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 41)
on May 26, 2005
your the smart guy, do it yourself. why call out a salesperson knowing that they have to do a pitch? no different than buying a car, do you buy at sticker price? got to start high because of cheap asses like you EINSTEIN!
the product is as good as it says and the warranty is lifetime. i have the system and love it!
on May 26, 2005
imthe know (whatever that means)
With your expert spelling i can tell you work at McDonalds and i hate your sales pitch more than anybody elses. (Would you like to super size that?) just because you can't afford a doublewide trailer let alone a finished basement, don't try to ruin it for others.
some of the sales people might not be the brightest, the company probally could be better,
but no matter what you buy now adays you have to go through the same B.S.
so don't critisize the product because you don't like the way its presented!
on May 27, 2005
To " intheknow" Just to remind you that Owens Corning and Owens Corning Basement Systems are seperate!! So, that the so called money problems only affect Owens Corning not Owens Corning Basement. Owens Corning just emerged out of of bankruptcy because of all the ridiculous asbstos claims. They are more healthy then they have ever been. Owens Corning basement should hit 500 million installed business this year, not from you of course but from very intelligent, health minded people who can afford it. EVeryone who has it... loves it!! Funny..the people who hate the product and company do not even own it.
on May 31, 2005
With a new home purchase just closed (including a distinctly UNfinished basement), I've just spent a very entertaining hour reading over all the posts here. Kudos to our hosts and to everyone who has shared their views.

A few relatively objective things have become clear to me:

1) Like any material sold through independent/franchise contractors, your experience depends almost entirely upon the contractor you use/choose, NOT the manufacturer of the product.
2) This system is significantly more expensive than other means of finishing your basement (wood panel, drywall, etc.)
3) Whether it's worth it to you depends DRAMATICALLY upon how worried you are about mold and how dry your basement is.
4) There is clearly a problem here with over-aggressive "used car" type selling techniques.
5) How much business Owens-Corning does, how much business their basement division does and similar items of financial info are only really relevant if you're investing in the company, not buying the BS (basement system, I mean). Big revenue does not a reputable firm make. I'd far sooner trust the sole-proprietor building contractor who lives next door and has to face his customers in church every Sunday than some corporate behemoth -- at least JUST because it's a corporate behemoth. I know, like and trust many large corporate entities; not -because- they're big, but because they've earned that trust on a widespread scale.

And a couple subjective things that I certainly find too:

1) Stanley K's posts should simply be skipped. He is so extraordinarily biased that his credibility is nil.
2) Anyone who identifies themselves as an OC rep has a vested interest and must be taken with a grain of salt. Their willingness to admit lack of perfection on OCBS's part is a key indicator of reliability.
3) Anyone who does not identify themselves as an OCBS rep -- but clearly is -- should be ignored
4) Any company that countenances the sales tactics outlined repeatedly here (to the point of clear credibility) is not one I'd do business with
5) I will never, ever, ever buy this product, not for $28/sq. ft, not for $15/sq. ft., I probably wouldn't let them give it to me for free.

Last but not least, let me point out the words "stupid" and "idiot" and their ilk are noticeably absent here. If you want/like this system, go for it! Just 'cuz I don't like it doesn't mean you can't love it... If you don't feel comfortable with it, however, then don't listen to the pure BS (and here I do NOT mean basement systems) about how if you say no, you can't afford it, or "there are no be-backs".. Hogwash.

Viva Choice!

Chris



on Jun 01, 2005
Thank you for your comments on the owens corning basement system. I am in the process of making a decision of should I spend the extra or not. I think I will. I know someone who did it and is completely satisfied, but they have 4 small children, mine are grown and gone. I do like the no dust and almost indestructable aspects of the system, I am hoping I can find someone in the Lake George area of NY to do this for me. Good luck , Renee'
on Jun 01, 2005
Thank you for your comments on the owens corning basement system. I am in the process of making a decision of should I spend the extra or not. I think I will. I know someone who did it and is completely satisfied, but they have 4 small children, mine are grown and gone. I do like the no dust and almost indestructable aspects of the system, I am hoping I can find someone in the Lake George area of NY to do this for me. Good luck , Renee'
on Jun 07, 2005
The reason the salesmen are soo high pressure, and require that you have your spouse with you is that they do not get a comission on your sale unless they get you to sign the contract before they leave your house. So that guy who comes out to your house at 7:00 on a weeknight and wastes three hours of his time explaining the product to you gets absolutely nothing for his time if you decide to order a week later instead of that night. They don't give their sales people salaries or even a car allowance0- that guy comes to your home and pays for it out his pocket with no return unless he can get you to sign on the line.

