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 7)
on Mar 30, 2004
Thanks again Brad for that informative article. I am currently in the decision making process of whether to tackle my basement on my own or hire a professional. I am trying to get a reasonable sense of what the actual cost would be if I were to do everything myself minus hooking up the electrical to my panel. I plan to finish about 600sq ft of basement, which include four walls, a closet and intalling a couple of doors plus adequate lighting and outlets for that size. I have a friend who says he sunk in over 10K to do it mostly himself as well. This seems awfully expensive for materials but I suppose that is why I am posting here, does anyone have a good guess as to what materials/parts would cost for a basement of this size?

As far as my Owens Corning experience goes, we had a sales rep over to do his pitch a few weeks back and I too was not impressed with their sales tactics. He first quote was about 28K and then after supposedly working in all these great discounts he came down to about 21K. I told him that was still more than I wanted to spend and he basically left at that point. Since that time I have received several phone calls from one, a couple asking about the salesman and whether he presented all the material to us and just yesterday from I believe the salesman boss who basically said that he has another great offer for us and promised us if he could come over and re-measure our basement and give us another quote he would be out of our home in 20 minutes so I am having them back again for round 2. After reading this board I will definitely be much more prepared this time in terms of what kind of price I should aim for, assuming I still chose to go that route. One thing for certain is that I will not tolerate and all or nothing sales approach in which they want you to commit on the spot, that alone is a deal breaker for me regardless of the price.
on Mar 30, 2004
Joe, do not waste your time. If you are not prepared to go forward that night the price will not be any good. It is all dependent on purchaseing now.
on Apr 01, 2004
I recently had an OCBRF instaleed in my basement and I cant be happier. It was completed on budget, on time and with polite, courteous installers. I paid $41 per square foot and was happy to do so. We had considired buidling out to ad a family room and the best deal I could get was $60 a square foot. Regarding sales people, like any profession there are good people and bad people. We had agreat salesperson who went into lots of detail and spent lost of time helping us design a wonderful rrom. We orignally wanted to do the whole basement but he recommended wo only finish about 800 square feet and leave the rest unfinished and use it for storage. Yes, he did talk about mold and after doing my own indpendent ivestigation, it was very obvious that drywall is a banquest for mold and anyone who takes a chance putting mold in their basement, even with a vapor barrier is playing Rusiian roulette. Thanks Owens Corning for a great job.
on Apr 02, 2004
Hey ken you are gay get a real job you pacesetter sales rep!!!! I heard that Champion is looking for a couple of fags like you! I am the icon of the BFS sales tactics nobody will ever do my numbers. Not even that fag in toledo JL who thinks that hes gods gift to this green earth. Real smart fag boy buy a new house and try to sell 3 mths later for $45,000 more than you bought it for and you wonder why its still for sale! And while I am in the mood hey mark yes you do work for a franchise stop lying and bashing because your a loser and you only make 35.000 a year but thats ok I make that in 3 mths. Oh Ya I forgot to ask how are ya daddys puppet?
on Apr 03, 2004
Just had an estimate on the O C basement system. As most of you who have checked out the system, I was impressed with the concept and the product. I too, got the typical :used car" pitch. The salesman did not know that I had researched the web before the appointment. Nor, did he know that I have owned a used car dealership for over 30 years. ( Never have I used the high pressure tactics I experienced with this pitch! ) If any of my employees insulted the intelligence of my customers like that, I would fire them in the spot. I do not need a buck that bad. Owens Corning should re -think their sales strategy and add INTEGRITY to their vocabulary. That said, the salesman was nice enough, and as I mentioned, the concept and product is wonderful, in my estimation. My basement would be a clean install. Nothing to move, and no water or mold problems The wall panels would not need to ne cut down as my basement has room for the standard 8' height.

The quotes were typically high at first. With all the many discounts available, as well as the "Open House" discount, should I allow the franchise to show off my job, the first estmate went from $ 58. per sq ft ( $ 22,700) to $ 26. and change or ($ 14,300) I then asked for an estimate on another section of the basement. This section was much smaller. Interestingly enough, the price went up to over $ 38. per foot. that vrought the total job to $ 23,500. What is up with that?

At the end of the day, I like the concept and the benefits, but not the price. After all, the system is nice looking plastic trim, really neat teflon fabric, and waterproof insulation with an "R" factor of 13. Lots of profit here, even if it were marketed with a normal retail profit of around 30%. It should also be noted, that the system is not rocket science. If it were availanle at Lowes or Home Depot, most handy folks could make it a really enjoyable project. Hey Owens Corning...............What's up with your corporate philosophy? Here-to-fore, I have been a faithful customer of O C products all my adult life for hundreds of projects, to the tune of a great deal of money......... I may need to re-think that for the future.

I would still purchase the system if I could believe in my heart that the price were fair. After all, profit, in and of itself is not a dirty word. Every business needs to prosper and make a FAIR profit, but not all off one job! I plan to check out the Champion system. Thanks to those who posted that information, and thanks to all who have taken their time to inform the consuming public. If we all keep up this good work, it will become more difficult to be cheated! Thanks again...............
on Apr 08, 2004
Thanks for the review. I've been considering whether to use the OC system
or doing my basement slowly by myself. After your column, I'm going to do it myself.
Cost sounds way more than by doing it myself - albeit it'll go more slowly and
I'll be doing the work.
I've been dreading the "1 1/2 hour" sales call from the OC people and I think your
comments about this also lead me to lean toward doing it myself.
on Apr 08, 2004
I am purchasing a home in Oakland county and tried to call Champion to find out about their basement system and was told the product is only in Ohio, but they once went out to Ypsilanti to do a job. I called the 800 number given by the rep in Auburn Hills, but it did not work from the Detroit area. With the exception of the inconsistant pricing, I like what I hear about the actual OC system, but dont want the BS in dealing with some slimy rep who wont even be with the company a year from now. If anyone finds another system out there, vendor or builder who can do something similar please post it here!
on Apr 08, 2004

