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Published on September 6, 2005 By Draginol In Home Improvement

Back in 2003, I had my basement finished using the Owens Corning Basement System.  It's an alternative to dry-wall that looks similar to dry-wall but is actually soft to the touch (that is, it is almost like a cushion).

The advantages of Owens Corning's system to normal dry-wall (According to Owens Corning) include:

  • Basements can be finished much quicker.  The 1200 square foot or so of our basement that we got finished was done in about 10 days (compared to months with dry-wall).
  • It is very damage resistant -- it doesn't scratch, it looks the same 2 years after the fact.
  • It is allegedly black mold resistant.  Drywall, being made of wood, can serve as a place for mold to grow.  Owens Corning's system is synthetic, nothing grows.
  • It's water damage resistant -- you can get it wet and it looks fine once it dries.
  • It acts as a great sound proofing mechanism.  The basement is quiet.
  • It has good acoustics. Great for home theaters and such.

It also has down sides:

  • It's quite expensive. Significantly more-so than Dry Wall.
  • The sales people who sell it use an obnoxious hard sell technique that is, IMO, borderline unethical.
  • It is hard to modify. That is, you want put shelves or "nail" things to the wall, you really can't, you have to do it with special fasteners since the wall isn't made of wood, it doesn't support other structures being placed on it well.
  • You're tied into Owens Corning for repairs, modifications, etc.
  • Bears repeating - the sales people who sell it use rather unsavory sales tactics in which if you don't actually bargain them down you could pay 2X as much as you really should.

My original review can be found here.  Since it was the first review on a major site, it has over 150 different websites pointing to it. 20,000 people alone have visited because it shows up high in Google's search engine.  But it also means that there's hundreds of comments which can be hard to go through.

So I've established this running article as a way for people to post their experiences with Owens Corning Basement System. 

My overall experience has been positive. But since I run a company and deal with aggressive sales people all the time, I didn't have a problem neutralizing their sales techniques.  But they are unusually aggressive (note that these sales people rarely work for Owens Corning directly, they work for other companies who sell it).  And our experience was mildly soured by attempts to nickel and dime us at the end. 

But overall, 2 years later, I'm pretty happy with it and am glad we went with it. I do sometimes get jealous of my neighbors who did a true "full finish" basement that looks like their upstairs.  But then I remind myself that it took them 6 months to do that whereas mine was done in 10 days without any mess or fuss.  It's not for everyone but for us, it worked out pretty well.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments area and I will try to post some of them here from time to time.

Comments (Page 1)
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on Sep 07, 2005
but is actually soft to the touch (that is, it is almost like a cushion).
It acts as a great sound proofing mechanism. The basement is quiet.

Um, are you saying you have a padded basement where sounds can't get out?

Lemme guess -- do you interview developers there?

Sorry -- couldn't resist! Feel free to delete my post since it's offtopic and you have a serious reason for this column.
on Sep 08, 2005
Traditional drywall takes months? I don't know where you live but that is a total joke.

I had my basement finished 2 years ago. It is 1100 square feet and has lots of angles, corners and electrical outlets etc. The drywall crew came in and hung the drywall in 1 day. The taping and mudding took 3 days, and the painting took 2 more days. Even with the days in between successive muddings and successive paintings the whole thing was done in 2 1/2 weeks (3 weeks if you include the carpet being layed and the painter coming back to fix the baseboards).

That being said, this stuff looks interesting. It talks about being able to remove the panels to get at the walls - how are they put up? Do you have to frame the walls (I'd assume so unless you have surface mount switches and plugs...). The real downside is that is give the appearance of being in a mobile home (err.. manufactured house). With some fancy finish carpentry I suppose you could make it look fancy. When it says dent resistant - how dent resistant? My kids have a bunch of John Deer and CAT die cast tractors which have put some fairly large dents in the wall. A bit of plaster, paint and it's almost good as new. Assuming this stuff get dented or punctured, is there any way to fix it?
on Sep 09, 2005
I've seen a couple Owens Corning basements and thought they looked pretty low end. As the previous poster says, something along the lines of a mobile home in terms of actual quality and finished appearance. Also i've read they are way way overpriced, and they oversell the mold scare tactic. Ignoring the fact that traditional drywall is excessively mold resistant itself.

