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 42)
on Jul 08, 2005
Having 25 years in the construction business and a lot of in home experience, I have recently interviewed with an OC franchisee for a sales management position. I can offer some general reflections. First OC owns the "pitch". The franchisees send their agents to school for training. This is not to say that OC created a "high pressure" presentation. Most of that comes from an ineffective salesperson who is under his/her own pressure. A real pro will and can present a value proposition that makes sense without being offensive. Most people here are smart enough to understand that. As far as the buy tonight thing goes, its a matter of the franchisee's collective need to manage time. Just say no...but if you say yes and renege you should imho, examine yourself before accusing anyone of a breach of ethics. There's nothing wrong with negotiating...that is why there is a "sticker" price. Its expected. If you want to avoid the long presentation, do your homework first. That means being sure that you are content with the company you are doing business with. A lot of posters here throw bargain numbers around, just realize that 95% of companies fail in five years or less. Know your alternatives and their respective ROI, pros and cons, etc. The OC system is unique so collect alternatives before you call. The presentation is long because most homeowners dont know (and haven't investigated in knowing) the options. It seems longer because the VAST (80%) majority of salespeople are not pros. They may exaggerate, misrepresent, can be downright rude. Sad but true. This is why the turnover rate for many companies is so high. However it is also true that many HI companies exaggerate and misrepresent the opportunity in a sales position (some advertise for sales managers in a bait and switch) to entice bodies to the fold. Most shops take some risk... a modest short term draw, plus the cost of education and the lead cost.

As far as the cost of the system is concerned, its strictly a measure of value both tangible and intangible. Its a personal thing. Just because someone pays more than another doesnt make the former a "sucker" or the latter "shrewd"...again only my opinion. There are a lot of costs and expenses that a 5 million dollar HI company carries and they vary obviously from city to city.

I hope this helps...
on Jul 13, 2005
Just wondering if you or anyone else have checked out or installed Champion's Basement Living System. I would appreaciate any comments about their system/product, salespeople, customer service, etc.
Thanks
on Jul 23, 2005
I am currently looking into the OC system. My consultation was like many others(same sales pitch along with the phone call for a better price). We were OK with our salesperson, just not the price. I wanted to know if anyone has any quotes from the Chester, PA franchise. I live in South Jersey. I'm just trying to get a fair price.
on Jul 23, 2005
I wanted to know if the franchise you dealt with was the Chester, PA one? I just received a quote from them and wanted to know if it was the same franchise your quote came from. Thanks.
on Jul 24, 2005
Interesting information. I will look into the system.
on Jul 25, 2005
In Champion vs. OC, they are similar enough for you to call them the same. Although I am not privy to Champion's pricing particular to this, based on my understanding of them in general, I would expect it to be very close to OC. Depends on who is in the selling chair. Champion is a strong stable dyed in the wool HI company with ALL of the accoutrement for better or worse as you judge it.

on Jul 28, 2005
I so wish I had known abou this site before I purchased the BFS from OC. It was good to know though that there are so many people here that have gone through similiar situations that were bad. Now I know there are prob good ones and people out there but as far as my experience goes TERRIBLE....filled with scare tactics mold wise, over priced, the list goes one. We dealt with lies, dishonesty and being ignored. We have had a basement for 8 months we can not use. Company refuses to fix or address any problems. I trusted them gave my hard earned money and got the run around. The show and do one thing but that is not what you get. I dealt with the Chester office. Had I read this site I NEVER would have done this. I don't mind paying the price for something that is worth it, but this product is far from that. Even worse are the people who sell this to you. It amazes me in a sense that some very shady dealings go on. Would like to know of others people experience. I will not talk or disclose anything to ANY OC rep of any kind. I took this matter seriously. I would like consumers to be aware, and trust be there are quite a few things. I can be reached at RSpone@comcast.net
on Jul 29, 2005
I had Owens Corning of Boston install my new basement a few months ago and could not be happier. I am sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with another office. My experience could not have been better. I find it hard to believe any Owens Corning office would treat a customer like that. I would suggest calling 1-800-GetPink and get the problem addressed. I found that number on the back of my brochure. My sales rep was anything but sleezy. He was very knowledgeable and professional. The incentives were agressive but fair. I finished the basement in my last house with drywall and could not stand the musty smell. I have experenced the other option and would NEVER recommend putting drywall in the basement. I cannot speak of any other office. I just know the Ownes Corning of Boston was a pleasure to deal with.

