The Truth About Buying Used Spray Foam Rigs + Equipment

As a spray foam insulation distributor, the topic of buying used spray foam rigs comes up often. We have customers who ask us for advice on this subject almost daily. As the Spray Foam Equipment Manager for IDI, I know buying a spray foam rig (or equipment) is a big decision, and the price of a new one is daunting to someone new to the business. In my experience, buying used spray foam insulation equipment 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 & Cons of Used SPF Equipment

The bottom line is, if you do choose to purchase used SPF rigs, machines or other equipment, you must know who you’re buying from and what exactly you’re buying. As the industry leader in all things spray foam, we are upfront with you about what could go wrong with used equipment.

When we sell used SPF equipment, we refurbish it back to — or as close to — industry standard as possible. This involves testing, cleaning and making sure it stays in proper shape until its next use. Take a look at our used SPF rigs and equipment for sale, and talk with our experts to get a clear picture of how our used equipment functions.

The Pros of Used SPF Equipment (That May Be Too Good to Be True)

Unfortunately, many contractors end up in a tough spot when they fall for the “pros” of used SPF 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 an SPF rig 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 an SPF rig or trailer. The cost of poorly maintained equipment may be cheap up front, but long-term damage could lead to costly repairs and downtime on the job. Even if you have the rig, you need to start a job right away, and the cost and time needed to fix issues within your rig 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 SPF equipment before you invest.

facts about buying used spray foam equipment

The Cons of Used SPF Equipment (From Personal Experience)

When I first got into the business, I was installing insulation in Colorado. 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 SPF 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, it quickly became an absolute disaster. 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 SPF 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 equipment, 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.

cracked old reactor

Buyer Beware: One major downside to used equipment is that not all damage is as visible as the crack in this reactor. Make sure to ask questions about the maintenance and repair history.

Why Buy New: Important Considerations on Used Spray Foam Rigs & 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.

Why buy new: It’s difficult to find replacement parts and service old rigs and equipment

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.

Still considering old SPF equipment over new? Make sure to follow these steps:

  1. Check the model and serial number: Call your local equipment rep and see if parts are still available for the machine.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 life 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 a used midsize pickup that was used for pulling a skid-steer for a construction company.

  4. 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.
  5. 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 an SPF rig is a large investment. That’s why we’ve broken down all of the important considerations that go into purchasing an SPF rig in our new, short video mini-series — so you can be as informed as possible in making your decision.

When Should You Buy New SPF Equipment Instead of Used?

Even by following these simple steps, I can’t guarantee success with a used SPF 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 a new rig, 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 rig over a new rig, I highly recommend performing nothing short of an autopsy on the rig to ensure the proportioner, generator, compressor, electronics, and trailer are in top condition.

The question I ask every customer who is considering buying used SPF 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 rig would be best for your residential or commercial insulation projects?

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 the custom rig options available through IDI.