I live in Jersey, I was wondering what quotes you guys were getting. I just went thru a THREE Hour Meeting!!!! To be perfectly honest everthing described by the other posters is correct about the sales tactic but the sales person was actually pretty cool! Although he did get a little flustered when I mention I did my homework and heard about people getting 28-30 a sq foot. Of course he said that only happen in ohio HA! But I got around 28k for 500 sq ft. If I agree within 72 hours. Too High Buddy but I like the system very much. I was wondering who else around northern NJ does this kind of work I plan on calling Champion tomorrow but I will tell them I dont have another 3 hours to spend and if the price is the same dont come over!

BTY What the hell is daddys puppet I must be missing the joke Later
on Apr 09, 2004
The sales rep is upstairs working on my estimate now! I thank God that I found your site and i am going up to deal!!! All the comments are extremely helpful!
on Apr 12, 2004
David Erie Construction has a Basement Finishing System Thats better than the OC system and you have over 200 colors to choose from give them a call they have a Lansing office that services your area.
on Apr 15, 2004
It is unfortunate that a web posting like this has gotten so out of hand. I assume that the original posting was meant for two pupsoses:
1. To help inform future customers of concerns they might have
2. To help inform OC Franchises of areas they need to improve.
There were several postings in here that my company looked at to help us with customer service and several postings that I can't believe anyone would read. The majority of the franchises use salespeople and any industry that has salesmen will get complaints on occasion. At the same time, these companies cannot get rid of or fix poor salelespeople if they do not hear about issues from the customers. Anyone who has an issue with a salesman out at their home should call the local franchise or Owens Corning headquarters and try to speak with a manager. Not only will this help rectify the situation for future customers, but you should also be able to receive the treatment you deserved in the first place.
No company has all perfect employees and unfortunately salesmen end up having more issues than the average position. Any legitimate company will appreciate constructive criticism. With a site like, customers and companies should be able to research previous experiences without the downhill spiral this group of postings has taken.
on Apr 16, 2004
Wow, what a great write up. We just had a visit from Mutt and Jeff the two sales guys representing this basement system and they tried the same crappy sales techniques that you described almost exactly.
on Apr 16, 2004
Our sales guy was just as everyone described. So whomever posted about contacting Owens Corning about this problem, rest assured that most of your salesman are like that and I find it very hard to beleive they are not trained to be like that. Needless to say, we didn't take his crap and I pretty much told him to loose his method of sales because that would result in no sale.
Aside from that, we did purchse the sytem and it was finished about a week ago. I am really pleased with how everything looks. We paid about 32 a square foot. A little over 18000 for a close to 600 square foot room. And after witnessing what basement walls covered in drywall for years can look like, I had no reservations about getting this system. I had a friend who took down some walls and found their walls covered in black mold, I guess explaning the reason the entire family was very sick. In the area we live, it is the only safe choice, drywall in my opinion is not a good option.
All in all, I think it is a great system, and certainly added to the value of our home (per our homeowners insurance company), but the sales tactics have got to go.
on Apr 16, 2004
I was wondering the same thing about the materials: teflon, polyfiber, etc., all plastics? What about "off-gassing" of the chemicals used in production of the plastics. Have you been able to find out anything yet? The sales rep knew nothing about the problems with platic, except that it's toxic, of course, if it burns.
on Apr 25, 2004

Based on the emails I've received, it's pretty clear that the sales people are instructed to do the following:

  1. Mislead people into thinking that the average basement costs >$50 per square foot to finish.
  2. Imply that Owens Corning's Basement system is equivalent to a regular basement finishing (it's not since they don't do bathrooms or tiles or carpets, etc. which are all part of the >$50 per square foot national average argument).
  3. Play up the mold scare tactic.
  4. Allow themselves to be bargained down to "only" say $45 per square foot.
  5. Use high pressure tactics to get the deal done that night by wearing you down with a very long pitch.

I am reasonably certain that the sales people are drilled to do this. I suspect it's fairly effective too.

My response is simply:

  • You shouldn't pay more than $35 per square foot. Period.  I paid ~$30 per square foot after lots of bargaining.
  • Mold prevention is nice but then again, it's not nearly as big of an issue in the kinds of houses that can afford this sort of thing.
  • You should buy this product because a) It's clean. It's durable. c) It can be installed very very quickly.

I'm overall pretty happy with it. If I had to do it over again I would still have gone with the basement system with perhaps them only doing a smaller part of the basement and then leaving other areas to be drywalled so I could have the best of both worlds. But I don't regret going with this system. It's very nice as long as you can get the price down.

To Owen's Corning: DO SOME DEMOGRAPHIC STUDIES. People who can afford this stuff are, frankly, pretty wealthy. Here's a clue: Wealthy people tend to be pretty sharp. I couldn't help but gently tease our sales guy as he did "Standard scare tactic pitch #205." as I put it at the time. I remember saying to him, "Look, buddy, I'm usually on the giving end of this kind of thing, let's cut to the chase.  Your target price is probably 50% above your break even point. Since you're going for $50 that means your break even price is probably around $25. When he denied it I did a lot of quick searching on the net and found other pricing and finally he agreed since he just wanted to have something.  They probably didn't make a lot of money on us since the cost is really the material which is pretty expensive. But they probably make $5k to $10k off of us in profit which I think is pretty good for them.