Kevin
on Aug 07, 2005
Basement Systems in the St. Louis area are the local O.C. reps. They came out and did the 3 hour sales pitch and started with $48 a square foot. Then after the countless coupons and incentive and phone calls to the boss, we ended up with $28 a square foot. We said we would think about it and to be honest about the guy, he knew were really interestd, and he called back the following day and knocked another $1500 off the job. It was just still too high fo NOT finishing the basement. ( we still had the floors, and bathroom and windows to take care of on our own, & the air vents that O. C. wont touch. Then a week or so goes by and we get the out of town "district manager will be in our area phone call" Cclaiming a 20 minute visit and assurance of a lower price....My wife and I were very interested because the price was getting very close..... SO, after 90 minutes ( suppose to be 20) he comes upstairs to anounce the price had went up $2700 from the previous last bid we had....After telling him NO WAY! He offered he could do less (like less of the basement,) work and the price could come down...then he went on to blame the first salesman that he figured it all wrong (Greg D. ) yes Greg, if your reading this, the "district manager" balamed you. Im sur e the product is good, but you will much business with your sales approach.. To ALL who read this...DONT pay more than $28 a square foot......
on Aug 07, 2005
EXCUSE ME! Its Basement Experts, NOT Basement Systems..
on Aug 08, 2005
It is an excellent product, but sold using the same tactics as siding and windows (but with a much higher pricepoint). I used to sell it, and I'm out. Basically, take the list they give you, offer 25% less, cut through the BS and tell them you'll sign that night. Period. It is the best way to finish your basement, but I wish they'd just use a "no dicker sticker" on the price -- pretending to call the managers, etc. is tough.

Again, if you want to finish your basement but don't want to deal with the sales process, simply ask for the price, counter-offer a 25% lower price with a commitment to buy, and save everyone the hassle.
on Aug 09, 2005
I entirely agree about the sales tactics. Everytime we hesitated or said we needed to think about it the salesman got on his phone and called his boss (pre-arranged for sure) and they came up with a lower price. Even after that happening 3 times, I didn't feel good about the pressure. I felt the salesman was getting angry and would be very angry if we didn't sign. If you attend a "showcase" don't believe them when they say the estimate will cost you nothing and it is good for one year. It was only good for one night!!
But everything else went smoothly and we like the results.
on Aug 17, 2005
We recently had this system installed and we like it..

Question: The laundry room was boxed out with sheetrock.. which is what we wanted.. Does anyone know or is there an official statement from Owens cornings to as which paint brand/color/finish matches their walls as close as possible?

thanks! Gene from Central NJ.. genemish@yahoo.com
on Aug 17, 2005
Your post was great! I have a question though. With subcontracting the other work out...how long did it take? Did the subcontractors come out before or after? Did you do the ceiling yourself?

Thanks for your help!!!
on Aug 19, 2005
I came across this site as I've been looking for a lot of information regarding keeping basements dry. A lot of mixed info on this system but I thought I'd share what I have learned in case any one is interested.

You need to take care of the moisture problem in your basement. There are many ways to do this depending on the type of problem that you have. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean and directed far enough away from the house, make sure that the landscape is graded away from the house. This has been the biggest help in my situation and others as well.

You need to redirect the water away from the foundation through exterior or interior french drains and/or a sump pump. Interior french drains seem to work but personally I'm not comfortable leaving a 1/2" gap around my slab floor. If the water problem isn't very severe different concrete sealers can help. Penetrating sealers like radonseal or stone technologie's x-1, x-2 and x-3 seem good. A dehumidifier is good to run but it's not the best solution if you haven't done your best to keep water from entering the basement.

