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 46)
on Feb 01, 2006
I just cancelled my appointment thans to these postings and the "bad feelings" I got from the sales people. Why would I pay more for Owens Corning than drywall when drywall looks so much better? I have no mold issues.
on Feb 08, 2006
Just had a sales guy to our house yesterday. Very nice and professional - a little disappointed that he smelled like smoke. (Note to smokers - it is hard to sell anything to a non-smoker is you smell bad).

He spent over an hour detailing the issues with mold and how people die when they finish the basement and get mold. This is a risk you get when you build a house - mold does not discriminate - it also likes a leaky attic. So the moral to the story - do not spend an hour educating the customer on mold.

The problem I had with the sales pitch (besides the mold stories) is the end of sale pressure. I had told the sales guy that he was the first person in the door and I was getting estimates. He went through his speech and came up with lots of discounts. These discounts are fictitious... Look closely at the logic.

- The first discount is if you allow others to tour your house, two times. If this is actually used, then the sales person should be fine with you touring someone's house. I had said, "OK, let's tour a house - when can we go." He balked at it and asked me to sign a contract.
- The second discount is for a marketing party - While this may be a good marketing ploy, a person with a fairly priced product would not change the price and may offer to pay you a few hundred dollars for a party, not $2,000+
- The third discount was for allowing OC to take photos. If a contractor took a picture of your house they could probably ask and get your approval (as long as they did not state that this photo was taken at 123 Main Street). No need for another $2,000 discount.
- The fourth discount was a flex schedule discount. I think this was another $2,000 for going on a flex program. From my experience with contractors, they work on a flex schedule anyways - so this is really not a discount.

To make a long story longer I had received over $6,000 in discounts, which states to me that they are at least $6,000 overpriced.

I had asked for a detailed breakout of costs, and the sales person could not give that to me. Here is my guess:

1. Electrical $700
2. Ceiling $2,000
3. Carpet $2,000
4. OC Walls $22,000.

Seems a little steep for the walls. (Not including labor) A piece of drywall (top of the line) will sell for about $15. The OC wall piece would average out to over $500 a piece.

The hard sale continued. The sales person wanted me to sign a contract contingent that I like the walk through. When I asked why signing a contract now would be any different than signing it in two weeks he hinted that the discounts may not be available in two weeks. At that point, I stated to him if I called you in two weeks and offered to pay cash for the basement for the stated price (including discounts) you would eagerly accept. He smiled and said, "you are probably correct."

The product looked good, but here are some reasons I will not buy it:

1. Can't paint the walls (if you like the same color for 10+ years this will not be an issue)
2. The trim looks to have gaps around the windows
3. There are pvc lines going down your walls every four feet
4. The ceiling is only 8 ft tall - Most new construction has 10 - 12 ft ceilings ($500,000+ homes)
5. The installation appears to be similar to building a model car - put in some snaps and connect the pieces - Why would I need to pay large sums of money for someone to do this for me
6. Additions to the basement would be difficult - built in wet bars, built in book shelves, built in entertainment centers, etc

On a positive note, the product looks nice, but is not for me. If you are putting in a quick media room with moveable entertainment centers, play rooms, exercise rooms, or any other room where you will never touch the walls, this is probably a good product.