Also, the salesmen actually have very little control over the sales pitch- they all know it is too long, but its forced on them by the higher ups, they all have the same exact pitch. The sales tactics they force on their salespeople are quite scary too- they tell them not to take no for an answer until the home owner is physically removing them from the home.

They have an excellent product, but it is currently overpriced, and their company tactics are pretty shadey. Personally, I would stay away for the time being, and wait for a competitor to come along and offer better prices, and better sales techniques.
on Jun 10, 2005
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on Jun 12, 2005
what state do you live in? cost of labor differs from state to state, perhaps you should let people know this. yes, $30 dollars may be possible in some states but not in all, thank you for all your info.
on Jun 15, 2005
This has been a great website for reference and perspective. We live in New Hampshire.

We just got our basement finished (502 sq feet) including everything but carpet (they gave us a reference for a local carpet place which gave us an extra 10% discount and was $1K cheaper than Empire Today. BTW I heard horrible stories w/ Home Depot doing the carpet). The basement is now a great playroom and a new home office for two w/ a wide egress window. From some of the prices listed on this site, we probably paid premium (we still got 15% discount from the original listed price) but people have to consider the following:

1. The work was done with very few issues in about 7 weeks (from start to finish and not the actual duration). It took 3 weeks longer since the window we needed took a while to arrive but besides that, everything went smoothly. We had a great OC coordinator (Walter) who consulted with us all throughout the process and made things very easy. Yes, I know it is his job but I saw that some people had to get involved themselves with the process. So make sure that you meet with that person early on the process and get a feel on how things are going to happen.

2. In our field (Computer Engineering), we appreciate high quality work (and professional work) and OC did a fantastic job. We were certainly surprised that we had to sign the same day of the sales presentation to get the better deal but we did not know any reliable contractors (We have many colleagues and neighbours who told us horror stories about contractors who do not show up or who they are taking legal actions against now) and overall the sales person was not extremely pushy. We did not care much about his mold stories and told him. He did not go on it further. He worked with us to get the pricing reasonable. You have to consider your time as valuable too. If you spend a lot of time to coordinate everything yourself (e.g. get contractor for walls, electrician, inspectors, carpet people, etc.) you should consider that as well. My husband and I have very busy careers and having this done in a timely fashion was key since it would mean that our home time was well spent with our 2 year-old instead.

3. Beware of some of the listed sq. ft pricing on this site: a smaller basement does not cost less than a bigger basement since what really matters is not the sq.ft but the linear ft. of the perimeter since the OC walls are the material costing the most. Simple math: say you have a basement that is a square with 25ftx25ft (625 sq.ft). The perimeter is 100 linear ft. Take a bigger basement that is a rectangle with 25ft width and 30 ft length (750 sq. ft). The perimeter is 110 linear ft. So you only need another 10 linear ft of OC walls to finish the bigger basement (the ceiling tiles/lights/electricals are negligible). If you always do the comparision by sq. ft, it might seems that your smaller basement is much much more expensive but if you look at the perimeter, now you understand why using sq. ft is a misleading metric. Anyway, something to think about when you look at numbers and compare.

4. If you cancel, please make sure that you do it within the 72 hours or else you would be penalized 25% of the cost. We read the fine print closely when we signed and made sure that we knew what we were getting into. I did not see anyone post that part so just FYI.

5. Make sure that the main contractor and you share the same work ethics. For instance, there were a few difficult spots to cover(low gas pipe, part of basement lower ceiling, etc.) where the contractor's skills in woodworking finish came very handy where he made beautiful oak boxing that would complement the ensemble. He worked very efficiently and kept us in the loop every time.

6. The Home Equity LOC financing that OC provided (through a Mortgage broker) made getting this done very easy (although we could have paid cash, this just means that we have more time to pay this off and still deduct the interests from our taxes).

