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 3)
on Dec 18, 2003
Hey, you want to buy a time share? The Owen-Corning rep had the same moves as the greaser in Cancun that tried to sell me a share of his all-inclusive resort! All figuring was done on a legal pad and the DVD he gave me for viewing I was not allowed to keep. I gave him a CAD drawing with dimensions but he still insisted on drawing it himself. Nothing was left except his card. His price started at $60 sq ft and came down 15% almost right away. The mold scare was played pretty hard. He also insisted that his figures for an average basement build-out of $48.00 sq ft were correct for our area. I showed him a few quotes I already had for $18 to $25 per sq ft. He spent more time than the Kirby Vacuum guy who cleaned our rug (we didn't buy that either). I told him if he would have told me the price up front he could have saved a lot of time. The cheap ceiling tiles they use look crappy after a few years and start to sag. The upgraded ceiling tiles would be a must for anyone considering this.
on Dec 19, 2003
I did buy the Owens Corning product. I am very pleased. But some of the comments above are completely false. 1) The ceiling tile they use is exclusive to them made for Owens Corning by Armstrong, I called Owens Corning. 2) From Owens Corning themslves they said all of the Owens Corning Basement system is exlusive you cannot but it any where except form select franchises. Yes there were franchises out there selling this product for 40.00 and under. They are out of business. This product should not be sold for under that cost depending on size. I was told the larger the room the cheaper the square foot. Second as a insurance adjuster let me give you some facts: 1) In 1998-1999 there were approx. 41 claims throughout the nation regarding toxic mold! That is it..2) In 2000 Texas Insurance comps. paid out over 256 million in mold claims buy themselves. This year the insurance industry will pay out over 3 BILLION dollars in mold claims. ALL TOXIC MOLD feeds on cellulose (drywall, wood, paneling, certain types of insulation) Your basement is NEVER dry!! It releases 7-15 gallons of water a week!! It's a BASEMENT. Putting products down there that will start a lab experiment is plain foolish. Asbestos is cheap to but I would not recomend it insulate anymore. To many times because of foolish articles by people who think they know something without finding the facts cause harm to everyone who believes that because they write an article. They are an expert!!
So when you get that great cheap price on your basement ask them this... 1) Is it soundproof??? 2) Is it fireproof??? 3) Is it moisture proof???4) Is it mold proof??? 5) Does it come with a warranty for life that is tranferable? You will get a big no from each. Quite frankly if the product doesn't have those features, it is guaranteed to cause harm to you family and home. It shoud be cheap in the beginning.. but will cost you in the long run..The man who sold me this room did give me a higher price but then came down to a more reasonable price with some incentives to do business now. No different than my favorite dept. store having a one day sale!! I bought.. I am happy..because I did ALL of my homework..
on Dec 19, 2003
yes mold is the issue here with the owens corning product, and the wall system is mold resistant and allows the basement to breath and potentially dry out, but make no mistake about the ceiling tile it is not part of the system and does not have the same value it can be purchased at any Home depot.

