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 43)
on Aug 22, 2005
We just signed on. We 'talked' them down substantially on the price. It was only 2k more than a drywall solution. So, we were pretty comfortable going with it. I am expecting it to be done in the next 2 days. Have been pretty happy with the installation so far.

We had sales rep come out to 'add' on... He ended up leaving his 'price sheet' by accident. They definately quote by linear feet NOT square feet. The sheet is definately out of this world. but, again they thew in the 'add-ons' for us. Probably still making a hefty profit but as I said the drywall solution wasn't that much cheaper...

Question... where do you find extra hangers... Normal and for extra weight applications... I have tried googling... but, I guess I don't know what they are called. I just want to understand where to find them later on. I have a call into the sales rep.

on Aug 22, 2005
We had the OC come to the house for a visit last year.
Quote us about 32k FOR 1200 sq feet living space.

The Rep was nice but the I got the feeling the whole thing is much like the

KERBI Vacuum Salesmen.

Has anyone ran into them before?
They make striaght commish, need sales and push push.
Anything over like 300.00 is straight profit to the salesmen and they quoted us 1500.00 when we started!
on Aug 24, 2005

Hi,

Owens-Corning has been heavily promoting this system on radio in the Boston area recently (Summer, 2005). I began to look into it and started with your site. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your experiences, opinions, and tips.

Frank
on Aug 31, 2005
We had the OCBFS installed in June 2004 at a cost of over $28K within our previously mold-free basement and within 6 weeks of the OCBFS install, we had a basement overtaken with mold. We had to hire an environmental company to study each floor of our house which identified the mold count off the records within the area of the basement the system had been installed. We immediately hired a mold remediation company to remove the OCBFS from our home and re-test the house. The mold count was back within normal limits. It's been over a year and we have received no refund from OC. They are NOT a company that stands by their product NOR do they have a 'mold-resistant' product..... Buyer beware.....
on Sep 13, 2005
Obviously a seller who don't have the stones to post his own name
on Sep 14, 2005
In response to Tom,
Tom's summations are absolutely correct. If you have moisture in the basement, it doesn't matter what you are using on your walls. Remember cement walls are permeable. You must repair all cracks in walls and near windows to prevent future leaks. Radonseal or Penetron are excellent materials to help with wall issues. I researched the gp.com website and in fact their new moisture resistant sheetrock seems to be a superior product to traditional and green board and rather suitable for basement/bathroom use. It's used just like normal sheetrock but has newer technology to inhibit mold growth (ie. the gypsum is faced with a plastic material on both sides instead of paper (which mold will eat). You can hang whatever the heck you want on it. Steel studs are preferable over wood but if you choose wood studs, make sure itheir pressure treated. The OCS product appears to have fiberglass insulation that is not rigid attached to its fabric face. It just doesn't seem appropriate to place fiberglass insulation against a permeable cement wall. It will soak up the moisture just as much as it allows moisture to pass thru (but that is just an assumption; there has to be a reason rigid board insulation is preferred in basements). Furthermore, your basement will always feel more humid than the rest of the house. To help eradicate this problem, try a continuous dehumidification system like the humidex or a similar unity sold by mustybasements.com. Both systems run continuously and vent outside the house much like a dryer vent. You never have to drain a bucket like a typical dehumidifier. And one shouldn't use a rug in a basement. Rugs soak up moisture. Try a pergo floor with area rugs. If your basement ever does spring a leak, you can throw out and replace an area rug a whole lot easier than wall to wall. Good luck and stay away from snake oil
on Sep 15, 2005
Hey everyone,
I just wanted to make my opinion known on this matter. I had the owens corning system installed two years ago and feel very pleased with the results. We run a dehumidifier (strongly recommended by OC) and use the room often to watch movies. I researched the moisture and mold problem and came to the conclusion that the OC product was the best bet for me. I took a piece of the system down (which was a selling point for me) and examined the fiberglass panel. In response to the last email the panel is rigid and looks like is composed of condensed and layed fiberglass. As far as not being sure if it should go against the foundation wall, all I know is they invented the stuff so I am sure they a qualified in determining where it should be used. I must say the level of service that OC of Boston provides is better than ANY contractor I have ever dealt with. I had an issue with a damaged ceiling tile and called the company for a replacment. Within a week a replacement was mailed to me Fedex and with no charge. I would recommend them based on my experience.

James
on Sep 15, 2005
I purchased their product and do like it but aside from the cost where any of you told about the importance of an egress window? Did they ever mention this in their presentation at all? I was naive and thought the windows I had were in good condition and did not need replacing. But I have recently found out it is extremely important if you are trying to get a certificate of occupancy to have an egress window in place.
on Sep 17, 2005
What is the cost these days for O.C? I fell for the sale pitch. I am now ripping up the contract. I'm paying way too much. From what I am seeing OC is out of the playing field on there price. The sales expert told me lights, electricity, vents, walls, ceiling, stairs, no flooring and they would pull the permits would come in at $53.00 sq ft. That’s what I paid for when I built my new house. So if any one can help with the cost I would appreciate the help. I live in RI.
on Sep 19, 2005
Dear RI,

