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 16)
on Oct 02, 2004
It is great that as a contractor you endorse something the EPA and The CDC say is bad! What would you do if a customer sued you for the mold in thier basement because of installing drywall or wood. Well, you would go bankrupt like most contractors would. It is very easy to quote your pevious work and ignore science! But you were right about one thing you would be an idiot to put anything in your basement that is high cellulose and low nitrogen. Wood, drywall etc. You can tell your customer the EPA and CDC and all the other publications that they are wrong. You will take care off them should something happen. I am sure they will sleep better at night.
on Oct 06, 2004
I recently started investigating the possibility of finishing my basement. At the time, I figured that my only options were to hang drywall or use wood to finish the walls. I am only in the phase of coming up with a floor plan, after which I planned to start pricing out various options. I initially planned to do the entire job myself, but then decided that it might be a little over the head of a "weekend handyman". I stumbled across the BFS by accident, and was immediately excited by the product. Not only would it go in easily, but if you need to, you can actually take panels off! This, to me, is a major benefit. After reading the comments here, it is pretty apparant that I cannot afford the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System. My reason for writing, though, is to ask some questions of the salespeople (BFS and otherwise) here.

First off, it has been said a few times here that you should waste the salesperson's time if you aren't ready to buy. Here's the problem I have with this: How can I know if I'm ready to buy something if I have no idea what it is going to cost me? This product cannot be bought off a shelf, and pricing information is not published; therefore, I have nothing to base my budget for this product on. The best I can do is compare it to a drywall installation, which (based on the feedback on this page) seems to be like comparing apples to Volkswagens.

Second, why is it mandatory that you do a 3-hour presentation for each client? When I have a contractor over to do siding, or pour concrete, or do wiring, etc., typically I show them what I want done, and they come back in a day or two with a price. This usually takes no more than an hour, and even that is a conservative estimate. I guess I don't understand why it is so offensive to salespeople that I just want to know how much something is going to cost me. Personally, I won't buy anything from someone who I feel is pressuring me. Now, you also say that you don't do "cold calls", but all your customers call you. How many of those potential customers know that they are signing up for a high-pressure 3-hour sales pitch, as opposed to getting a traditional quote for services rendered? That's the difference - contractors provide you with a service, and the materials become secondary. With the BFS, it is the "product" that is being pitched, with the installation service taking a backseat. Besides, there is no other way to get prices for this product, so we, the customer, have no alternative but to call you. In today's day & age, 3+ hours is a lot of time to demand from anybody. I would think it would be in a salesperson's best interest not to overstay their welcome, so that the customer doesn't feel resentment at the time being taken away from other things that require attention.

Third, why can't you give us one price up front, non-negotiable, that everyone pays? I find it insulting when I get an outlandish price that is significantly dropped when I balk. I get the feeling that the salesperson is trying to pull a fast one on me, and any element of trust that might have been established is immediately thrown out the window. It instantly puts me on the defensive, because it is obvious that the salesperson is not telling you the whole story. It sets off an alarm as to whether there are other things about the product that I'm not being told. I don't like to be made to feel like a sucker. I don't conduct business in that manner. I am not going to put money in the pocket of someone who cannot respect me as a customer. To me, using "tactics" and "techniques" to "close a deal" is manipulative and dishonest. It's a shame that something as unique and innovative as the BFS has to be sold in this manner. Briefly tell me about your product, briefly explain its benefits, and tell me how much it costs. That's it. If I want it, I'll buy it - if not, I'll pass. No fluff, no mixed signals, and minimal time wasted from both parties. If the salesperson could cut their pitch down to an hour or less, they could see a lot more potential clients each day.

