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 53)
on Apr 07, 2008

My wife and I sat through a presentation yesterday after going through an open house on Saturday. The sales rep was a very nice guy. He originally quoted us $67K to finish just under 900 square feet. After a showcase discount, a $2000 off coupon and a phone call to his boss (all for show) to get the "flexible install discount" the price made its way down to $47K (about $52 a sq ft). We felt pressured to make what turned out to be a bad decision. The sales rep advised that the flexible install discount disappeared when he walked out the door. So we agreed to the $47K price tag and signed the contract. THANK GOD my wife found this website. I am sooooooo mad after reading the reviews. What happen to us has apparently happened to MANY others. We are canceling our contract today. We got totally scammed. I am considering filing a complaint with the Illinois Attorney Generals Office. This type of sales scam should be illegal they are ripping people off by trying to scare them about mold and showing news paper articles. Im sure they are laughing all the way to the bank after ripping off an unsuspecting family. SHAME ON YOU DOW CORNING, I HOPE YOU ALL ROT IN HELL!!!!!!!

on Apr 07, 2008

correction for entry 781: it should read "SHAME ON YOU OWENS CORNING"

 

on Apr 08, 2008
As a former salesperson for this system I can tell you that the product can be discounted by at least 30%.
Also be very careful about incentives like big screen TV or $1000. debit cards as these items are added to the final price.
on May 05, 2008

Well - My wife and I are finally ready to finish our unfinished walk-out lower lever of our home. We have approximately 900 sq. ft. + a rough in for a bathroom.

We signed up for the free basement drawing at the local home improvement show and were called by Owens Corning about a month later.

My wife set up the appointment for us and when she told me that we both had to be there which we would have anyway, I prepared her for the hard sell.

I was actually nicely surprised by the rep as he was very professional and at no time time did he use any hard sell tactics with us probably because i told him that I have been in sales for over 20 years. He did however use the Showcase discount, Flexible install discount, flooring discount, ect. after two hours he went back downstairs and I told my wife that I was going to check online while he was down there.

I found this site and thank goodness that I did. 

The price went from $37,000 down to $28,000. This would not finish the basement however because the back wall above grade was unfinished drywall, the window trim was unfinished and we have a rough-in for a lower level bathroom that they do not do. So this was for walls on all but the back wall and the ceiling as well as electric and lights and a door to what would be a bathroom that we would have get done another way.

We singed, but cancelled within the three days as we really want a one-stop solution to have the whole thing done and they could not do that.

Good thing, we had a referral through a friend and we are having the entire job done with mold resistant drywall, finishing, painting, flooring, entire bathroom and finished windows for just under 20K.

Perfect for us.

I can see why those of you that have purchased the OC system would be happy as if we did not have the bathroom and the walkout we probably would have stuck with it.

Well, yesterday we get a call from the Showcase Recovery team and they offer the OC system for $18K - we already had decided to go with our contractor, but my wife said that had they done that from the start, we probably would not have cancelled and would have had enough money to finish the back wall and bathroom within our original budget.

Overall, our unique situation is better served as I did not want to have two different types of walls in our lower level and we are getting a deal because of a friend to have the entire LL with bath done for $7K less so it is a no brainer.

I certainly would not dissuade anyone from the OC system except to say make sure you tell them to give you the Showcase Recovery price at around $20 per square foot to save them and you time and money.

To go from $37,000 to $18,000 is pretty suspect. I would say that if you want their system - get the lowest price possible, sign up, then pay the fed ex bill to cancel within 3 days and wait for the Showcase recovery call to get it down to $20 per square foot. If they are going to play the game, you might as well too.

Remember, you will still have to get the flooring elsewhere.

Good Luck!

 

on Aug 13, 2008

I have had the OC basement for over 3 years now. I must say I am really happy I did it with OC. Never had any problems with the basement. It looks great too!  I am using it as offce area, rec room and home theater. I had to access the foundation wall on few occasions - I was really happy that I had this system.

 I wasnt biting into the mold scare and dismissed it as a major factor in my buying decision at the time. I just like the system as a whole. When OC did the basement I asked them to leave a little area where I would put a walk-in closet. They just installed the door to this area and a light and left it alone. I framed this area the usual way - 2x4s, sheetrock, cedar plywood for the closet etc. After awhile my wife discoverd nasty mold in the closet and pretty bad case too - some clothes, shoes and other things were ruined. The cedar sheets were damaged by the moisture too! After I removed some of the cedar/sheetrock I found the foundation wall moist to the touch and smelling like mold. This problem was ONLY in the area done the regular way - I checked and everywhere else where the OC system has been installed, the wall was dry with no traces of mold or moisture problems whatsoever!

If i had to do the basement all over  - I would choose OC system every time!!

I agree that the sales tactics are annoying but once you get past this and check work previously done by the same installers (strongly recommend) - this is probably the best solution for basements out there.

All those people who never had the system but complain and bash it is simply because they cant afford the price! It is more expensive than the sheetrock for sure - it is worth it - yes!

I would say: if you think you are going break the bank by going with OC - dont do it, but bashing something that  you never had and is just too expensive for your pocket looks like a Ford owner trying to find reasons why he shouldn't buy a Lexus. 

btw the sound properties are amazing - I have 800+ sq.ft room in my basement and there is no echo! My home theater system sound absolutly great!