When we had our basement finished early this year we elected for a traditional stud/drywall/insulation method because we wanted a very finished and professional look and with insulation, it is sound proof already anyway. The cost was less than $16 a sq foot, and the crew was done in about 3 weeks. I'm not sure where you think it would take 6 months to complete a basement, that is nonsense, i've had nearly my entire home gutted and renovated over the last 12 months, and not a single project took over 3-4 weeks.

If you want a professional looking, and clean basement that drastically improves the value of your home then the wise choice is to finish it as you'd finish the main floors in your house. These "Systems" are really nothing more than overmarketed fads.
on Sep 10, 2005

Unless you have actually had it installed or are interested in it, please refrain from commenting.  Feel free to create an article such as "Why not to get Owens Corning Basement".  This is designed for people who are thinking about getting it to hear how other people felt about it. 

Incidentally, my basement doesn't look like a trailer.   And good for you that you can manage to finish a basement in 2 weeks.  I don't have super human powers and the basements I've previously had finished took 8 weeks from start to finish using traditional drywall.  Whereas the 10 days for this included EVERYTHING (Carpetting, ceiling, electrical, the whole nine yards). 

I also didnt' say it takes 6 months to finish a basement. I was commenting that my neighbor's basement took him 6 months because he did it himself a bit at a time.
on Sep 10, 2005
6 months for a home part time do-it-yourselfer is pretty darn good. The crew that did my basement had 5 guys, so they wrapped it all up in 3 weeks, and on the last day the carpet guys showed up and layed that down for the final finish. My sisters basement was done with a crew of only 2 fulltime guys, and it took about 4-6 weeks for them to be finished, but there was delays with other contractors.

We refinanced to get a lower rate, and the appraiser that was out said our basement directly added nearly $20,000 to our home value because we went with traditional construction methods (drywall, studs, etc). He commented that people that get prefab basement systems gain only about 15% of their investment back. We did also have a egress window installed so the basement directly add the square footage to your home. Something to consider for people regardless of which basement method they choose. Also, there is something called greenback drywall that is waterproof and mold proof, for people with damp/wet basements, and many contractors use galvanized studs now, which of course are waterproof and mold proof.

One thing I read about Owens systems is the panels cost almost $150 to replace if one gets damaged. With drywall, a whole can of spackle compound is $5.00 and can last a few years.
on Sep 13, 2005
I worked for a franchisee. We were told to tell the prospects the following: (1) 100% of the cost of the OC sysytem
would be immediately added to the value of the house: (2) that this new total value would rise some 12% per
year for the forseeable future (the 12% is realistic, the total value concept ridiculous). (3) So, a $25,000 OC basement installed today would add approx $75,000 to the value of the house in 10 years at 12% per year appreciation. If that were the case,
why not pay $30,000 instead of $25,000 and it would add $90,000 in ten years?

Bottom line: an excellent system if (1) purchased at the right price, by people with enough money to make this a minor decision in their lives; (2) installed perfectly in an ideal basement.

