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

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 44)
on Sep 28, 2005
To Jim007 of November 2004
Can you (or anyone else) refer me to that book you speak of? (wiring home theatre system for the do it yourselfer)
Thanks I would appreciate it so much.
on Sep 29, 2005
Looks like you don't either!!!!!!!!!!!!!
on Sep 29, 2005
Just had our OC basement delivered and it looks great, and has a wonderful accoustic bonus. Much quieter than any room in our house.
We are in Woodstock, IL and the crew we were lucky enough to get, was so conscientious and courteous. They were only here for a short time (8 days total) and I was very comfortable with them in our house. I can't say that about any other contractor I've ever hired!!! NO MESS, NO NOISE, NO SMOKERS, NO PROBLEMS. We were very lucky to get Patrick and Lucas as our Installers. And Our Salesman, Doug was a stand up guy too, and very attentive even after the sale. OUR EXPERIENCE WAS VERY POSITIVE. I would do this again in our next home vs. the drywall method of basement finishing. We finished the basement for a double home office, and a home theatre room, so the fact that it is so quiet is great. We don't even have carpet down or furniture in there yet, and there is absolutely no echo.
I think this will be the way to go well into the future for finishing below grade. The look is very nuetral and soothing. And as far as price, they matched our quote for the contractor that quoted us for a drywall basement. Only this way we had NO DUST, NO CONTRACTORS LIVING AT OUR HOUSE, and IT WAS DONE IN A MATTER OF DAYS!
Have any questions? Love the site, glad we went with it, despite the negativity in some postings.
on Oct 09, 2005
As an alternate system check out the system that Basement Finishing Inc. is installing in Indiana. They use vented steel framing and a new product by Georgia Pacific made especially for basements (Dens Armour Plus). It is drywall with a fiberglass mat and treated gymsum core with no paper and they complete basements in 15 to 21 days just like your upstairs. Their basements range from $15 to $26 a sq.ft., but, they do not price by the foot. I am proud of my basement. I call it the lower level. I think the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System makes your basement look like an office cubicle. One thing I didn't like about it is the electrical wiring is ran in a track along the floor behind the base. I sure wouldn't like to step in the water if the basement flooded.
on Nov 12, 2005
Does anyone know of a similar wall product for the DIY'er?
on Nov 18, 2005
You are the Dumb Ass.
on Dec 12, 2005
What was your cost per square foot?
on Dec 12, 2005
What was your cost per square foot?
on Dec 14, 2005
Without question this was one of the dopiest product reviews I have ever read.

You ARE a dope.

I was interested in something new for a basement but after reading your review I cannot find a single reason why I would want to invest ANY money in this system ... can't hook things to wall, can't attach a bar, cost - doesn't include this, doesn't include that, unprofessional hustler-level sales people with lousy contracts, "sign here now" mentality, doesn't look as good as the much cheaper drywall, can be damaged but "not easily" - what in heavens name does this mean - MARKERS? Are you suggesting that this new basement frees up your wife to clean the rest of the marks off the walls upstairs? (tell here to try Simple Green or 409 - not BLEACH !)

I am just betting the salesman is still shaking in his boots about your GOOGLE threat. Why is it dopes like you like to expose their stupidity to the rest of world, never mind just the boys at work cutting the pastrami? You must have looked like a complete ass to this salesman sitting there on your laptop "looking up what other people paid for the system". Mind sharing this valuable web site(s)?

If you weren't such a incredible negotiator (apparently much craftier than the average yokel sucked into this purchase) you would really be looking bad. I hope you are going to live with the same color on the wall for the next 20 yrs.

Did you know that an 1100 sq ft. basement can easily be drywalled in 3 days - complete including jointing and sanding. A draped, vaccum system can be used to keep dust to a minimum and certainly can beat your estimate of "years of dust", and the cost, apparently from your comments above, is really going to make the great negotiator out to be the sucker he thinks he isn't.

The only factor I haven't included in my analysis of "why not to buy this system" was the THEATRE. You are correct, you just can't piss with any old wall system when you are dealing with the future "Home-Basement La Scala Sound System" I hope raising the ceiling to 10 ft + was included in you negotiations. If not, maybe you could call them back because I am sure you discussed this with them at the time of signing and your GOOGLE.

on Dec 28, 2005
I too live in a suburb of Detroit and had the "Basement Experts" out. I saw the ad on TV which said call to get the "free video". So I did that, and no response for 6 months. Then they called and said they don't have any more videos but they will set up an appointment to send someone out for a free estimate. After talking with the person, I reiterated that we are on a limited budget, and I've heard how insanely expensive it is... the sales lady keep pushing that we could probably afford it because they have a lot of new options, etc etc.

