The Owens Corning finishing system is one way to turn a dingy unfinished basement into additional space that's attractive and comfortable. Owens Corning does this by applying their expertise in building science and system design to the standard below-grade basement.
So now you might be asking, "aren't they the insulation folks, the Pink Panther guys?" and you'd be correct in that assumption. But what does Owens Corning have to do with finished basements? Everything, if you're talking about the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System™ as it's officially named.
This 'system' is designed to turn your unfinished basement into a comfortable usable space in just a short amount of time. So let's take a closer look at what the Owens Corning basement is all about and what it could possibly do for you.
A basement finishing "system" is really just a term that describes any means or process for finishing a basement. More recently however it's been used to describe finishing techniques that differ from traditional studs-and-sheetrock methods. One of those techniques is the Owens Corning finishing system.
The Owens Corning finishing system is one process that uses alternative methods to turn your basement into a livable space. It does this using a modular panel system that forms the walls of your basement, replacing the traditional sheetrock (drywall) method.
It also achieves the finished result in much less time than a drywall finish process. Sheetrock requires taping and mudding (the process of covering up the seams and screw holes with a plaster-like compound). Then it needs to be sanded smooth, primed and painted. The Owens Corning finishing system is cut and installed with none of the aforementioned muss and fuss.
The heart of the system is the modular pre-built wall panel. It's a stack up of 2 1/4" fiberglass insulation married to a poly-olefin, Teflon coated fabric covering. The panels fit between PVC "lineals" (stud-like anchors) affixed to the foundation walls. The seams between panels are finished with small trim pieces called "battens" which also lock the panels in place.
The fiberglass insulation provides both thermal and sound insulation.
The work is accomplished by local Owens Corning Basement Finishing System franchise operators. All work that they do, including the electrical, is done to your local building codes.
An Owens Corning basement also comes with a ceiling, additional walls (for instance, if you want to partition off part of your basement) and even flooring if you so choose. The cost is based on the scope of work that's determined up front during an initial design consultation.
Before delving into the pros and cons, it will help to understand a little bit about how your home "works" and the unique characteristics of a below-grade basement.
Think of your house as a big chimney, with cool, moist air infiltrating into the basement from normal gaps and leaks in and around the foundation walls. The air usually warms and rises to higher floors, ultimately leaking back out of the house. This process continues as the air in the house is continually exchanged.
The unique trait about the basement is that it's typically cooler and more prone to moisture than the other levels in your home because of its position below ground level. That makes it a bit trickier to finish than your main floor or a second story. If it's not done right, you could end up with mildew, moisture and mold problems.
Enter the Owens Corning finishing system. One of it's primary design goals is to avoid that moisture problem while offering a faster and more convenient way of finishing the basement.
The practical side of this? It makes a great place for a home theater, stereo room, or just a place to allow the kids to romp without broadcasting it to the rest of the house.
If this sort of basement finishing system sounds good but you're still not sure, there are some alternatives.
Obviously the route of using conventional building materials like wood studs and drywall is one way to go. Just because this system can be prone to problems associated with moisture doesn't mean it will be. Good contractors and builders with experience in finished basements can achieve a design that works with the typical basement environment. Just keep in mind that it will probably take longer and it will be messy for a little while.
Another alternative more along the lines of the Owens basement finishing system is The Basement Tuxedo from Advanced Basement Products. The Basement Tuxedo is a system reportedly designed by professionals in the waterproofing industry. It's another modular wall system except it comes in several colors and it can also be painted. Panels use a dense closed-cell foam for insulation instead of fiberglass batting. A removable taping system is used to join the panels rather than a batten used with the Owens Corning system. In the company's words, it's intended to better mimic the look and feel of the rest of your home. Information can be found at www.advancedbasementproducts.com.
Yet another product is from Basement Systems Inc. Called Total Basement Finishing, it too uses a wall panel design that's made from closed-cell foam insulation. The Total Basement Finishing system offers floor and ceiling tiles as well for a full basement remodel package. You can see more information at www.totalbasementfinishing.com.
I don't have the Owens Corning finishing system in my own basement but I've had the opportunity to see it in several homes. From that perspective I can give my personal review based on my observations and discussion with the installers.
Both basements that I observed were admittedly attractive spaces. Even though there were the thin battens evenly spaced along the walls, my guess is that they would ultimately fade into the background once you live in the space for a while. It's one thing to obsess and nitpick when you're actually inspecting a product but I find that those small details (or annoyances as the case may be) tend to be forgotten over time.
Although it's hard to describe, the basements seemed "quiet", for lack of a better descriptor. That's despite the fact that one basement had a wall-sized theater screen with a movie playing when I observed it. There was no indication of an echo or the "brightness" of sound that you typically hear in rooms appointed with hard surfaces. I should point out that both basement examples had carpeting on the floor, which would also help absorb some sound.
One of the features I particularly like is the channel that's formed inside the baseboard of the wall panels where electrical chords and wires can be housed. My own finished basement doesn't have anything like this feature and I'm limited to trying to tuck things like the cable TV line and other electrical chords in the little crevice where the carpet meets the wall.
It was evident that if the panels in the Owens Corning finishing system get whacked hard enough, they will dent and ripple. One example I saw had some damage from furniture movers along the wall leading up the stairs. The Owens Corning rep indicated that the panel would need to be replaced since there's no fix available.
Though I can't speak to the actual installation process, my opinion of the end result is generally positive. Would I install it in my own home (all things like cost being equal)? From a functional and convenience perspective, I'd say yes. However the single-color decor and the batten system are style options that personally aren't my favorite. I like being able to change the color of the walls every now and then.
You can get more information about the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System at their website.
However, regardless of which basement finishing system you like, you need to first determine if your basement is appropriate for finishing. If you have water drainage problems, leaks or other chronic moisture issues, those need to be fixed before your basement is finished. No "system" will cure a problem that's caused by improper drainage of water away from your house or faulty/damaged foundations. If anyone tells you their basement interior finishing system will correct these problems, you should run away from them...quickly.
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