Sorry this was so long - looks like I lost track of words. Happy basement shopping to you!
on Feb 09, 2006
We got a price several weeks ago, the next day the sales person called and OPPPS! I forgot to price the ceiling...it's $2,600 (this is for 300 SF). We spoke tot he manager and h said he can do it at cost...$800 something. WELL we get the papers for the loan and it lists these HUGE ranges of MULTIPLE closing costs. Not specific and NEVER mentioned. I'm getting a couple quotes on drywall, as others have mentioned we can probably redo the basement a couple times for the price of one time iwth OC. Also, we are having a wall put across an open area that would lead to the heating system. There is no protective back put up against this so you KNOW the cats and kids will be pulling at it.
on Feb 10, 2006
Owens Corning system first started out in lowes stores where the homeowner could purchase it and DIY however the typical homeowner could not install it so they hired a contractor to install it, the contractor would ask, and what would you like me to do, actually we was asking and how much money is in this for me, so the owens corning system was not affordable, owens corning discounts or uses referal promotions to discount there price, even if you were paying a little more and even 6k in some cases it is well worth the price, afterall I pay 6k a year in life, health, auto and homeowners insurance every year, I would see this money if I die, or am in the hospital, or in a car accident, or if my home burns and this insurance would cover me and my most important investments and the most important things that are of importance to me, finishing your basement with this innovated product and maybe paying a lil more one time not every year and having the peace of mind that it helps eliviate the potential of mold growth is good for me, i guess it is all what you want to be surrounded by, and is square footage a logical way to look at this it is really based on lineal footage however most can only understand sq ft the larger the area your finishing of course the price could reflect 30 a sq but if your finishing 400 sq ft that would never be 30 bucks it would be closer to 50 so all said and done if the measurements are correct and you purchase a basement with a 30 percent discount, than you did well, and are fortunate to have such a wonderful basement.
on Feb 10, 2006
I just had a basement finished in my home by ocbfs of boston a local rep from the cape cod area came to my home he was very nice and had some very good sugestions, my main concern was cost, I new a little about there system but i nver saw it, he did measurements and a brieg presentation, he did not try to throw mold down are throats but he did mention it actually after i brought it up, afterall it is a concern, he showed us a wonderful design and told us exactly what they were going to do, all switches plugs doors everything even cable and phone jacks, his first price seemed very high, and it was then he lowered the cost using tactics that are common in sales, but it did not make me feel anxious like it does most because he was just doing his job, and I would give him at least that much he finalized his price and i paid around 48 dollars a sq ft. I hesitated a bit thinking that it would come down more but it was the end, I had a price allready from a contractor to do pretty much the same work, i was not comfortable with him because he was not as thorough, or I was not sure exactly what i was receiving, it was however just an estimate, the one thing that i was pretty assure of is that his estimate would be a lil higher than lower, after it was all said and done, I contracted owens corning at 48 dollars a square foot, it could had been less but my particular basement needed a little more work than others, i was hoping for closer to 38 a square foot but he said that he could not do that, the dry wall contractor came back and finalized his bid and he was at 42 dollars a sq ft, so i paid 6 dollars a square foot more but actually i paid a very fair price and had aI went with drywall than i would have been paying to much, I am very satisfied with the basement and would recommend it anyone considering doing there basements, if you want to save a few bucks and your handy enough and have the time do some of the work yourself, it wont save alot because i purchased at a 30 per cent discount off the original price, so yes owens corning is more expensive than drywall but after it is all said and done the price pretty much reflects the same as drywall providing you are using a reputable contractor. if you wait around and hope the price comes down than your paying to much the popularity of finishing this space in the basement is at its highest levels with setback regulations and the price of going up or out are through the roof in this area as well as the rest of the country, I now have a entertainment area to watch the pats, and the sox, I have a pool table and a small bar, and my 12 year old daughter cane now have sleep overs with a group of her friends, I am enjoying it very much and i feel i did get the best bang for my buck. I am proud to show it off, and it is one of the most comfortable part of the home it is quiet, clean, large enough to spread your wings, if your considering it i say do it you will be very happy as well i am sure
on Feb 16, 2006
I HAD A GUY NAMED MARK KENYAN TO MY HOUSE ,, HE WAS VERY ATTRACTIVE AND REALLY IN SHAPE ,, I WISH I COULD HAVE GOT THE BASEMENT GUY IN MY BASEMENT ,
on Feb 16, 2006
I Hade a drywall guy at my house he was 140 sq foot or 64,000 for a 460 sq foot basement . i live in new york city , i had allure/ owens corning come out and they were 25,000 for the same job.. i would have paid 3 times as much .. i believe the people who are writing this stuff are just contractors who cant compete with quality
on Feb 16, 2006
FYI , champion is losing case against oc and if you bought the knock off you just got beat, you will have no warrenty and good luck finding a replacement part , i have worked for champion in cincy and i have just been informed that we are not going to market anymore effective april 1st .. we may cover the warrenty for 1 year per state requierments ...
on Feb 16, 2006

I just talked to the owner of Fabricmate. They are calling themselves "a low cost alternative to the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System". They are currently getting together with local dealer / installers. The basement section of their website (www.fabricmate.com) is currently under construction. He said they should be doing work in my area in about a month.

He told me completely finished basements (wall, ceilings, floors, and electrical work) will come in between $20 - $30 sq. ft.

Fabricmate is working with Impressive Tile out of Detroit, (www.impressivetile.com/basements.htm) and they are expanding to the East Coast.