7. Remember that when you have contractors at home, you should be at home too so if you do it the traditional way and it takes 3 months, you should plan to have someone at home during that time. We only had to be home for 4 weeks overall (and not even everyday since some of the time was lead time for materials mostly) and that was great for us since we have busy careers.

If you know trusty contractors that work with drywall and have more time yourself (to be home, to coordinate the inspections, electrical work, ceiling work, carpet work, etc.) to get your basement done, then by all means, do it that way since I am sure that it will be less costly.
on Jun 17, 2005
One Other problem that is never mentioned by OC..after the installation...the ODOR that comes from the panels is nauseating. It took us at least 7 months to finally get the odor out and then when our air conditioning broke for 1 week..the smell came back FULL FORCE.

Comments from our guests: It smells like a fish market..it smells like a musty garbage can!!

Quite embarassing, considering all the money we spent on the system.

Our friends who had the same system installed 2 weeks before us, had the same problem..and they spent $450.00 on an air filtering system.

BEWARE this is never mentioned.
on Jun 22, 2005
Anyone who is turned off by Owens Corning business practices, but still wants a good solution for their basement finishing project, look into using metal studs and paperless wallboard. Sure it's nice to have access to your foundation walls, but the price difference is insane, around $10,000, and with wallboard, you have sturdy, paintable walls, and if it gets damaged, you can repair it yourself, not wait to get a whole new panel. People have been finishing there basements for many years before owens corning offered this and have had no problems, dont be fooled by these people saying that you need this system, more like they need to sell it and will go to any extreme measure to do so. Just look at the prior posts in here, full of salespeople feeding you crap to try to sell the product. If you'd like to check out the wallboard go to gp.com and check out there densarmor wallboard. I believe there are other manufacturers that offer something similar.
on Jun 25, 2005
Very high pressure, very slick salesman. And I fell for it. I plan on cancelling my contract today(only 48 hours since we signed).Too bad, it's a nice product. If they come down on the price I'll go for it but it shouldn't be like this (disgusting sales tactics). To the buyer beware. Do your homework before they set foot in your house.
on Jun 29, 2005
Oh, I, the wife, was home for Owen's Corning reps to come out and yes, they scared me with the mold story. We made the appointment with the understanding that it would only take one hour. Two people showed up at 8:00 PM wanting to show us a movie. We were not interested unless they could tell us what it was about. They could not. We were afraid it was just another commercial about the product. It was informative, but now seeing it was probably a tactic. Then they went into their schpiel, a 50 card "slideshow", of why we should finish our basement, who is going to screw us and who OC. After getting 1 1/2 hours into this, my husband interrupted and told them they were here because we already want to finish our basement, we are doing comparisons and don't want their opinions on who's screwing us and we already know who OC is (we've done our homework). NOW, we still have not seen the product. We demanded to see the product as the two sales guys sat like deer in headlights. After seeing the product, we were very impressed. The commercials and ads DO NOT do it justice. It is a beautiful product and if it does what they say then we were sold. Next was the checking out the basement, measuring. MInd you it is now 10:00. After measuring the basement, the numbers start rolling. They started with 31,000. Choke, choke, gag, gag. They told us in the beginning that there are specials out. When we asked him what they were, he said, "which one do you know about?" My husband went bolistic on him and told them that they had better tell us what the bottom line number is available. They finally got us down to 27,000 and wanted us to sign NOW. NOt gonna happen. We also do not sign away 27,000 dollars in one evening. He pushed more saying that "A group" pays the 31,000 and we are in the "B group" and went on with another way we could save some. Not signing. Then he wanted to call the big boss. This was the last straw. We had to ask them to leave at 11:00 PM!!! No number was going to make us sign at this point. We literally pushed one of the guys out the door at 11:20 because he wouldn't stop. That is rediculous. The unfortunate thing is that the product sells itself and these guys gave us a bad taste. We got a call a week later with another ploy to get someone out here with another number. They wouldn't do it on the phone and we ended our relationship with them at that point. We are disappointed because we think we would love this product. We are going another route. We hear Erie Construction has a similar product with no metal seams and 200 different colors. We'll see. Our friends saw it at a home show and liked it better but unfortunately signed with OC and couldn't get out of it. I wouldn't recommend the sales pitch which means I can't recommend the OC product. Just a warning.
on Jul 02, 2005
Read the basement remodel blog over at boredmofo.com/blog before doing your basement!