How Not to Finish Your Basement

Does your house have a basement?  How much time do you spend thinking about it?  I guarantee it's not as much time as Tom and I have spent on our basement since moving into this house.  It's not very big, or very useful (yet), but boy does it take up a lot of our time. 

If you were to eavesdrop on us randomly, there's a pretty good chance you'd here us debating basement flooring options, or radon levels, or something else basement related.  Mostly, we just want to get it to a point where we can put our shoes and coats there.  It doesn't seem like much, but boy is it taking us a while!

First off has been our radon problem.  I'm sure you already know this, because we've been talking about it since July.  When we moved in, there was a radon mitigation system, but it wasn't strong/big enough to effectively manage the problem.  Since then we've had multiple companies, multiple fixes that each time brings the level down a bit, but not far enough.  We're officially in the "legally safe" zone, but not in where we've decided our comfort zone is.  We've decided we're going to try one more time to pull the levels down a bit more before we hang our coats in the basement and walk around with radioactive jackets all day. 

Assuming that will be taken care of soon, we've started shifting our attention to how to make our basement into a mudroom.  It's not the largest space, but should be perfect for a mudroom and possibly a treadmill or something in the future.  

We figured we'd start somewhere easy, and contacted one of those companies that specializes in basement finishing.  Seemed to make sense - basements are damp and designed differently from the rest of the house.  Let's finish it with materials designed for that space.  Especially since you'd be able to move walls at any point in order to get to things behind them.  Sounds great, right? 

Well I'm not sure if you've ever talked to any of these companies, **cough*Owens Corning**cough*cough, but holy cow!  First of all, after telling them we were maybe interested, they proceeded to call me 45 times over the course of the month.  I finally cried uncle and passed it on to Tom to deal with.  He scheduled a guy to come out, measure the space, and give us a quote.  Simple, right?

Sure, after the hour long sales pitch.  Seriously guys.  We called you because we like your product.  Stop selling us on it!  I'd ask if we could see a floor plan, or look at what our finishing options were. "SURE! But first, let me show you this 10 minute video of Nancy Kerrigan telling you how much she loves our product!"  Um that's great, but I really just want to see what the different prices are for flooring options.  "ABSOLUTELY!  But first, let me show you this 45 slide PowerPoint quoting random statistics to you!  Did you know that a basement remodel will let you recoup 76% of the value on a resale!?"  Great guy, but I'm not planning on selling this house for at least 20 years.  Can I see some numbers now!?

We finally got the guy to venture into the basement and start taking actual measurements.  Our little, less than 400 square feet, basement.  We weren't asking for any rooms to be added, no bathroom installed, just 4 walls, a drop ceiling and the cheapest carpet option available.  When he finally reemerged almost an hour later, he had our basement sketched out, along with some papers with numbers on them.  I tried to glance over to see what he had, but he quickly hid it all from me. 

I asked him if he could show us a quote now.  "Yes, yes, of course!  But first let me show you what happens if you were to go with the evil drywall instead..." as he pulls out his ipad again.  Dude, really, I just want to see numbers.  Again he stalled.  "Well how much are you thinking this will cost?"  He asked us.  Refusing to play along (although Tom and I definitely had a number in our minds - hopefully not more than 10k, but realistically up to 20k??), I told him to show me the numbers.  I seriously was about to get Jerry Maguire on him.  I honestly think we went back and forth for at least another 15 minutes, but he finally wrote a number down on a piece of paper.  $43,000.


I almost laughed him out of the house.  Instead I asked to see a breakdown of the cost.  He didn't give it to me.  Instead he launched into a pitch about how if we'd do a video testimonial, he'd knock $6,000 off the price for us!  And then proceeded to make us watch a video testimonial that some poor grandparents gave them. 

By then he was getting the idea that we weren't going to sign a contract with him.  "You don't seem super enthusiastic."  I told him that we'd have to discuss things between the two of us, and could not make a decision at that time.  (I'm trying to be diplomatic).  He told us to call the marketing department if we changed our minds.  Sure, I said.  Can you leave us with a quote?  "Oh no, I need to take this and call it in."  Okay... can you send us a copy of the itemized quote?  Email? Snail mail?  "I'll tell you what I can do! I'll write it down for you!"  Out comes a composition note book and a pencil.  He wrote the numbers down on a blank page, and attempted to tear the page out for us.  We ended up with half a piece of scrap paper with some numbers scrawled in pencil. 

Owens Corning Basement Finishing rip off scam

You want me to pay you FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS based off of a piece of scrap paper??  I honestly think I'm more upset about the notebook paper than I am about the price. 

Seriously, how is this company still in business?  I think I'd rather hang drywall myself, and rip it out if we ever flood, than deal with this company.  Honestly I could redo the basement myself at least 4 times for the cost of having them come in and put up their cubicle walls (seriously - they're not that pretty).  

So anyway.  That is NOT how we're going to finish our basement.  The sales guy got all over confidant and was like "Well what else are you going to do to make your basement usable!?"  Um put some throw rugs out and a couple of lamps?  It's a mud room!  I honestly don't need it to be completely finished.. we just thought it would be a nice add on to do so.  It's not like we're going to be sleeping down there.  So more realistically, we'll probably head to ikea and make it usable enough for now, and be perfectly happy.  

Edit: Update to this coming soon!!