When considering buying a paint booth, the question may soon arise; Do I purchase a new or used paint booth? While there is no clear-cut answer since so many things can come into this equation, we’ll try to highlight the most important things to consider when pondering the question of new vs. used paint booths. The first point we want to tackle is how to analyze the general condition of a used paint booth. If a used paint booth is in the equation, it HAS to be in great shape.

The condition of the paint booth generally has very little to do with the outward appearance and a whole lot to do with the paint booth’s working components. Definitely do your homework on any used paint booth because the key components may be near the end of their usable life. If the paint booth has been stored, the key components may not even be there!

If you are in the used paint booth market and are scouring the web for used paint booths by going to sites like craigslist etc, do not be afraid to request pictures and video outside what is already posted. This is the digital age! If the seller can’t produce good digital representations of the used paint booth or finishing system, it’s probably a bad sign. Likewise, if you are selling a used paint booth, you should always take as much video of it in operation as well as still pictures before it is dismantled.

Preliminary Info: Two immediate things to show if you are the seller and look for if you are the buyer are:

Hours of Use – All performance paint booths should have a dedicated hour meter that shows how many hours the booth has been running. This works just like the odometer in your car. Most non heated paint booths do not carry hour meters or any sort of counter that would allow the buyer to know how much use the machine has gotten but most heated and high-performance paint booths carry this on the main controls.

Year/Make/Model – All paint booths should have an ID plate that designates the year/make/model of the product. This helps with not only identifying it and establishing a baseline of knowing what it was once worth, it also aids in  the buyer knowing ahead of time whether paperwork or supporting documents are available. The buyer can even call the paint booth manufacturer ahead of time and know whether the product is still supported or if they can get documents for it once it is installed. In many cases, documentation may be difficult to come by due to the age of the product and in other cases, the paint booth manufacturer or the distributor may no longer be in business. This information alone can make the decision a very easy one. If parts and support are not readily available in the buyer’s area, buying that used paint booth is probably not a good idea.

Once these two things are cleared and the initial video or pictures seem like this is worth your time, start examining the condition in detail.

Overall Cabin Condition:

Look for mistreatment, parts that are heavily caked with overspray, check the door mechanisms, and the big one…RUST. Old habits die hard and many shops continued spraying down their floors with water every day to keep dust down. Any traces of rust on the exterior should prompt you to inspect further. Always think in terms of the move (dismantling the used paint booth and installing it again). What is the move going to do to something that is already showing signs of corrosion? Will it stand all the movement and dismantling etc.

AMU Condition: This is where the money is.

In a basic exhaust booth (also known as a negative pressure paint booth) all that really needs to be inspected is the condition of the fan(s) and motor(s). Look for worn fan blades and see if the motor and fan rotate easily. Also the light fixtures can be reviewed to see if they still work, but other than damages to connectors for the bulbs, most fixtures would normally be useable. The worst any buyer should have to do is change the ballasts in the light fixtures and those can be purchased anywhere for roughly ten to twenty dollars a piece. Whatever basic controls are present would also be good to check though most of these applications carry no more than a simple on/off or start/stop switch.

For heated and high-performance paint booths, many more electronic and mechanical components are present and much more can be a concern for anyone looking to purchase a used paint booth. At this level of performance, there is no substitute for seeing the paint booth fully operational before it is dismantled. Unfortunately, this opportunity may be rare and most used paint booths have already been dismantled and may have already been put into storage. If there is ever a moment where the buyer has the choice of buying a used paint booth that is in storage versus buying a paint booth that is still in operation, it should be a no brainer.

Fans – Inspect the rotation of the fan wheels in both the intake and exhaust cabinets. Wheels/fans should spin freely and should be balanced. Check for excess overspray on the fans. Sometimes fans can be so loaded with paint overspray that the fins or blades have been damaged. Tube axial fan blades can wear down to almost nothing over a period of 20-30 years.

Motors – Check motor condition. If you can see the unit running, check the motor for excess noise or heat or any other indication that the motor is on its way out. If the unit is not running, it is very difficult to test a motor for anything other than a freely turning shaft. If you’re looking at the booth in storage, you’ll have to take the seller’s word for it on this one. Get the information off the motor plates to see if the manufacturer will support it or if there are replacements readily available locally.

Burner – Inspect the burner and again, if given the opportunity, see it in action. Otherwise, inspect the body of the burner and the parts on the burner valve manifold. There is no real way to check valve operations with the paint booth inoperable but the electronic portion of the burner should be inspected for mistreatment and sloppy or tampered-with wiring etc. If the components and connections look factory, it’s a good chance the owner did not abuse or self fix the unit with shortcuts and non-licensed paint booth service providers. If you see many connections out of place or rewired, chances are the owners tampered with the unit themselves and did not pay manufacturer backed service people to service the paint booth.

Flaps/Dampers – Inspect dampers in all areas. Make sure that they move at the appropriate times if watching it in action or at least that they move freely and that the damper vanes are not broken if looking at a paint booth in storage.

Filters –  Get all filter sizes and specs and assume getting all new filters. If there are washable filters in the system, assume new ones there also. If the seller has extra filters from his old stock and they are new, just be sure they will fit and that they are up to code in terms of their capture rate. Check with the paint booth manufacturer to see if they can supply the filters or see if your jobber carries those filter sizes also.

If after analysis, doubts still remain, you may have to reconsider. Any paint booth distributor or professional in the industry will tell you, if the booth mechanicals are in bad shape and need replacement, the booth itself is almost worthless. Many people look at the cabin and think they are saving money by getting that part of the system, but getting new air mechanicals means getting new controls, new safeties, and making physical modifications to retrofit new mechanicals to the cabin. Labor and installation costs can skyrocket and getting proper documentation for a system that has been mixed and matched can also be a problem. If there are doubts about the mechanical group, look for another used paint booth to analyze or look for new equipment.

Controls: Are they working? A lot of times, things have been patched and many of the safeties  have been bypassed. A very thorough inspection of the booth controls is key. If there is video or you can go see it working prior to purchase, this can be covered and demonstrated easily. If the used paint booth is in storage, the best recommendation is to look over the control panel and judge for yourself on the overall condition and the authenticity of the electrical connections inside. Typically, if a panel was mistreated or the owners  just limped the system along with Band-Aids, shortcuts, & jumper wires, you will see it immediately. Wires out of raceways and multiple tape lables, frayed connections or burnt terminal blocks are a few indicators that are never a good sign. A paint booth is only as good as its controls and if the panel is in bad shape or has been tampered with by adding jumpers and bypassing safeties, the whole system could be one giant fire or explosion hazard. If the panel needs replacement, simply deduct the cost of a new control panel and the labor for a professional to install it. Replacement panels with installation can range quite a bit in price. Get a quote from a paint booth contractor or distributor in your area for the additional work and include that figure in your analysis of whether to buy a new or used paint booth.

More to come! So far we hope this helped anyone looking at new and used paint booths out there.