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.

I know buying a spray foam rig is a big decision and the price of a new one is daunting to someone new to the business, but 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.

Used Spray Foam Equipment

ISSUES WITH USED SPF EQUIPMENT

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.

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 couldn’t figure out what it was. We eventually figured out that crystallized isocyanate cholesterol was breaking loose in the hose and heater.

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 to 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 reactor for spray foam rig
Buyer Beware: Not all damage is as visible as the crack in this reactor, make sure to ask questions about the maintenance and repair history.

Important Considerations for Buying a Used Spray Foam Rig

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.

Another important consideration is that 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.

If you still find yourself looking at a used spf rig (and going against most experts advise!) I have a few pointers for you.
  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 re-circulation 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 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 mid-sized pickup that was used for pulling a skid steer for a construction company.
  4. Most importantly, ask what material was left in the machine. This will tell you how the machine was mothballed. There are few right ways and many wrong ways to winterize a machine – that’s a topic for another day – but ask what solvent or cleaner was used for flushing and look for hydraulic fluid or some other inert lubricative fluid in the lines.

Conclusion: New or Used SPF Equipment?

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.”

Personally, if I were looking at purchasing a used spray foam rig I’d be 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.

By Aaron Franzen

Aaron works for IDI as the Spray Foam Equipment Manager.

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