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 9)
on Jun 16, 2004
Ralph Williams: No offense, but concrete can't grow mold without some "food" there. Absent anything else in the equation, concrete, fiberglas and moisture cannot produce mold by themselves. It is interesting the mold warranty is only for 15 years.
on Jun 17, 2004
To Ralph Willaims: I beg your pardon but you need moisture, warmth and FOOD in the form of cellulose. drywall, wood, fiberboard.etc to grow toxic mold. You have know idea what you are talking about. FYI goto CDC website or EPA. Wood and drywall is bad for a basement it is not meant for that enviorment
on Jun 18, 2004
Wow, the Internet is truly an amazing thing! I had scheduled an appointment to have an OC rep come over last night, but after reading this forum I decided to call and cancel. The descriptions of high-pressure sales tactics truly nauseates me (I was wondering why the guy I talked to on the phone wanted to know if my wife would be home), and I have far better things to do with my life than sit through a 3-hour sales presentation when all I really wanted to do was get an estimate. The bottom line, though, is simply that now I know that the OC "system" is way more expensive than my wife and I want to pay. We've already had a contractor out who gave us a "firm estimate" of $7200 to refinish our 400+ square foot basement with traditional drywall, and from what I've read here it looks like the most wildly optimistic cost of having an OC system installed would be 2-3 times that amount.

The OC system may be the next best thing since sliced bread, but we're simply not looking to spend $20,000 or more to finish our basement. And the thought of having to sit through a 3-hour high pressure sales presentation before even being told what the price would be is simply outrageous. So thank you all for posting your comments!
on Jun 18, 2004
Barry,
What area are you from; just curious?

thanks,
ms
on Jun 18, 2004
Barry,
What area are you from; just curious?

thanks,
ms
on Jun 22, 2004
I'm from the Boston area.
on Jun 23, 2004
A bunch of bashers on here that obviously dont have the product.If they did the bashing wouldnt be here. Yes, the sales pitch suck real bad,but last time I checked when i bought a new car i bargained with them also,,so whats the difference????? Since im saying all this, im automatically labeled a salesman. grow up asses.
on Jun 23, 2004
A follow up from my May 14 post. The product has been installed now for just over a week although I am not yet using the basement as I am waiting for the carpet to be installed however I will comment on the installation and my thoughts post-install on the product. The installation went very smoothly so I was quite happy with that as their was not much I needed to go over with them. The total time of install was about 5-6 days with 2 people for most of the install. The finished space looks very nice as well, a little nicer than I had expected. If I had a complaint, as strange as this may sound, it would be in the product itself. As I said I really like the finished product, my only complaint is that the material is not the "rock of gibralter" I had expected, maybe those were false expectations on my part. The ceiling tiles they use, however nice, are very fragile and easy to chip when handled. The walls themselves are fragile as well when handled as well, I was surprised how easy the fabric seems to separate itself from the insulation behind it. One other thing about the walls that I have initially noticed as well is that they are not as forgiving if you apply any pressure to them or possibly bump things into them. Now obviously one is not going to go around punching your wall but what I did was applied a little thumb pressure to an obscure part in the wall and basically the insulation behind the fabric material caves in so when you pass your fingers over the spot you can feel the indentation in the wall. Now as I said this is not something people are going to do but if anyone plans on having kids spend a lot of time in the basement then it is something you should keep in mind especially if the wall becomes a part of their activity. The good thing though is that the installer's boss I mentioned this to didn't seem to think it would be a problem to replace, on occasion, a wall panel or two free of charge and just chalk it up as a defective panel.
So just to summarize, installation and product itself are great but just be wary on the durability especially if you plan on removing wall and/or ceiling panels on a regular basis, which most of us probably won't do anyway.
One final interesting note I thought I would pass along is the cost of the wall panel which I was able to get from my installers boss. As I mentioned I contacted him voicing my concerns over the fragility of parts of the wall panel and so I was curious how much it would cost me if I had to occasionally replace a panel or two so to my surprise he told me it would cost about $170 a panel, so just gives you an idea of what they might clear on a typical job. Also, I don't know if it's the same price for both the concrete wall panel and dividing wall panel (the difference for those who don't know is that the concrete wall panel is thicker than the dividing wall panel).
Anyways I am looking forward to enjoying the basement in the years to come. If anyone has any questions then just address them in this forum and I will try and respond as quickly as possible.
on Jun 24, 2004
A reply to Steve's comment about buying a car and being labelled a "salesman".

If you want to buy a Toyota and you do not like the dealership or "saleman", you can travel a few miles a visit another Toyota dealership. You have a "choice" to where you can buy the product. Same car, same warranty, etc., etc., but where you buy the car is where you feel comfortable and you want to give them your business. It comes down to "customer service".

The owens corning product is distributed by one installer in the MD-Souther PA area. Do you have a choice? What is your bargaining position? Where is the "competition" for the same product. Shouldn't this be an open market system, where customer service brings in the customer.....If the car saleman tells you, "take it or leave it", you go down the road to another dealership....

thank you...
on Jun 24, 2004
This is an unusually helpful website. Hope all potential purchasers get a chance to view it before they consider contacting a contractor.
on Jun 24, 2004
In reply to competition: having a product no one else has sucks for everyone except the one who owns the product. Ther are tons of toyota dealers! How many BMW or Mercedes dealers in your area? Only One, because they are exclusive! Go into your BMW dealership and tell them you can buy a car cheaper, not a BMW of course but a car. See if they are still laughing as you pull away. The Owens Corning product is not for everyone. Neither is a BMW.
on Jun 25, 2004
And I know for a fact you dont and will never own a BMW salesman Steve, If people dont like the way the franchise does buisness contact Erie Construction in Toledo OH there system comes in 200 hundred color choices and looks better than the OC system and is the exact same modular wall ststem. I have sold both and there both similiar in $$
on Jun 28, 2004
Steve the SALESMAN,

The owens corning product is Far from being a "BMW". We had it installed 2 weeks ago. We have the owens corning product against the foundation walls and regular drywall in the middle. The drywall can be painted, you can hang mirrors, pictures, etc, without fear of ripping the fabric. The hangers provided by owens corning is designed for 10lbs or less. Anyway, Ican buy a BMW from at least 5 dealerships in the MD, southern PA area. How many OC francises can I choose from in the same area.....ONE.

P.S. I have had 3 inquiries about our basement....this website is awesome!!!!! The power of this site is underestimated by the local franchise.
on Jun 28, 2004
This IS an awesome site if you're considering the OC system, as we are. We are having the salesman from JE coming out this Thurs. Thanks for the heads up! I also looked up the Erie Construction system, since I live in Michigan. Their website is ERIECONSTRUCTION.com. I think they only service Ohio, Mich., Indiana...but will let you know what I find out. My husband is in sales so I'm anxious to see him and the JE guy go head-to-head. We went to a "BASEMENT SHOWCASE" yesterday. The salespeople were VERY interested to see which subdivision we live in (I believe so they can "guess" how much we're worth...we live in a golf course community). Does anyone know how much the people who open up their homes for thes showcases get? They supposedly get a "discount" but since they've already been installed, how does that work? The salespeople at the showcase were VERY tight lipped regarding price.
on Jul 07, 2004
The problem wiht Erie is that the warranty is 12yrs! There price is about the same As the Owens product. If I were a betting man I 'd go with owens. I know you can get the owens product for 35.00 a square foot maybe a little less if it is a big room and a clean installation. Do not believe the so called " unbiased opinions" you read on this page. I will answer all you questions truthfully and to the the point. Please ask.