Mold can be a big problem for some people though not everyone will have allergies to it. After long exposures to it you might and it seems that children can be affected by it more. It's the type of thing you may not realize is causing you problems, or that it's even there for years.

Mold needs moisture, the right temperature (which is pretty wide) and food to grow. Mold spores are everywhere. You want to make sure you don't give them a good place to settle down and spread. Wood, paper, drywall and even fiberglass insullation (at least some kinds) seem to be the big things that get moldy in basements. But there is also furniture, books, pillows, dust and more. Mold may or may not get you sick but it can ruin your belongings.

After reading these comments I won't even consider the owens corning system and mainly because of the comments from the people that say they work for OC. I can't imagine going to buy something that expensive and finding out that the price varies so much and there is such a hard sell. Mainly though I can't believe that OC would let someone come out and publicly insult people that didn't go with their system and say they didn't get it because they can't afford it or because they are too cheap. Can you imagine going to a car dealership and haggling with the salesman and in the end he makes public announcements that you're too poor to buy their car since you couldn't agree on a price you thought was fair? If that happened you'd get up and go to another dealership. Now that OC has competition they better clean up their act or all the similar systems are going to eat their lunch. I never want to buy any OC product based on the behaviour I've seen here.

Find someone that will help you with your moisture problem. There are sleazebags in that field as well so keep looking because there are good honest people as well. Do your research. If you can take care of the moisture problem to keep the relative humidity bellow 50-60% you can build your walls out of bubble gum (sugar is good for mold growth) and you won't have a mold problem. The problem with the OC system is that even though what they install is mold proof, the things you'll furnish the room with may not be and if the installation isn't good and it doesn't block the moisture you'll have mold problems on your furnishings.

The other issues is that behind the panels, you'll still have high humidity and it will even be worse because now you have this bubble in the middle that blocks out some of the moisture so it's more concentrated. Your house is most likely framed by moisture and you'll start developing mold on the wood joists to the first floor. There will also be dust behind the panels and dust is a good food for mold as well.

Just address the moisture problems by checking your gutters and downspouts and directing them at least 8' away from the foundation, make sure the ground slopes away from the house, seal the concreate with a penetrating concrete sealer like radonseal, the stone technologies products or something like xypex (drylock seems to be temporary), if you have standing water you'll need an interior french drain. Clean everything before you start building. Borax is a natural fungicide. Mix it with water and spray it around to inhibit future mold growth (or use an epa registered fungicide). Borax also deters insects. You can get paints that will inhibit mold growth to spray on the first floor joists and subfloor, the sill plate, etc. Use steel framing or wood that has been painted with a mold resistant paint. They now make mold and mildew resistant drywall. It's called Humidtek. You can also use a mold/mildew resistant paint over that because paint can be a food for mold. Use rigid foam insulation against the foundation walls/floor and seal all the seams. Keep your framing off the walls a bit. You can insulate the walls with unfaced fiberglass insulation just make sure it's the type treaded to resist mold/mildew. A plastic vapor barier may or may not be a good idea. Not sure yet. If there is any moisture that still comes in you want it to go somewhere. Maybe in an unfinished part that has a dehumidifier but the sealing/drainage should take care of most of the humidity problems. Use armstrong supertuff ceiling tiles or other mold resistant ceiling tiles.

Using traditional materials gives you more flexibility and gives you more options. You're not stuck with one or two suppliers. You can get all the local contractors to give you a bid to your specs and keep an eye on them to make sure they do it right. If you're pretty handy there's a lot of this stuff you can do yourself and save a ton. You have to keep an eye on a lot of the OC installers it seems anyway. Or if you like the OC system and installers go with them if you think the price is reasonable.

The main point is that you need to do something about the moisture entering your basement. Building anything without taking care of the moisture problem is a waste of money.