How do I know this because when we Installed systems for the local franchised dealer here in the state of michigan we were sent to the local Home depot to purchase the ceiling material and yes owens corning may indorse there product and maybe a certain type of ceiling tile, it is not the ceiling tile being used in the state of michigan by the local franchise out of Toledo Ohio.
on Dec 20, 2003
I just had an OC salesman out ot my house. I live in Clinton TWP. MI. He did the mold scare, the whole 3hours and a drop inprice from $28,000.00 to $18,000.00 (635sq ft.) we had a agreement. I did all the research on the internet I did not need the Amway style sales. Is this a good product I sure it is but OC needs to monitor their sales people a lot better. I understand that this is a product for sale, and they will try to get the best(highest) price they can. But they stayed in my home for 3 long boring hours. In the future for the next person print up this web site and put in on the table so you don't have to go through all the B.S. I'm happie with my decision to buy the OC system. But I would never recomend to a freind or family member because of the Amway style sales pitch. So if OC does read these posts we don't want some guy to spend 3-4 hours in our house, then giving us one price then a discount then another discount. Just show us your system give us a price a then we can spend the time bargaining over the price. When they call back with a time to start the job I'm going tp call OC and tell them of the high pressure sales that is going on. Oh that's right OC was the one that TRAINED all these contractors. So good luck it is a good system just takes 3 hours to get out a good price. Keep up this board we need probly more than OC does.
on Dec 21, 2003
Yes Oc Does train the Installers and you will find them very professional and business like, but the sales staff is not trained by oc they are trained by there franchise to treat people like this, oc does not endorse there ways of doing business and should be informed of the way they handle sales .
on Dec 22, 2003
I had the OC salesperson over Dec. 5, 2003 and he quoted $49,000 but discounted it to $43,000 before leaving. My basment is appr. 725 sq. feet. Six days later he came back and wasted another hour of my time (the first visit was 3 hours). This time they dropped it to $31,000 on the condition that I host an open house when it is done to help them attract new business! So their current price is around $43 a foot. I told them I will not do it for more than $30 a foot and have not heard back. I am in Massachusetts and they claim it cannot be done for that price in this state. Anyone out there get this system in Massachusetts for a reasonable price?
on Dec 25, 2003
Hey David
Since when did you become the know it all about the BFS system last time I knew you where just a 15% installer. From what I got on your message you really dont know crap about the system. Just because your a little peaon sub installer doesnt mean you know a thing about the BFS system. Just to put you in check, you know how to put up panels and that doesnt take a rocket scientist. So before you start talking and saying sorry to customers about how the system is sold just remember if we dont sell you dont install. $$$

Sincerly Yours,

#1
on Dec 27, 2003
Matt,

I'm in MA too and got the same sales pitch that most others have experienced. Company was out of Canton. My quotes were in line with yours, I responded with the "not more than $30/ft" and I also haven't heard back from them. Too bad, I really like the system and would be willing to pay a premium for it, but their $$/foot isn't within my budget. I dont mind paying for quality, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I also got the discount deals and the showcase house B.S.. If I had to guess what their business plan looks like, I'd say they plan to dupe as many uninformed people as they can initially for the big money, and sweep up the lesser $$/foot jobs as things begin to slow down. Maybe we'll be able to catch a better deal in a year or two. Unfortunately, I don't have that kind of time to burn. In fact I've got another contractor coming to the house Monday for a standard drywall construction estimate. I've gone through a few guys with estimates already. Met a couple of solid professionals, and a few low ball hanyman types. One things for sure, the guys that know their stuff have plenty of work in our neck of the woods. It looks like months before any of the top prospects can start my little two room job. That's another reason I wanted to go with the "quick to install" OC system. At this point in time, they've got the advantage of plenty of demand for their product, and little/no competition. I just can't justify that kind of money for a couple of spare rooms. Someone else must be buying it though!

Thanks to everyone for the info on this page!

Good Luck,

JimmyB
on Dec 29, 2003
The Salesman and his trainee showed up for their appointment and listened to our requirements, made some drawings, demo'ed the system and gave us the MSRP. He said that if we offered to be a reference and let people come over and see it he could discount it some.
First off, I don't think thirty large to finish a basement is realistic. Some people want to divide the room in to smaller rooms, or have other requirements that will build up the labor and materials cost, but I want a rectangular box shaped room built.
So I am off to get quotes for a traditional basement job. Here is what I will miss out by not going owens:

1) I will have drywall that will create a possibilty for toxic mold.
2) I will have to paint the drywall every couple of years to keep it looking fresh.
3) It will be messy during the install.
4) The acustics will be bad.

Here are the cons of the OC
1) In ten years the system will look dated.
2) It has only been available for four years.
3) It is very, very, very expensive.