If this isn't you - drywall!
on Sep 14, 2005
I had my basement finished with the Owens Corning system a little over a year ago. I like the way it looks and the acoustics are great. I went with the OC system rather than drywall because I experienced extensive mold damage to the traditionally finished basement in my old house- about 6 years ago (never want to deal with that again). I've had shelves and pictures put up without any problems, using the fasteners. I may have paid a little more, but it was worth it for the convenience and the end result.
on Sep 24, 2005
The OC sells pitch was like something out of the Twilight Zone. One would have to be lobotimized to accept at face value the absurd brochure, the pictures of moldy and destroyed basements that looked like stills from the movie "The attack of the Triffids", the back of the envelope non-itemized price quote, and of course the same-day only "discount." And you get to spend 3 hours of your life for that. $ 30,000 for a 600 sq. ft. basement? There are condos in our neighborhood that are not that much more. To be fair, the sales guy was very courteous but how can one look anybody in the face with this nonsense.
on Sep 26, 2005
Apparently you weren't very succesfull for that franchise or you would still be there selling a great product for an outstanding value. This system has been mentioned on Bob Villa. Popular Science, Not to mention Architechural review as one of the best new products in Home Improvements in the last decade. There is no doubt that there were some franchises out there not doing the best job, and they are no longer part of therespected dealers both selling and installing the product. I believe at last count there have been over 20,000 basements finished across the country with an astonishishing 97% approval rating. I want to see any drywall contractor put up those numbers!!!!!!! Keep in mind cost was a factor when asked if those 20,000 would do it again and over 97% said yes. Since i only see a very few disatisfied comments on this site, my calculations show less than 1% were unhappy. I would like to see those numbers on some of the other high end products I have purchased in my life!
on Sep 28, 2005
We just had our basement done with the Owens Corning Basement System. We are launching a new business and needed our basement finished FAST so we could have clients come to an office setting if necessary. It was done in 7 business days!!! It was clean. It's so quiet you CAN hear yourself think. I wanted some variations such as 45 degree angled walls and the carpenters made the changes with a great attitude. The crew we were assigned were fantastic. Clean, courteous, quiet. They were welcomed guests in our home. I can't say that about any other contractor I've had to have do work at our house. We did need alittle drywall done, and they did that very well too. Paint ready.
It does remind me of an office cubicle but that's fine for the purpose in which we finished our basement. The durable tweed fabric walls grow on you and it's very soothing, sound deadening and warm/dry feeling. It is also nuetral. Once you hang (lightweight) pictures, etc you'll hardly notice the vertical battons. Never needs painting!!! I love that!
We had very little to do ourselves when the crew left. We do have to put in our own flooring. And here is our question: We chose pergo laminated flooring. When you lay that stuff you have to keep it 1/4 inch from the wall (from the cement wall). With the Owens Corning System in place, I dont know how we're going to use spacers to lay this type of flooring. Does anyone have any suggestions?????????????? Even the people at the flooring stores were not familiar with the system and how it's applied, so they couldn't be of any help. After spending what we did on the Owens Corning System and the expense of laminate flooring materials, we'd hate to have to have the flooring laid by a professional. And we'd like to do this over the weekend. HELP? Anyone? Thanks, Karen and Joe, Woodstock, IL
on Sep 28, 2005
I think the way they used to show the Owens Corning in the brochures DID look low end, similar to a mobile home prefabbed wall. But if you get the vertical strips to match the walls and do all your ceiling trip in white to match the ceiling with the white doors, and white baseboard, IT RIVALS the look of drywall, but is so much more accessable. If you need to get to the walls to outfit a sound system, more electrical, plumbing ANYTHING...Its easy and doesn't cause any damage to the walls. This is a great feature.
The look is nuetral.
But the fact that it is practically indestructable to mold, mildew, water, and wear is well worth the price. And the price we got, incidentally was the same as a drywall contractor, only it was done in a matter of a week and a half, as opposed to a month or more. And no drywall dust to live with for years after the contractor leaves. I give this an A+ rating. It's truly a new and different home improvement. I can't believe no one thought of this before the year 2001. Anyway, an all positive experience. As far as the selling tactics go, just don't agree to get it done for more than a drywall contractor quotes you, and you'll be very happy with the plusses that this system offers over the conventional method of basement finishing.
on Sep 28, 2005
Champion is also offering this type of system in more colors than Owens. Don't be dazzled by that. They are on their way to court for patent infringements, which could mean, If you sign a contract with Champion, you may not be able to get your basement finished by them if there is a seize and dissist order handed down.
(Which may already be in effect, so buyer beware if you're thinking of going with "Champion".

