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When to Buy New vs. Used Lab Furniture

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Are you trying to decide between buying used or new lab furniture? We can help! Read this article to figure out what's best for you.

Laboratories these days come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the traditional “old school” designs that feature built-in casework to the newer generation of modular laboratory furniture”
— Formaspace
AUSTIN, TX, UNITED STATES, May 29, 2018 / -- Whether you’re building a brand new laboratory facility or updating your current lab, you are making a major investment. We take a deep dive into the pros and cons of searching for used laboratory furniture versus purchasing new laboratory furniture custom-made for your facility.

Laboratories these days come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the traditional “old school” designs that feature built-in casework to the newer generation of modular laboratory furniture that can be reconfigured easily — even disassembled and moved to new locations when necessary.

7 Points to Consider When Deciding Between Used Lab Furniture Vs. New

Changes happen. Perhaps you are designing a brand-new facility, updating or expanding your current laboratory, or looking for a ‘home’ to house an expensive new piece of test equipment. When change happens, what are your options? Is there a strategic approach to follow when looking at the pros and cons of used versus new lab furniture?

1. Is Buying Used Lab Furniture the Most Cost Effective Solution for My Laboratory?

While you can sometimes get excellent deals at auction and liquidation sales, you can’t always assume that used laboratory furniture is always the cheaper option, particularly over the long run.

Having said that, if you can afford to take the time required to attend public auctions and liquidation sales, you may find significant deals on used laboratory furniture that’s being retired from government offices, schools or labs that have gone out of business.

However, you might find you are competing with furniture brokers who are looking to acquire inventory to sell online at a significant markup. That’s why it pays to get a competitive quote (from Formaspace, for example) before you go shopping. In many cases, you’ll find it’s more cost effective to order exactly what you need.

2. Avoid Some of the Common Pitfalls when Shopping for Used Laboratory Furniture

Travel time is a major consideration when buying used lab furniture. Do you have time to take this on?

You really need to inspect the goods in person with your own eyes — even with high-resolution photos and video, flaws such as mismatched hardware, poorly fitting doors and shelves, missing keys, etc. are difficult to spot without taking a look in person.

If you are the one making the purchasing decision for a big lab construction or renovation project, it’s all falls on you to convince the architect or construction manager that used equipment in question is suitable for the job. Most architects and construction planners may balk at the potential risk involved and want to go with a known quantity, e.g. new furniture.

3 Will Used Lab Furniture (Versus Laboratory Furniture Which is New) Blow a Hole in Your Construction Schedule?

Project planning is another issue.

In some cases, used laboratory furniture can be a boon — it’s possible to save a significant amount of money if you are in the right place at the right time and fortunate enough to get a good deal on furniture that’s in good condition.

However, this approach can also lead to some significant issues when it comes to construction planning.

First, you’ll have to arrange for the disassembly and transportation of the used furniture to your site.

Will the lab furniture be damaged in transit? This is especially true of casework type furniture, which is hard to remove without damaging it. If it is damaged, how will you source a replacement part for an ‘orphan’ piece of used furniture?

Next, if it’s a big installation, the furniture will need to be stored to give you time to plan the new laboratory layouts.

In this case, the space planners will be working out of their regular sequence. Instead of doing programming studies to decide the optimal layout, space planners will have to come up with a design that incorporates the used furniture components you have purchased.

Sometimes this works out OK in the end, but oftentimes it’s actually a longer process overall for designers to measure used furniture components and come up with a workable design.

The extra time and effort to do this additional work needs to be taken into account as it might make ordering new laboratory furniture that’s designed to fit your preferred floor plan exactly a more cost-effective solution.

4. Can You Get the Most Efficient Lab Layout When Purchasing Used Lab Furniture?

Another aspect to consider when looking at used laboratory furniture is whether the end result will be something you want — or too much of a compromise.

When the design is driven by what you find and not what you need, there can be quite a few tradeoffs.

Will you be wasting valuable square footage with a less-than-ideal layout?

Is there enough custom storage to hold the equipment you have, or will your employees spend too much time shuffling equipment back and forth from storage areas?

Will there be large gaps that are hard to clean because the furniture doesn’t fit in the available space?

Does the used laboratory furniture have ergonomic features, such as sit-to-stand worksurfaces, which can help reduce fatigue for your lab workers?

5. Can You Live With Other People’s Mistakes?

There is a bright line between “vintage” and “used”.

While we find vintage tools to be charming historical artifacts, the reality is that heavily ‘used’ items often reflect a history of misuse and abuse. After all, there is likely a good reason the furniture has been liquidated.

Are you willing to compromise?

Brooke Turner
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