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 5)
on Feb 01, 2004
Will, I thought that franchises weren't allowed to service customers in another franchise's market. Unfortunately, I fall within the area for the company you are referring too. I would like to get a quote from the one in Saginaw, but I didn't think they were allowed to secure my business since Oakland County, Michigan falls under the other company's territory?
on Feb 01, 2004
Gail There is a company out of Western Michigan that does a Black Mold resistant drywall that is the same look as traditional drywall. There prices are similiar to builders the Owner is a personal friend of mine for years if you are ready to do the basement I am sure he'll make the trip to see you and your family. He has done some basements in Oakland County. The name of the company is Rockford Basements. If its the mold thing your worried about then give them a call! 616-886-4007 Have a good day!
on Feb 14, 2004
Has anyone had this service done in the Philadelphia/Montgomery County areas? My wife and I are hoping to finish our basement in a few months, and this system really intrigued me. What I am wondering is how low you got them to on price.

Also, it seems that you can get them to do the walls only, and have someone else do the electrical, ceiling, doors, etc. Has anyone had them refuse to do this? I think I can do those items myself and save some money. We have a 225 sq ft basment room we want to finish for under 5K. As a bonus, we would like to get the hallway style laundry/furnace area fixed up in that price range as well.
on Feb 17, 2004
has anyone dealt with the Owens corning rep on long island. I was quoted 70 square foot for a 200 foot basement. I would love to know since this company is the only on ein the NYC area.
on Feb 17, 2004
We first saw this product at a home remodeling show. When we repeatedly asked the representative how this product compared costwise with traditional drywall she kept repeating "it's much safer, more durable and there's no mold!" Finally, I have some idea of the cost. Thanks.
on Feb 18, 2004
I wish I had read this article before the Owen Corning Franchise Salesperson visited. I was aghast when I was quoted over $36,000 for just over 500 square feet-- that's $67/sq foot!!! And yes, I got the high presssure sales pitch and he tried to "close" me with a ten percent discount if I signed up right away.

Needless to say, this sale probably did more harm than good. It has absolutely turned me off from any interest whatsoever.
Lesson learned--Make sure you do your homework!! Good Luck!
on Feb 20, 2004
All you bashers of the oc product suprisingly are the ones who dont own it. I own it, love it and would do it again if I had too. It holds warmth, visually outstanding, does hold pictures, contrary to some peoples belief. I even have a 20lb dart board attached to it in the game room. And it also is great in acoustics. Anyone can plop down some drywall walls but afterwards go ahead and sit in the middle of the room and whisper. Youll hear it echo like the canyon. Yes, the sales pitch is bad but you have to bargain with them just like anyone else. Excellent product. If you dont own it how on earth can you bash it? Thats like saying a new corvette drives terrible when you have never driven it. Who on earth would believe you?
Would buy it again in a second. You have to see it and feel it to understand. My recomendation is to go to their office and see one set up if you are still skeptical.
on Feb 20, 2004
Is not apparent to everyone that when there is a post like the above from Mark that he obviously works for a franchise. Sounds like a page out of their pitchbook. If you have an Erie Construction office around you gove them a call. Similar product, price , adn pitch, but at least it gives some options.
on Feb 20, 2004
Of course those of who suggest other companies have no interest what so ever!! Just good deed doers, right! To all of you who are thinking about the Owens Corning Product, have them out and make your decision. Do not believe a bunch of nutballs from a web page. It is not for everybody, but if you find another product that is mold, water, and it is fire prood! Backed by a company with the integrity of Owens Corning and it's cheaper! Buy IT. But don't trash someone else when you do it. The facts and science speak for themselves but YOU need to make the decision.
on Feb 21, 2004
This website is absolutely ridiculous. If anyone believes anything they read here they have to be totally out of their minds! I stumbled upon this site while looking for some information but it seems as if you are all a bunch of washwomen!! Why don't you contact the Builders Science Consortium and find out real facts. I do not have my basement finished yet but I am in the market. I do know that if the basement is finished improperly with dry wall and wood studs you will get mold. Even if you do not have water in your basement, water vapor passes through your foundation every day. That moisture on wood studs and sheetrock will cause mold. Am I getting the Owens Corning System??? I dont know . But what I do know is that I can judge the situation for myself. Everyone who has such strong opinions are idiots and probably can't afford the system.
on Feb 21, 2004
Guess what? Anyone can post anything on this website and you dont even need a valid E-mail address you can put in anything. I just put in dick@aol.com. Real credible website!!!
on Feb 22, 2004
Hey Dave You are gay get a real job fag boy and stop sticking up for those to fag boys in toledo, Get a life you piece of shit.
on Feb 26, 2004
This is a very useful response. Thanks for the note
on Feb 26, 2004
I was very disspointed as well with the ridiculous sales pitch
on Feb 29, 2004
Sounds like a good idea is there anybody who knows how to get this basement in sacremnto?