My advise would be to hold off, do your research, or just go with Owens or pay your handy brother in law to finish it in drywall. (you may have to think about what you'll want to charge him in rent seeing he may be there awhile!)
on Sep 29, 2005
on Sep 30, 2005
This article, and the subsequent comments, both pro and con, have been very helpful. Thanks to all for taking the time to post. I just had the local Owens Corning franchisee out to quote me on my basement. I was disgusted by the sales tactic, but after completely gutting and renovating the rest of my house, I've experienced the same less-than-ethical tactics by Empire Carpet and several exterior siding contractors. None of them got my business, and all of them were quickly asked to leave. I gave the Owens Corning salesperson the benefit of the doubt, he was a nice guy and Owens Corning is a reputable company. Nevertheless, as a salesman myself, I tend to think that a quality product will sell itself, without "used-car" tactics, and I question products that have to resort to those sales techniques.

The entire estimate process took nearly three hours! That being said, they did warn me ahead of time that it would take awhile, and it did! On the telephone, they made it sound as if they handle everything: bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc. But it was clear during the estimate that they dissuade you from anything other than a basic basement. If you want a bathroom, they'd prefer to just leave that portion of the basement unfinished and let you contract it out yourself. So that's what they did for me. The 600sf basement I had planned in my head, with bathroom and storage, turned into a 231sf plan after getting rid of the bathroom and storage room. After taking measurements, they gave me the quote. $29,000 for approximately 231 sf of basement and a stairway!! This after telling me that the average basement costs $121/sf, but the average Owens Corning basements plcosts only $67/sf. Their quote then was about $130/sf, nearly twice what they originally said!

Then they started with the Showcase Home Discount, a variation of the common "Let us show your finished home to other prospective customers" routine. They offered me a $2000 discount for this, but I HAD to sign TODAY. I told them no, I'm definitely not going to buy today, because I want to actually see a fully installed basement before committing to a $29,000 investment. The samples they brought were tiny, and it was impossible to picture my entire basement finished in that product. We went back and forth for awhile, and I made it clear there was no way I was signing today. Finally, the guy got all packed up, I stood up to walk him out, and then he said, "Hmm, well maybe you'd be interested in this other program we have. I just thought of it. Since you're not in a rush to get this done, we have a flexibility plan. If we can plan to finish your basement sometime in the next 14 weeks, with only 3-days notice, we can give you a big discount." This sounded interesting, because I really don't have a firm timeline. But I was a bit perturbed, after 2.5 hours, that he would now sit back down and pull this out of his sleeve. So he calls his "boss", and proceeds to explain what a "beautiful" house he's in, in a great zipcode, which would be great to "showcase". Eventually, his "boss" authorizes a $4000 discount if I'll be part of the "flexible" program. But again, only if I signed up today.

"No thanks!"

Now reading the previous reviews, I'm glad I passed. If I do buy this system, I will make sure that I don't pay more than $30- $40/sf.

I agree that, from what I could tell, the system has the look of a manufactured home interior. I don't know if I want my basement to have this look. At the same time, I do like the moisture resistance of this system, and the quick and easy installation with no dust.

on Oct 04, 2005
"The 600sf basement I had planned in my head, with bathroom and storage, turned into a 231sf plan after getting rid of the bathroom and storage room. After taking measurements, they gave me the quote. $29,000 for approximately 231 sf of basement and a stairway!!"

AHAHHAHAA! For $29,000 you could have your entire house remodelled! I had my basement professionally refinished with drywall, recessed lights, a high class bathroom with imported italian tile, a jacuzzi, and 2 fantastic walk in closets for storage, carpet, and the whole thing cost me only $11,000 and was done in 4 weeks. Oh, and it is about 800sq feet of space... Most people don't even realise that modern drywall is nearly impervious to mold growth, if you need water resistance, there are several types of highly waterproof drywall available for pennies more than normal drywall.

People need to tell these Owens Corning Scammers to go screw themselves. I need to start a website to warn people of their scam, this reminds me of the Sears method of Vinyl siding where they scam people for $30,000 siding jobs that shouldn't cost more than $3000-7000.00.. Ripoff companies.
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