So they came out, were very "used car salesmen" like, made us watch 2 videos that we had already seen on Bob Villa (and when we mentioned that, they just kept watching anyway). So 3.5 hours later they come up with a price.....$55,000 .... and here's the kicker, that was just for the WALLS AN CEILING! No electrical, no heating, no floor, no bathroom, nothing. The area we were finishing was about 1100-1200 sq ft.

At this point I got pissed off and wanted to kick them out of my house. He kept saying that any "reputable builder" would charge that same amount. I said "oh really, because I have quotes for $10,000-$20,000 and that INCLUDES floor, heat ducts electrical, and a bathroom! If I wanted to do this entire job myself, I could probably do it for about $5,000."

I want those 4 hours of my life back. I will never again buy any Owens Corning product, and in my opinion, anyone who spends this much money on this system is completely out of your mind unless you live in a freaking swamp and your basement floods regularly.

I thought to myself, "if I do have a water problem, I could completely redo the basement 4 times over for the price they charge to do it once!".

Never again.
on Dec 28, 2005
Let me just add my experience to this board, My OC sales man just left, 3.5 hours of talk, I thought he would never leave, it was 10pm and he was still here, Thank God for my sleepy kids, thats the only way I got him to leave. well here is the kicker, my basement is 1440 s.f, and my price came to $77k /w.o Flooring. he kept going on and on about how much value it would add to my house. The sale guy was exactly like how you guys describe them, I think they all came off the same assembly line . he started out at $60 sf, then went down to $47 after the Sam club, home showcase and If I sign on today Discount. I got a estimate on my basement with sheet rock and it was about $15k to $20k, that 3 time less than the OC price. as Dominogold said, I can do my basement 3 time over for that price and my basement is very dry.
on Jan 01, 2006
I agree completely Jamaican.

I'm sorry but the people that spend this kind of money on a basement must have a ton of money to just throw away. There are many new products out that could eliminate any risks including installing vapor barriers, waterproofing, and access panels and with proper construction you can completely eliminate the risk of basement leaks and mold without having to spend 5 times the price.

Or here's a better solution. Run a dehumidifier!

I just had a quote to finish the entire basement for $11,000. Anyone that would spend 5 times that to put a toxic PVC product in their walls is completely out of their mind in my opinion.
on Jan 03, 2006
I am getting a 22 x 26 foot section of my home done with OC. It includes 3 doors, 10 lights on 2 zones TV and phone outlet and electric outlets. I am paying 17,800 I still think the price is to high but I like the product. I am kind of scared about the stories I read here. My first price was 28,000 the sales guy did all the calling and offering stuff people talk about here and I got the price to 23,000. I signed a contract at 11:50 P.M. after 4 hours with the sales man. After seeing this web site I cancelled the contract and the salemans boss wanted to meet with me and see if he could lower the price after he came out and the 10 mins he said he needed turn out to be a hour I got my system for 17,800. I will keep you all posted after I get my install starting next week. My stair case needs work before they can install I will have a long weekend a head of me getting it rebuilt. I am sure for a million bucks they can replace the stairs for me also (lol). If any one has finished pictures of the bastments I would love to see them
on Jan 04, 2006
Your review really helped in understanding where I need to be with pricing!
on Jan 11, 2006
Well we are on our 3rd day of working on my bastment. My only complaint is that I have a walk out basement and told the crew of 2 works that the basement door would be open to acess the basement and that was the door they were to use and to please lock the door at the end of the day. Well last night. I get home to find my garage acess door and my french door off of my kitchen left unlocked. I live out in the middle of no were and it did not make my girlfreind happy to come home at 10 at night and find the house open like that. We called and left a complaint with the sales manager last night and I installed a lock on the door from the bastment comming up stairs to the living area. But beside that the work they have done looks great. It is kind of funny the salesman is from basement experts they lead you to believe they work for owens but they don't and they lead you to believe the installers work for basement experts but they are really a 3rd party contractor hired by basement experts to do the install. This is really not a problem for me they are doing nice work but I don't know why they lead you on that way. The crew said said the job would take 3 to 4 days. So it is possible they will be done today. I am located in michigan and the installers are from Indiana. They left some papers in a folder the first night out of the 17,800 we paid for the system they are only getting a little over 2000 dollars to do the install plus some one is paying for the 3 or 4 night stay in a hotel 20 miles from my home plus the gas to drive back and forth and the gas from Indiana. I really figured alot of the cost of the system would be the installation of the system. I will keep you all posted on the out come.
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