Hey, I know you guys & gals out there have to make a living. I know sales isn't always the easiest way to make a living. I know that the corporate office usually dictates what you are supposed to say and do when you see a customer. I just wish that the process could be a little less painful, for both sides. I, for one, would be a lot more likely to buy.
on Oct 06, 2004
i receieved a sales visit from taylor construction out of edgewater, md. be ready to spend about three hours with the sales rep. mine seemed very knowledgeable. however, everything in the prior comments is true regarding the fear play with mold, strong sales push and the pricing. he was originally at $70/sq ft and "came-down" to $50/sq ft. fortunately, we signed nothing and learned quite a bit from the prior comments about pricing (e.g., some have paid $28/sq ft and if you subcontract electric, ceiling and floor you can pay $14/sq ft.). the oc finished basement system seems like the best approach to finish a basement given moisture issues. the bottom line appears to be how well you can negotiate the price down.
on Oct 06, 2004
these franchers and their sales team are trying to find out if your a sucker and rip you off for as much as possible and when they see you not so dumb they start the price decline game with the old, let me talk to my manager. for the price this stuff is a rip off. for the people who have already purchased this product, forgive my opinion.
on Oct 07, 2004
Where do we start? In most cases the presentation is so long because people are only aware of drywall and wood. So after expaining about who the company is and then showing all the reasons on why drywall should not be installed. A common mistake is that it is Owens Corning that is talking about mold and the effect drywall has in a basement. In fact it is the EPA and The CDC articles from ABC and CNN and a host of scientific paperes from all over the world. The reason the product is so much more is because of the research and deveopment that went into it. Most franchises will not let you sub out the ceiling and the electric. It is a complete package. NO ONE can buy this for 28.00 a sq. ft. But you should be able to to the whole thing at about 40.00-45.00. Also most of the francises are "a one night close" sales organization. they do not come back (most of the time) and the best deal to get is then. There is a list price. So if the price comes down so does the salespersons commission. If they do not sell the first night. THEY GET NOTHING. These are sales organizations not Owens Corning. You can only buy it from thes sales organizations because the have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the right to be exclusive. Most of these franchises sell 7 people out of ten they see!! So the few that don't or wind up on this site is moot. Bottom line it is a great product backed up by a 5 billion dollar a year company who has been in business sine 1938!! Not a contactor can come close and the product is THE ONLY PRODUCT DESIGNED FOR A BASEMENT. hope this helps good luck.
on Oct 07, 2004
Ken,

Are you saying that those who claimed to have paid $28/sq foot are lying? I personally paid, as I stated earlier in this thread, approximately $25/sq. foot. I say approximately because our total price (with electrical, ceiling, doors, etc.) for about 580 square feet included an egress window in the price (~$17,000) so it all depends how much you discount for the window to come up with the cost of the rest. Also they did call me and come back a second time, different person the second time claiming to be a regional manager though I really didn't care as I was interested in the product and wanted a better price than the first time around in which I was quoted approximately $40-45/sq. foot. You can take this info for whats its worth but its the truth. I just don't want others to get the wrong impression in that you need to pay over $40 as you claim when in fact if you play it smart then you should be able to get them to come down under $30/sq. foot.
on Oct 08, 2004
We purchased the Owens Corning Basement System and we are very happy with the finished product. Yes, the "sales pitch" was long and "back and forth" with offers. However I look at that the same as buying a car.
Our basement included, electrical(13 cans, 4 light switches), 4 panel doors with hardware, accoustical ceiling tile ,framing of two steel support beams and carpeting. Square footage not quite 700 sq. ft. Price per square ft -- about $28.40 sq. ft. The earlier post by the gentleman who said (quote) "NO ONE can buy this for 28.00 a sq. ft. But you should be able to to the whole thing at about 40.00-45.00." - is wrong.
The installers were great. Minimum mess and time. Highly recommend this product.
on Oct 08, 2004
Yes, then you are lying. I work for OC and know the product and the franchise. And it included and egress window!! That is 3750.00 on the low end. If that is the case, contact the gentleman who inquired (give him your e address) and let him know the company and or franchise..but hurry...at 25.00 to 28.00 a sq. ft. they won't be around long.
on Oct 08, 2004
From what I have read, so far, no one is bashing the product. It is the sales tactics. I do not doubt it is a great product.
on Oct 08, 2004
To Ken,

