounds like you get many more color choices.





on Oct 01, 2004
I live in the Severn, MD area and plan to schedule a free estimate visit from the local installer; Taylor Made Construction. I think the company is located in Edgewater, MD. Has anyone on this forum had experience with this company? What was your cost per sqft?
on Oct 02, 2004
I am a small contractor in the MD area. I've been in the remodeling industry for 24 years. In that time I have finished many basements. I have never and I repeat never had a call back or heard of any health related problem due to one of (MY) finished basements. Thats not to say there have not been some mold related illness on some other contractors job. The only place I have occasionaly ever noticed mold or mildow is on the back of the green board during a bath remodel. I replace that with Durock or also called cement board, it's moisture proof not resistant as is green board. Oh and in the homes that I remodeled baths in, no one was sick. Hum. Well may be there is something to this mold issue, or maybe not. Maybe it's just an allergy reaction, like to cats or dogs. I'm not sick and I did see it those few times, I might even have touched it. OH no!!!

I myself prefer the conventonal framing and drywall with painted white ceilings and white trim, with nice color on the walls. In my opinion it's much more solid and it just blends better with the rest of the house. And you don't feel like your in a giant cubicle at work in your own home. I know that the franchers who have written on this page might call me idiot, or say your work will mold in a month. But the fact is if your basement is so wet or prone to high moisture, that problem needs to be addressed before ANY walls go up, no matter what there made of.

I have been considering doing basements exclusively, thats how I ended up on this page. To tell you the truth I like the inside work. I also think that a nicely finished basement can be a wonderful retreat for the adults to relax and or a great safe place for the kids to play. Plus the potential added organized storage, bathroom, bedroom or whatever else you can dream up. It's a great way of double or triple the size of your home. And campared to the cost of additions per sq. ft. you can't beat it. I charge 25 to 30 a sq.ft. for a basic basement. But trust me it's much more then basic. Of course the cost go up depending on the finishes and accessories. But my estimate price is set in stone. That price is the final price, unless the customer request a change order.

So as far as this mold thing is concerned I not sure that playing on people's fears is the most honest sales strategy, but as the years go by and my healthy customers call me back for repeat work and I go to the bank to deposit my payments I'll know I earned it thru honesty and a hard days work. I will say that I'm sure that the O.C. system is a fine system, ist's just not for me.

If any one lives in MD and would like to speak to a professional contractor or if any one else has a question you think I might be able to answer send me an email at

deverconstruction@yahoo.com
on Oct 02, 2004
I am a small contractor in the MD area. I've been in the remodeling industry for 24 years. In that time I have finished many basements. I have never and I repeat never had a call back or heard of any health related problem due to one of (MY) finished basements. Thats not to say there have not been some mold related illness on some other contractors job. The only place I have occasionaly ever noticed mold or mildow is on the back of the green board during a bath remodel. I replace that with Durock or also called cement board, it's moisture proof not resistant as is green board. Oh and in the homes that I remodeled baths in, no one was sick. Hum. Well may be there is something to this mold issue, or maybe not. Maybe it's just an allergy reaction, like to cats or dogs. I'm not sick and I did see it those few times, I might even have touched it. OH no!!!

I myself prefer the conventonal framing and drywall with painted white ceilings and white trim, with nice color on the walls. In my opinion it's much more solid and it just blends better with the rest of the house. And you don't feel like your in a giant cubicle at work in your own home. I know that the franchers who have written on this page might call me idiot, or say your work will mold in a month. But the fact is if your basement is so wet or prone to high moisture, that problem needs to be addressed before ANY walls go up, no matter what there made of.

I have been considering doing basements exclusively, thats how I ended up on this page. To tell you the truth I like the inside work. I also think that a nicely finished basement can be a wonderful retreat for the adults to relax and or a great safe place for the kids to play. Plus the potential added organized storage, bathroom, bedroom or whatever else you can dream up. It's a great way of double or triple the size of your home. And campared to the cost of additions per sq. ft. you can't beat it. I charge 25 to 30 a sq.ft. for a basic basement. But trust me it's much more then basic. Of course the cost go up depending on the finishes and accessories. But my estimate price is set in stone. That price is the final price, unless the customer request a change order.

So as far as this mold thing is concerned I not sure that playing on people's fears is the most honest sales strategy, but as the years go by and my healthy customers call me back for repeat work and I go to the bank to deposit my payments I'll know I earned it thru honesty and a hard days work. I will say that I'm sure that the O.C. system is a fine system, ist's just not for me.

If any one lives in MD and would like to speak to a professional contractor or if any one else has a question you think I might be able to answer enter a reply