I had Owens Corning come out to my house in Conn three years ago to give me an estimate. The price per square after discounts was 48 dollars per square after I did my calulations. The job included everything but the floor and I had no bathroom. I decided to wait for the price to come down. So I waited. Three years this past July I purchased the system. The layout did not change. However I ended up paying 60 dollars per square. I was informed that over the last three years the company had raised the list price by more than 20 percent. The reason I do not doubt that claim is because I work in the buliding matertials business and know that PVC (which is what the product is made from) and fiberglass have risen in cost significantly. I know the company I work for had to increase prices because of the rise in fuel costs also. The bottom line is I wanted the system and believe it will last a very long time downstairs. I do regret now not buying it three years ago for a lower number. I also wish I would have bought a second vacation home three years ago beacuse I am priced out of that market. I was willing to pay the premium because when I sell my home five years from now (but who knows) I will relaize I greater return than if I had a musty smelling dry wall basement. My advice to you is create rough budget and be realistic. I came to the conclusion that if a want quality than I am going to have to pay the price. By the way did they pffer you a showcase incentive? I agreed to show off the basement which got the cost per square down from 72 dollars! Call and ask them. Hope this helped.

Gary
on Sep 19, 2005
Dear Gary,

Only S_ _ _ , $72.00 per sq ft. That must have been embarrassing to you for them to offer you that much per sq ft. And yes he offered me the Show Case House thing to, to lower the price and at the end we didn’t sign that Show Case form. 1. That was just an indication this was a sales pitch. 2. Plus I’m sure he called some guy when he was talking with you to get the price lower. Right. Sales 101, how can I bull shit the customer in buying the product at a high price.

With $53.00 sq ft I could put an addition on the back of my house. Let’s be realistic here. I am talking quality walls and electricity. Nothing else. Also, I believe in the product but Owens Corning is the one coming in with the sales pitch. I’m not buying a car.

My farther in law hangs wall paper for a living and does a great job at it. He is called for prices all the time. He prices jobs out gives the customer the price. Either the customer calls back and says yes or no. He doesn’t call back to lower the price when the customer says no. Plus, he does have a sales team out there being dishonest by trying to get the highest price out of his customers. I just want a price so I can say yes or no. And when I say no they don’t come back and say we can lower the price. Give me the low price and I will see if I feel it is affordable and within reason. I like the product but don’t bullshit me in the process to get me to buy.

I can’t believe Owens Corning has to lower them selves to a sales pitch to sell a quality product. I’m from the manufacturing business and when you make a quality product, the product sells itself.

meomy
on Sep 23, 2005
I purchased the OC System a couple of months ago and had it installed. My friends and family love it. We added a bedroom, entertainment area, and fitness area. The sound proof rooms are amazing. It is sooo quite in the basement. My Son who wanted his bedroom in the basement loves it. When we were moving furniture we banged into the walls and not even a scratch. This in my opinion is a wonderful system. Many of the negative posts are all caught up on square footage and the buy tonight sales approach. This system comes with a lifetime transferable warranty, mold, mildew, water, and stain resistant. Hello.... I know there is time to be frugal ... I am not frugal when there is a night and day difference between the OC system and drywall. Drywall will be a thing of the past. It causes mold and does have potential health risks for the house hold. The people on this board are too negative. The people have been excellent and the installation was in a little over a week. For three or four thousand dollars more than drywall the benefits outweigh being cheap and to settle for drywall. It is a beautiful system and would recommend it to anyone. For anyone that does go with drywall good luck and let me know what happens when you wither get water or have a leak in your foundation. Bottom line - Drywall 15-20 dollars.... OCBFS - 23-28 dollars with all of the benefits and lifetime warranty. This is like buying a Rolls Royce for 23-28 dollars or getting a 1982 ford tempo (drywall) in exchange for the difference in price. It amazes me that people would settle for less when it comes to their largest investment their home.
on Sep 24, 2005
Michael

Sounds to me you had a good response from you sales person from OC. I wish I had the same. If I got the price you are talking about from OC I would sign very quickly on the dotted line. But from my dealings in the last week with a franchise company of OC, they want to take any extra money I have to pay for this system which I believe in. I to love the benefits of the OC over dry wall, but explain to me why does OC have to come in with a sale pitch and try to steal every penny you make for the system. I am not being negative I trying to be realistic. I am talking a quality wall with electricity. Then they want to charge an arm a leg and the rest of my kid’s college tuition. I’m not buying car so stop calling the boss for a better price. Just give me the bottom line and then I will tell you if I can afford it. Finally, I wish I got the same price you did because I would sign quickly. Plus the basement is not the largest investment in your. Again you are talking walls and electricity, nothing else.

meomy
on Sep 26, 2005
I built my house, workshop, etc, and am pretty knowledgable about construction. Does anyone know about any do it yourself basement systems like Champion or OC?
on Sep 28, 2005
To #1 (who was responding to David the Installer.)
Hey Man, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to overprice and badger people either. Ease off on David. The installer would have a better sense of the product than the salesman anyway. Afterall the Installer handles the product, and probably has finished basements in the traditional way as well.
You #1, have probably just moved from Used Cars to Owens Corning.
Think about this: If you don't sell with ethics, you will eventually run out of interested customers. With the internet, just about anyone can become a savvy customer. Obviously you're not a Savvy Salesperson if you don't realize that you just did yourself a DIS-SERVICE by posting such an ignorant comment to an OC installer.
Like mold grows on drywall-grow yourself a brain.
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