My advise is to really check the franchise you are dealing with, do your home work, check a few "model homes' they already have done, speak with the owners (privately, not in front of the agent) and if everything checks and you are not spending the kid's college fund - go ahead.

The main problem ppl have with OC is the franchise strategy - some of them are not reputable, with low standards, poorly trained installers etc. There is no way one company can guarantee for every single one of them  or controll them - you need to check their work BEFOREHAND - the same way you are choosing contractor for remodeling your house. My basement was done by CKH Industries (serving NY, CT and NJ). The salesman was John White (no BS or pressure), project manager John DeClaire (very flexible and accommodating to my requests), installer Scott  (worked fast, with perfection during every part of the installation)- those guys did an outstanding job in my basement. Only 12 days of installation - neat and clean.

I have no affiliation with OC nor CKH - just a happy custormer of 850 sq ft OC system for over 3 years!.

on Dec 29, 2010

Wish I would have read this before I bought my OC basement system in 2006.  I wonder if I would have received a better deal.  

I've seen the warranty mentioned a few times but don't have anything other than a letter with a warranty number and phone number to call.  I'm trying to figure out what it actually covers.  I had placed 3 bookshelves against one of the walls after the system was installed.  A month ago, I moved the bookshelves and found a large spot on it that looked like mold.  I called OC and they referred me to the installers.  The president told me that there's no way it could be mold so I asked how I should clean it.  He referred me to the cleaning guide.  Well, the cleaning guide does not explain how to clean mold spots since it's not supposed to mold.  He got defensive.  So we agreed that I'd try to clean it again and if I couldn't get it clean that he'd send someone out to test it to make sure it's not mold.  I tried a few solutions to clean it and called OC back.  The final result was that they referred me to the cleaning guide and that's all they would do.  It's a big spot and if it would be drywall, I could paint it to hide it.  Now I'm stuck with it there at eye level.

I'm a personal trainer and I train people in that finished area.  A client tripped getting off the treadmill too quickly and her foot hit the wall.  I just noticed there's a big indentation and the top material is stretched out of shape.  It looks bad!  Drywall would most likely have cracked but the spot could have been fixed.  I can't find any information anywhere about whether or not something like that can be fixed or whether the warranty would cover it.  Does anyone know?

I'm also posting this information as topics you might want to consider happening if you buy the system.  Their sales materials say it's dent resistant.  I thought about if a family had kids and a pool table and how easily the walls could be poked and damaged with cue sticks.

Looking forward to hearing if anyone has suggestions or solutions for fixing these problems.  Thanks!

 

on Nov 02, 2011

Fantastic Info.
I recently purchased the owens corning basement system and there a couple key points regarding the price.
My salesman,lets call him steve, originally quoted me at 30 per sq. ft. which came out to be 22,000 for the complete renovation of my basement. The ceiling,using acoustic ceiling tiles, carpet,all electric (lights,switches) and of course the wall system. After prying out of steve the names of the components he would be using i found them and compared their price to another contractor doing it themselves. Heres my results.

The ceiling tiles that owens corning uses which are at any lowes or home-depot are armstrong sahara 2x2's. The total price of me bying these tiles along with the suspended grids it would go into cost me $1000.

The carpet was a no name carpet. A simple good Berber will do. This cost me another $1000 installed.

I had an electrician come to the house and give me a quote on wiring all the lights and switches which came to roughly $700.

I then went back to Steve and told him all i wanted to purchase was the actual walling system. It dropped to $8000!!!! My total square footage price went from 30 to 14.

Adding the 8000 for owens corning,1000 for the ceiling, 1000 for the carpet and 700 for the lighting the total cost I am now paying is $10,700. Remember the actual quote for owens corning to do all this was $22,000!!! Now are you wondering who gets that extra 10000+ if i bought it from steve? Steve does. After the contract was finalized and work was completed with my walls I asked steve how did he justify me paying 8000 for the walls opposed to 22000 for everything? I put him in the corner with this question. I really wanted to know why or how can an extra $14,000 be for carpet,ceiling tiles and electric? He responded that the normal homeowner is to naive to think of subcontracting out the carpet,ceiling and electric making him act like he can do it all with one price.

My advice to all of you looking at the numbers end of this product is that i got it for $14 a square foot. Walling only. If you think about it thats all you really need them to do is the walls because thats their product and we as customers cannot just go buy it anywhere. They have us there but I stress to you all,do your research on subcontracting the rest out and you will see that you save over half than if owens corning did it themselves.
The product itself is outstanding. Accoustically it is more quiet in the basement then any other house. The warmth it holds is fantastic. I highly recomend the product to everyone interested but if you want to save alot of money and not pay "steve" an extra 10,000 then id seriously look into subcontracting out the other work.
I hope this helped some of you in deciding. I visit these forums regularly so if you have a question or a complaint to what i have said (or a nice comment) feel free.

Hi Tom,

Your post below is an old post.  I'm wondering if you still access this site and has some advise to share with me.

I'm here in Canada and I'm talking to the OC franchisee here.  I'm thinking of following your stragegy of just getting the OC wall panels as they are what OC's products are.

The salesman is quoting me a cost based on "lineal foot" for a 520 sq ft of basement floor area that I want to finish.  The quote specific for the OC wall system is around $25,700 which will be for the 136 lineal foot of the OC walling system.   Based on quote, it seems I'm being quoted at $49 per sq ft to what you mentioned you were quoted before at $14/sq ft.  Is my math correct?

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