Please read my March 30 post as well as May 14. I specifically stated in the March 30 post the circumstances to the price. Basically we turned the salesman down when he came, his final price before he left had been about 21K without the egress window (this comes up to about $35/sq foot). Over the next few weeks after the sales visit I received a call from someone at J&E asking us about the sales experience and why we didn't choose the product. We told them we liked the product but it was more than we were willing to spend. Then a few days later someone else from J&E called, he said he was a regional/district manager (I don't even remember anymore) but I do know he was higher up the food chain than the sales guy. Anyways he said he had a great deal for us if we would just let him come by and re-measure our basement. So he comes with another guy, measures the basement, gives us a quote for 27K I believe including the window and then knocks off 10K from that so our final price was near 17K. After having reviewed this thread I was obviously pleased with the price and accepted it on the spot and the rest is history. He told me these deals he had only came by once in a while so I didn't get the impression that they were giving this price to everyone, especially after reading this thread as well. Even Sam seemed to get an incredible deal, and his included carpet which mine did not.
on Oct 08, 2004
This puts a little more light on the subject. Yes, occasionally there are special circumstances that might allow a company to lower their price. But the above posts made it seem that 28.00 is a everyday occurance! That is not the case. Some people reading this website..and if the believe most of the stuff on it, might give up a tremendous price in hopes of getting 28.00 or thereof a sq. ft. only to realize that it never comes and they lost a great deal in the mean time! I can assure you that if this product gets down to 40.00 a sq. ft. by what ever means..buy it..if it is to much do not.
Enjoy your finished living space...I know you will love and enjoy it for many years to come.
on Oct 13, 2004
I have had the basement system installed for a little over a year now and must say that I have never been happier about my choice. Yes, I too had to deal with the pushy salesman, but the product itself is amazing. Two weeks ago, my three boys decided to use the walls as a coloring book. After freaking out for an hour, my wife quickly went downstairs and cleaned all of the panels in an hour. Nobody can tell that there was marker on every single panel. If I had drywall, it would have been a huge hassle getting this out. All of the people that are complaining about the salespeople need to understand that the product itself is amazing, try to ignore the salesman. In addition to the ease of cleaning, it adds tremendous value to your home. My neighbor had the system installed last summer after moving into their house, but now must move due to a job transfer. He is in contract with his house for over $83,000 of what he paid, and he did nothing else to the house. That sure makes me feel good.
on Oct 14, 2004
I just wanted to say that yes it is a wonderful product or else I never would have had it installed. However it is not the panacea some make it out to believe. It is, for the most part, overpriced which I believe is mainly due to the fact that you can't purchase the product in stores and install it yourself. Let's face it installation of the product is not the most challenging of projects and is definitely much easier than drywall, not to mention that other than the wall panels most of the products used are what I would call cheaper in nature (i.e. plastic molding and trim). Also, as I've mentioned in an earlier post, the walls and ceiling tiles are fragile as well, especially when one has to take apart a wall which fortunately is not very often. Thirdly as far as value it adds to the home, it is highly dependent on location and at the same time one should not expect the added value to exceed actual price paid, hence you will not increase your home value by 80K if you only paid 20K for the job, ain't gonna happen, they are other factors likely bringing that price up like prices of homes/land in general for the area. As far as long term durability goes that remains to be seen as their seems to be very little data that I have seen out there indicating how the product holds up over time, I suspect it should be fine with maybe the replacement of a wall panel here and there.
Like I said I think the product is good, overpriced mind you but good, at the same time one should have realistic expectations for the product, especially when one factors in the cost.
on Oct 15, 2004
Does anyone (in the MI area) have cost for the following after their discounts?

2.5" thick walls per linear foot
1" thick walls per linear foot
doors
lights and outlets
ingress/egress window
on Oct 16, 2004
Does anyone have any experience in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area ?
We had a sales presentation last week (2 hours) for a small 260 sq ft. renovation that came out to
$ 20500 ... which included : walls, three doors, 4 lights. With a $ 1000 coupon and a free TV/DVD
it came out to about $ 17500 THAT DAY !
When we told the salesman that was above our budget, he became a banker and wanted to sell us a home equity loan to pay it all in about 15 years.

This week he called again and I told him (after reading up on the matter on this informative website)
we would like the walls and doors only and he said that he could do that for about $ 26 sq.ft but when
he gave me the final numbers it was still around $ 15000.....because he doesn't want to sell a job under $ 10000

I told him,call me back when you are willing to do it under $ 10000

I called the competitor Champion, but they don't have anyone in Pennsylvania as yet !

We like the system and fell it would a an asset to our house and make an extra small room for the kids, however the costs are prohibitive ..

Any response it welcome !