Maybe I will change my mind after getting quotes for traditional finishing jobs.
on Dec 31, 2003
Just had a rep. from the Harrisburg PA area, cover my locale approx. 60 miles away on Dec. 28. The total time went over 4 1/2hrs. and I thought I would have to force him to leave. Yes, same sales tactics. Walked us through rating (1-4) the product, OC and him as a knowledgable rep, then highly played up the mold risk, completion time, and cleanliness factors. Our quote for our approx. 1,000 sq. ft. project came to approx. $48/sq., then phone calles were made to get it to $43.5, then $39.5, the latter only if we sign today and are ready to put 1/3 down, because we didn't need financing and would do the reference letter, provide solid referrals and display it for future candidates in our area.
I was impressed with the product, but why anyone would agree to put a sizable check down, before getting other comparisons, reviewing what they proposed as their final/best offer (which was only pencil written on a worksheet they could not leave with us, and rereading some of the supporting info., like a University of Minnesota review of the system.
I became increasing aggitated by the sales tactics, especially of not taking no as an answer and getting a deposit check. At one point he even included a brag about "you like the system, you want to do it in next 30-60 days and this is your only product like this, therefore the price is fair".
I then told him I had a conventional quote, which included carperting and a $5,000 factor for a small bathroom(which theirs's did not) , which totaled less than $21,000. We have two kids and he immediately played up the cost differencial being worth their health and liklihood of remidiation costs.
In all a frustrating sales experience for an intriguing alternative for completing the basement.
on Jan 05, 2004
Well seems I touched a nerve here with one of O/c Finest Swindlers (Salesmen) yes you did sell the systems but as matter of fact 80% of all the systems we installed could have been sold by a monkey the system sells its self, inspite of your 3-4 hour sales tactics amazing you didin't talk the customers out of it. gets me every time one of you gutless wonders makes a comment he never leaves his name wonder why that is?

on Jan 07, 2004
Hey David Nice Grammar, who taught you how to spell? O thats right I forgot you have a tenth grade education! As a matter of fact 80% of the BFS sales are do not sell themselves I don't know where you get all these facts but it sure sounds like your 80% dumbass! I am sure glad you don't work for my franchise, but I think I will let Mr. Q know about some of the comments that you are making I am sure that he'll enjoy reading them!


on Jan 08, 2004
I had a wall system basement done two years ago. What a mistake. My basement is not moldy, but my pets are constantly getting sick everytime I bring up decorations from the basement for Halloween, Christmes Etc. There is a find dust every where, after I cleaned up after the installation......and now I am have health related problems. I was wondering if anyone else has had health problems after installing this product My husband and I are going to pull it out.
on Jan 11, 2004
This forum has been a gold mine! We had the rep come in yesterday and had a similar experience from the salesman. High pressure without high intensity, though. It turns out that we would pay $34 sq foot for about over 600sq ft of space. This would include ceiling, electrical, carpet and set up a bathroom for us (using drywall of course, and without the fixtures). I thought it was a good deal until I reviewed this forum and I believe that we are definitely in the high end of the price spectrum. He added a discount because we would be the first ones in our subdivision who would have the system installed. I'm in no rush, however, but felt rushed and that is not sitting well with me. I've finished my basement before (in another house) so I'm pretty handy with electrical and putting stuff together. I signed the contract and but have until 1/14 to cancel. I will want to renegotiate on price because there is no need to pay $100 to put up an recess light! I was leary because the salesman would not let me see the numbers and how he was arriving at them. If I don't get what I feel is fair, I'm out and I'll wait until Champion is available in Atlanta in 6/2004 and check them out. Besides, my wife is really put off that there's no other color option but Champion will have options. I will get estimates on doing drop ceilings and carpets. Will keep everyone posted. Thanks and let me know what you think. We are in the Atlanta area (if you have already guessed).
on Jan 12, 2004
Does anyone have any comments on the heating and cooling aspect of the BFS? Specifically, I would like to know if you have an unfinished basement despite the insulating qualities of BSF, was it necessary to add a new small furnace, tap into the existing HVAC, or would a baseboard and ceiling fans suffice? We have small children and the baseboard idea is not exciting. The basement is about >800 sq ft and we're in Atlanta.

Thanks.
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