Luckily, one of the proposed dealers is only 30 minutes from my house.
on Feb 16, 2006
This is in reply to Mike who got a drywall estimate for $140 sq ft. That is a ridiculous price. I have a 1000 sq. ft basement, and I got 5 estimates. They ranged from $9 to $12 a sq. ft. The highest price was $12,000 (including ceiling and carpet). I can't see how your basement, half the size of mine, would cost $65,000 for drywall.
on Feb 17, 2006
I'm a lawyer by trade and I rarely make any sort of quick decision. When I decided to get my basement done I did all the research and decided to get the corning system. After reading this page I was a bit skeptical so before having corning out I had an electrician, a flooring company and a local contractor come out and give me prices on electrical work, full foor and drop ceiling. They were:
Electric- $12,350 (new lines, outlets,switches, upgrades to service)
Flooring- $8525 (full new wood floor)
Ceiling- $7610 (suspended 2x2 acoustic tiles)
Total- $28,485
I really thought I was ready for these guys at corning. I wasn't. My basement (approximatly 990 sq. ft.) has an odd kind of zig-zag shape and when we got into talking about it the corning rep pointed out to me that some of the things I was thinking of doing just weren't practical. In hindsight I should have seen these headaches myself but I was just being a dope. When it was all over he showed me the price. Their completed package- $46,682. When I showed him my other quotes he said, "I'm sorry sir, this is what it costs." I was stunned. At that point the rep, Jeff, took my quotes and asked me the name of the three outfits I had come out prior. Maybe I was still in shock but would you believe it, I could only remember one of them. That's when he pointed out that even if I wanted to get my house torn open by these three contractors (plus whoever else did the carpentry, painting, etc.) and was willing to spend the three months in this kind of a project I'd still have no warrenty and be liable to loose everything if a pipe burst or my 4 year old got his power ranger stuck in the toilet. "Who are you going to call then?" he said, "you can't even remember their names?" After some negotiation we settled on $41,350. For the benefits of the system, and the fact that they deal with the town for the permits and inspections it seemed like a fair price.
on Feb 28, 2006
Dear Kenneth,

I suggest that you revisit the costs. While I do not know what your basement looks like or what needs to be done, I can assure you that $12,350 is way too much for electrical. Think of it this way... What is the cost of materials and how many man hours will it take to finish the job. I had an entire 1920 house rewired for $5,500. The house was two stories, old, and over 2,000 sq ft. For your basement, the materials are probably around $200 - $300 at your local hardware store, and the labor should not take more than two days... maybe 20 hours.

The floor costs seem a little high, but flooring costs can vary.

The ceiling should not cost more than $2,000 for a 1,000 sq/ft basement

You had left out the walls. These should not cost more than $5,000 - $8,000... maybe more because of your zigzags.

Guess the sanity check is... the OC system may be overpriced. Stand firm and thank them for coming. They will come back and decrease the price if they want your business.

