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 8)
on May 14, 2004
hey, i'm in mass. and i just got quoted for a 380 sq foot basement at $78 dollars. total price is around 30k after the all the discounts including the open house idea. he claimed the price was high because of the number of doors and walls that were needed were out of the ordinary. he also said that the prices would higher in this area, ie boston, new york, etc. oh well, back to the drawing board.
on May 14, 2004
A follow up from my March 30 message. I did end up signing with Owens Corning for their basement system but still waiting on install however, should be beginning within the next week or two. I ended up agreeing to about $25 a square foot so I think I got a fair deal but I still wonder how much lower I could have got out of them, probably not much more but I still wonder. Unfortunately I never was able to price out the Erie construction system but it's probably pretty similar in price. Its nice that nothing is paid until the system is complete but now I'm getting a little anxious waiting for them to start. I will post a final follow up once the system is installed with my overall thoughts on the product as well as the installation.
on Jun 02, 2004
looked at champion system. doesnt look as good and not the same warranty. hear they are in lawsuit with owens corning for illegally copying parts of their system
on Jun 02, 2004
i see a lot of people mentioning cost per square foot and how much it should cost. i wonder how much does cigarettes cost up north compared to the midwest. think there is a difference? i think so. how much does a guy at mcdonalds make in new york compared to in say memphis. the area you live in will make a difference in cost of work to be done. wake up people. the experience i had was very professional and i love it. cost of living is different depending on where u live. price a house in suburbs of memphis and price a house in orange county california. make an offer like you would in memphis and watch the realtor laugh and walk away.
i think people should realize this difference before commenting. i know you are entitled to your opinions. but, come on wake up and smell the roses. how much more would you pay for a car if there was a lifetime/transferrable warranty on it? 5-10 dollars more or 5-10 times more. this is what you are getting, a basement that is covered for the rest of your life.
on Jun 03, 2004
Saginaw can go to your area if you request them to.
on Jun 03, 2004
Saginaw can go to your area if you request them to. 989-249-PINK
on Jun 04, 2004
I got an estimate of around $37 per square foot (975 sqft total) in the Northern Virginia / Washington D.C. area. This includes a full bathroom. A little pricey but not too crazy compared to some of the totals I have been seeing posted here. I really agree with justwondering, the area you are in will definitely affect the price quote. I think this isnt too bad for the D.C. area.
on Jun 11, 2004
I live in the Maryland area, and my experience with the local owens corning basement installer was "a nightmare". The work was excellent, but the financing, customer service, and sales was exactly as described in the posts before me. It would take a few pages to describe my NEGATIVE experience. There is only one installer in this area, so there is no competition. If you like the product, you have to go with this company, or wait for another competitor. If you live in Maryland, southern PA and want more detailed information, send me an email:

I wished that I read these posts before I signed on the dotted line.
on Jun 11, 2004
If the work was excellent then why complain ASSHOLE???
on Jun 12, 2004
Are we that sensitive that we can not even have people posting comlaints or concerns about their overall experience, especially after one has paid a significant premium for the product. I don't know about you but I expect near perfection when paying this price and anything short of that and they will certainly here about it. That is why we have this forum, for people to read about everyone's experience, not just the one's wearing rose colored glasses. Grow up!
on Jun 14, 2004
I want to thank JJ for the support. The local installer is in question......they are the only distributors in this area. I have contacted Owen Corning and the financing institution concerning my experience. Enough said. When you sign a contract, you expect
TOTAL service. I have spent hours clarifying issues with the financing department.

The salesperson was so convincing that the experience is going to be TOP NOTCH. Well, it wasn't. If someone considers this product (Owens Corning Basement Systesm), I would suggest that you wait for another competitor. I understand that Champion has a similar product. Maybe this product could be purchased directly from the manufacterer and eliminate the middle man.

on Jun 14, 2004
To Joe User,

I guess you must represent the company in Maryland. If I were you, I would reconsider your tactics. Forums, customer reviews are very powerful. Litigation, complaints to the BBB, Home Improvement Administration, and to the local inspectors in Southern Pennsylvania could be devestating to your business.

So, the best thing you can do is to clean up your business practice. Hopefully, Owens Corning will find another installer in the Maryland, Pennsylvania area.

on Jun 14, 2004
Has anyone had any experience or work performed by a Franchise out of Worcester Massachusetts named NES Basements?
on Jun 15, 2004
The bottom line on anything, is don't sign anything or purchase anything if you are not completly satisfied with what you are being presented with. Listen to the salesperson, decide weather you think he is being honest and truthful. If you have doubt, don't buy. When the salesperson kept pushing me with the fact that drywall is the number one source for food and that it should not be used in a basement. I did some research and found that moisture is the number one cause of Mold and mildew, not food. So you can put the Owens Corning System against your wall or drywall and if you have a moisture problem with the concrete wall, you will develope mold on the concrete within 72 hours. It will give you a R-11 insulation factor. So will 3 1/2" of regular insulation. It will give you .95% noise reduction. Just don't go on the other side of the wall because it will be louder there than in the finished room. The BFS wall breaths so all noise goes through the wall not like drywall. Than you have the great lifetime warranty. Well this is not worth the paper it's written on. What do they warrant? Lifetime on the R-11. Joke. Lifetime on the .95 noise reduction. Joke. 15 Years on the wall system against mold, not lifetime. No warranty on mold appearing on your concrete wall. Joke. Limitions on coverage. Direct sunlight, chemicals, fire, flood. They tell you if it gets wet take it outside and dry it. No warranty. If you stain it they tell you to clean it with a chemical. No warranty. They tell you it will not fade. If the sun shines on it and fades. No warranty. They tell you it has the hightest fire rating yet the heat of a light bulb will melt it. No warranty. I have come to the conclussion, that this product is the money tree to keep Owens Corning a float from the on going lawsuits it has from another great product of theirs,.....ASBESTOS I'll wait a few more years to make sure that the tefflon and the exposed insulation is not a health problem for more lawsuits.
on Jun 16, 2004
This is some forum. I've been researching having my basement done, including doing it myself. I am impressed with the OC system, and I've been to thir showroom (the sound dampening quality is very impressive.) To me, the focus of this forum on the price per square foot is likely mis-placed. Given that the cost of construction is in the walls and not the ceiling or floor, the price per square foot is a function of the # of l.f. of wall x the # of s.f. of total living space. Big room without interior partitions should yield lower s.f prices, while smaller rooms or basements composed of multiple rooms will yield higher s.f. prices. This is true if you're using sheetrock or asking OC is install their panels, although my guess is the OC wall panels are quite a bit more than sheetrock, so the factor of price increase will be more exaggerated with the OC system. Anyway, I'm going into this Saturday's "design consultation" with an open mind . . . and I'm going to have 2 different designs priced, to "test" this theory.