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 17)
on Oct 21, 2004
We had the OC basement done last May. System looks great. Wife and I are very happy with it. Neighbors and family all think the basement looks very good. Sales tatics are 100% correct with previous statements above. Paid around $32.00 /sq foot. Hanging things on walls is a little tricky put OC hangers work pretty well. Took about 12 days for complete installation. Some dust and mess but nothing comepared to dry-wall I'm told. One thing tht really makes a difference we felt was who you have/get to install the OC product in your basement. We had an installer who took pride in lineing up canister lights and keeping cieling at one level throughout basement even though sale-person drew up plans otherwise. I think if our installer went off of sale-persons plan directly basement would not look as good. Esential to have the OC installer willing to communicate with home owner and discuss some ideas he can do that may or may not be on sales-persons blue-print. We had an installer who who was some-what of a perfectionist and our basement is better off for it.
One thing about this product that is really true is how noise absorbent it is. Also nice to have access to foundation walls if you ever need to get at them. A few things I would tell OC to look into in the future is to maybe add a few different color choices and maybe to develope panels/installation trim ect. for angles other than 90 degrees.
All in all we /others have had nothing but good things to say about it. Price is high but if you have the money and plan on living in your house a long time OC system might be the way to go.
on Oct 21, 2004
I am also in Ma. Just got delivery on the material for 900 sq. ft. All the comments are a little intimidating. The salesman was tipical but actually a neat guy, was in sales myself so know the pitch. Hope the installation goes well. The price was very fair considering the quotes we got on conventional basement finishing.
on Oct 21, 2004
I am also in Ma. Just got delivery on the material for 900 sq. ft. All the comments are a little intimidating. The salesman was tipical but actually a neat guy, was in sales myself so know the pitch. Hope the installation goes well. The price was very fair considering the quotes we got on conventional basement finishing.
on Oct 23, 2004
D-Illinois-

Did $32/sq ft include carpet or egress window???
on Oct 24, 2004
When you all talk about price per sq ft, are you measuring the area of the space or the sq ft of the walls themselves?
on Oct 24, 2004
32 a sq. ft does not include egress or carpet
on Oct 24, 2004
This product does not price at a per square foot price! The fact that the more the square footage the less per square foot. You could never get down to 32.00 a sq. ft. if your room has 400 sq ft or so. But at 900 sq. ft it might be possible. So before you draw a line in the sand on price everything is not equal in pricing, including areas and regions and states.
on Oct 25, 2004
Liz, I am also in MA and didn't want to buy the product because of the sales experience. I will be interested in your comments once the install is done.
on Oct 26, 2004
We had an OC rep come out for a consultation. We were extremely turned off by the tactics and pushiness of the OC guy. Let me just say I do not like being pushed into signing anything on the spot before I've had ample time to consider all of the options and what is available from the competition. The guy took forever to get out of the house, even after we repeatedly told him we weren't going to sign anything that night or give him a deposit. I also didn't appreciate being told that statistically "nobody ever calls back" when telling the guy we required several days to consider everything. Ok, I'm a statistic, huh? Real nice. Maybe there's a reason no one ever calls back.
My suggestion is to have the courage to say no and collect multiple offers on finishing your basement. You can't make an informed decision unless you've considered all of the information. This, quite frankly, cannot be done when a OC salesguy is telling you final-offer-take-it-or-leave-it that night. If an when you've done that, and you still like what OC has to offer, call them up. I'm sure they'll be more than willing to negotiate a very good price for you basement, not unlike that "great price" that was offered to you originally. Remember, you are the one that holds the cards because you hold the money. They can't get your money unless you say so. Good luck.
on Oct 26, 2004
To Boone: You dork! The reason they close in one night is because OC holds all the cards, if they did not they would change their tactics. Exclusive product, say what you want but you cannot and should not install drywall, the OC division will sell over 2 million in installed product this year, of course they would love your business, but if you get the offer and they tell you it is only good on the first visit, that is it, if it wasn't every ATTY. Gen. in the country would be all over them! Out of 12 appts 7-9 people buy the first night! The ones that don't like yourself never will, oh, there be an exception once in a while, one who calls back but it is very rare. They don't need your money, plenty of people know a great product when they see one and will pay for it on the spot. Those who cannot afford it...Piss and whine like yourself...get over it, you can't afford it thats cool, let it go.
on Oct 27, 2004
Yeah, I'm from Mass and had the rep out too. I've been reading alot about the bad sales men. This guy was pretty goog I must say. Very nice and curtious. We sat down for coffee and went over everything. The mold scare was there yeah ok. I was quoted about $28 a sq ft for the wall, ceiling, stairs, lighting, and tele/cable. The price is still costly but I think it's a great product. I'm going to try and quote just the walls and do the rest my self! This is a great forum glad I found it.
on Oct 28, 2004
Ok Ken. I suppose you work for OC. I was telling people to make an informed decision, which is obviously something that bothers you OC reps very much. Why? Probably because you are afraid it'll mean fewer comissions for you and your band of merry salesmen.
Please, like every company that is out to make money, they WILL do business with you after that night, AND for a good price. OC does not hold any cards because it is up to the consumer to buy the product or not.

PS - Thanks for the dork comment. I'll file that away with all of the other remarks I heard back in 1st grade.
on Oct 28, 2004
To Boone: Yes I do work for OC and you are plain wrong if you or anyone else thinks they can get the same low price the next week or month or whenever! That kinda defeats the purpose doesn't it!!! If people make an informed decision, when all the FACTS from the CDC, EPA, Building consortium, the only choice is OC!! As far as the dork comment, please file it, I am surprised that you got out of the first grade, if you had an education you would not only have made the right choice but have had an income to afford it!!!!
on Oct 28, 2004
Don't let Ken, OC and their sales reps scare you. You can put drywall and wood in your basement. Just make sure you don't have any leaks and put a dehumifier in your basement.

Ken, can you give us a link to the CDC statement about using drywall in basements.

Also, you can use metal studs instead of wood if your really concerned.
on Oct 28, 2004
Has anyone in the Michigan area purchase the walls only?? I've read the posting dated 10/14/03 and the person was able to bring down the cost from 30 to 14 per sq ft (walls only). I have an OC guy coming out here for the second time (he says he needs to remeasure) this weekend and want some ammunition before he gets here. The first time he quoted me $19 per sq ft which I thought was fair until I read this board.
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