As a leading spray foam insulation distributor, the topic of buying used spray foam equipment comes up often. We have customers ask us for advice on this subject almost daily. Having been in the industry as both a contractor and a supplier, I know buying spray foam equipment is a big decision and the price of a new setup is daunting to someone new to the business. In my experience, jumping into used spray foam insulation equipment too fast can be one of the biggest mistakes a new contractor can make — and I learned this the hard way.
Let’s Walk Through the Pros and Cons of Used Spray Foam Insulation Equipment
The bottom line is if you do choose to purchase used spray foam insulation gear, you must know who you’re buying from and what exactly you’re purchasing. As the industry leader in all things spray foam, we are upfront with you about what could go wrong with used equipment.
All spray foam equipment should be tested, cleaned, and maintained to make sure it stays in proper shape until its next use. We do, however, try to connect contractors selling or buying used equipment.
The Pros of Used Spray Foam Insulation Equipment (That May Be too Good to be True)
Many contractors, unfortunately, end up in a tough spot when they fall for the “pros” of used spray foam equipment told to them by the seller.
Common selling points include:
- Cheaper than new
- Don’t have to wait for what you need
- Leftover product included
This sounds great and is similar to how you purchase just about anything you want in life, but purchasing spray foam insulation equipment is an investment, so buying it for a sweet deal like you do when you go shopping for dinner or clothing may not be the best idea.
Those “pros” can quickly turn into cons if you don’t know what to look for when buying used spray foam insulation equipment or trailer setup. The cost of poorly maintained equipment may be cheap upfront, but long-term damage could lead to costly repairs and downtime on the job. Even if you have the equipment, you need to start a job right away and the cost and time needed to fix issues within your setup may send you past critical deadlines you’ve already committed to.
Moral of the story: Make sure you understand both the pros and cons of buying used spray foam insulation equipment before you invest. If any uncertainty were to arise during your used rigs research, know brand new spray foam rigs are for sale by contacting IDI.
The Cons of Used Spray Foam Equipment (From Personal Experience)
I first got into the insulation business as an installer. My boss at the time decided to purchase a used spray foam insulation rig from another contractor for what we thought was an incredible deal. I was placed in charge of maintaining the equipment and learning how to spray.
Con: Unknown issues hidden in spray foam equipment
Much like many contractors I work with today, we thought we were prepared and had learned enough about the equipment to do our first job. But, as you might imagine, the dream quickly became a nightmare! . Once we started we began finding chunks of hardened debris in the gun and A-Side “Y” strainer, but we couldn’t figure out what it was. We eventually figured out that crystallized isocyanate cholesterol was breaking loose in the hose and heater.
Con: Risk of falling behind on the job due to equipment malfunctions
To add to the drama we were getting an error code regarding worn motor brushes, something else we never would’ve thought to check prior to purchasing our used spray foam insulation equipment. We were falling behind on the job, and the contractor was starting to sense our lack of experience.
As many new foam contractors do, we felt confident that we had prepared enough but we were ignorant of the complexity of spray foam equipment, chemicals and important safety aspects.
Even if you feel you are extremely experienced with spray foam tools, I caution everyone to beware of used spray foam equipment and make sure you and your team have all had the proper training to operate and maintain your equipment.
Buyer beware: One major downside to used equipment is that not all damage is as visible as the crack to the spray foam machine pictured above. Make sure to ask questions about the maintenance and repair history.
Why Buy New: Important Considerations on Used Spray Foam Insulation Equipment
As I’ve learned more and more about equipment, I’ve seen the real disservice that can be done by selling old or used equipment to a new contractor. It’s fairly easy to patch a system together temporarily enough to make it ready to sell.
Some old machines are becoming harder and harder to find parts for. As manufacturers create new products, they have a tendency to raise prices on older products right before making them obsolete. Even if you find an old machine in pretty good shape, you might find out that necessary parts are no longer available. Buying a new spray foam rig will provide peace of mind knowing all the parts work.
Still Considering Old Spray Foam Equipment Over New? Make Sure to Follow These Steps:
- Check the model and serial number: Call your local equipment representative and see if parts are still available for the machine.
- Check the A-side supply and recirculation hoses: If you bend them and hear crunching, run away as fast as you can! More than likely that crystalized ISO has reached its way into the heaters, manifold, heated hose, etc.
- Check the size of the mix chamber: If you have any indication of the flow rate of the machine, you can match that to the size of the chamber to see how the hours of the machine have been spent. If the previous owner has used a bigger orifice than the machine can support you’ll know the proportioner had been abused and may not have much left. An example of this would be using an 03 mix chamber (approx. 3 GPM at 1250 PSI) with a Graco E-20 (approx. 2 GPM at 1250 PSI). Much the same as buying as buying a used midsize picking that was used for pulling a skid-steer for a construction company.
- Ask what material was left in the machine: This will tell you how the machine was mothballed. There are a few right ways and many wrong ways to winterize a machine. Use our tips on cold weather spray foam use to make sure the rig you may purchase was stored correctly. Then ask what solvent or cleaner was used for flushing and look for hydraulic fluid or some other inert lubricative fluid in the lines.
- Know what to look for in an SPF rig — used or new: As a nationwide leader in the insulation industry (and your partner in insulation) we know purchasing a spray foam setup is a large investment. That’s why we’ve broken down all the important considerations that go into purchasing spray foam insulation equipment in our new, short video miniseries — so you can be as informed as possible in making your decision.
When Should I Buy New Spray Foam Equipment Instead of Used?
Even by following these simple steps, I can’t guarantee success with a used spray foam insulation system. I receive countless phone calls from customers asking my opinion on a used system they found online. When I explain the risks of used equipment to them they naturally hear me trying to sell them new equipment, but trust me, what I’m really saying is, “As Your friend, and from my personal and professional experience, I advise against purchasing this equipment.”
If you’re still considering a used spray foam equipment setup over new gear, I highly recommend performing nothing short of an autopsy on the equipment to ensure the proportioner, generator, compressor, electronics and trailer are in top condition.
The question I ask every customer who is considering buying used spray foam equipment: Would you rather install insulation or fix equipment?
If you answered “install insulation,” a good rule to follow would be to stay away from used foam equipment and instead invest in quality equipment and maintenance. See how we can help you design the ideal rig for your spray foam business — we’ve got basic and upgraded options to help you get started and earn more work, profits and return for this investment.
Unsure What Equipment Would Be Best For Your Residential or Commercial Insulation Project?
Contact our experts at IDI to walk through your needs to learn about options that will help you boost on-the-job performance and business success!
By: Aaron Franzen
Aaron works for IDI as the Spray Foam Equipment Manager. Contact your local rep or learn more about custom equipment options available through IDI.