Good luck,

Mr. Sanity
on Mar 01, 2006
We just had an Owens rep out. We had heard about this system by word of mouth and we decided to have a quote worked up for our unfinished basement. After having the gentlemen in our home for two hours I found the whole experience to be rather dissappointing. The reasons are listed below:
1. Hard core sales pitch.
2. Would not give us price specifics with breakdown of costs.
3. Time consuming and drawn out, we had to say enough is enough.
4. They quoted us $35000 for a 575 sq ft area that included the ceiling, walls, and 3 standard doors. This would basically include the following in the system: 100 ft of the walls, 110 ft of the molding and trim, 3 zone lighting with their canister lights, ventilation mods for air return, 7 outlets including electric/phone/cable.
Once we expressed our dismay over the price he offered a showcase discount where we would have an open house for our neighborhood to come in and see the basement over the course of one Saturday afternoon. That would knock off $7000. In any case, being that I am able to do the basement myself(excluding electrical) I am going to go ahead and take my time and do it myself. I can put a very nice basement in for under $10K, it just might take a year, lol.
on Mar 02, 2006
Well, I have had both OC and Champion out. The champion price was about 20% cheaper than OC and they were willing to build in some bookcases and a closet. I even got the sales person to agree to get them to help me move the existing boxes out of the way (into my crawl space). Now that I've read the reviews on here. I'm concerned about the law suit and the warranty. I just signed the contract tonight and I have 3 days to think about it if I want to pull out. Does anyone know more about the law suit? Champion is a Cincinnati company (I'm in Columbus, OH) and they have been in business over 50 years. I thought I was doing pretty good on my negotions (I got about $29/sq ft with the additional stuff I mentioned above).
I really like the systems vs drywall... I wasn't exactly thrilled with the non-flexibility of OC. (they wouldn't build my bookcase into the wall etc.)
on Mar 03, 2006
I had my basement done by OC last year. I signed the contract in Feb and asked them to wait until mid April since I had to finish some things I’ve started in the basement. The two men crew showed up on schedule and finished the job in 16 work days - they estimated the job as 12 days job but one of the contractors got sick and he was off for a few days.
I have a large basement - a little over 1250 sq. ft. They finished 900 sq ft. and created also a large storage area, small sump-pump closet/storage area and walk-in closet space - total of 300 sq ft unfinished space. They installed 4 doors - one external door with glass, 2 doors leading to the walk-in closet and the sump pump closet and a double door to the storage area. They had to box in some pipes from the heating, plumbing and AC and some support beams, and install nice pole covers on 3 support columns. Small space under the staircase was finished by OC to accommodate refrigerator and microwave oven with additional outlets. Railing was installed in the staircase to bring it to code. They installed 18 can lights separated in 4 zones plus 5 additional utility lights in the unfinished spaces - total of 23 lights and 7 light switches. Installed 2 phone jacks and 2 cable TV outlets at specified by me locations. The electrical included all outlets by code on every wall, 2 electric heaters with separate runs to the electric panel, breakers for each zone, etc everything done by code. They did the ceiling and left me with 2 boxes of spare ceiling tiles. I asked them to install the ceiling as tight as possible to gain more headroom and I think they did the job very well. The guy also asked me what I’ll be doing for flooring and when I said that I’ll be installing DriCore, he did all doors and trim to accommodate the height of the DriCore panels. I had no problems installing the dricore and the carpet afterwards. They also left me with some spare parts - trim and PVC pieces from the system should I need them. OC doesn’t do painting so I had to paint the wooden boxes for the pipes but they used primed pine so the painting was easy! They also installed nice wall cabinet as access panel to my dry well cleaning port and access panel in the ceiling for the phone system. They also installed vents between the finished space and the storage area where the furnace is located.
Overall they did very good job! It was done very professionally and very clean. I can’t imagine the whole thing done for 16 days using dry wall.
In few months will be a year since I had the basement done and I couldn’t be happier! Looks very nice and as bonus the system has excellent acoustical properties to complement my home theater system. Part of the basement is also an office space and looks very good with office furniture! I have no complaints whatsoever!
Now going back in to the sales pitch. I first saw the system at a home improvement show and did some research before the visit from the OC sales person. I made clear that I am familiar with the system and I don’t need demo or lengthy mold discussion. I also told the guy that I am aware how much ppl pay on average for the system and we should cut to the chase saving ourselves the bushtit calls to the boss and other cheap sales tactics. I guess the guy had to do his job though, so initially he quoted me at over $46 000 and when I said that he has to come down in price or we have no deal and ill be doing dry wall, he started with the discounts and all that. At the end - the price I paid was $32 000. Similar dry wall job would have cost me $12-14K less but I like the system and I've been searching for solution other than dry wall for years so I was happy to discover the OC system. I don’t care about the "mold scare" - never had mold problems before but basement is a basement - you never know when you are going to get water leak, a crack in the concrete, sump pump will fail or a pipe will burst and then the cost of the repair plus the inconvenience will be huge if you have dry wall.
The access to the basement walls is also very nice thing - you can run all kinds of cables really easy plus the OC system provides you with special cable channel at the bottom of the wall (covered by the trim) so it makes installing Home Theater or computer a snap!
You can’t paint the walls but so what? The color is nice and works well with different types of furniture. OC provides you with special kit for hanging pictures.
Yes - it could be a little cheaper than that and they can save us the sales crap with the pricing but if you want your basement done the right way I think is the way to go.
I am happy with the system and would recommend it to anyone who can afford it.
I have no affiliation with OC or the franchise which did my basement (I live in CT btw) - just a happy customer!
P.S. It is very helpful if you know what exactly you want done to you basement and have a clear plan before the sales guy shows up.
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