Many suction outlet covers that were installed to comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act soon will be in need of replacement.

This December, it will be five years since the deadline for ensuring that all commercial pools in the United States are outfitted with covers that meet the code.

Manufacturers were required to state a life span for each cover and, while some are as short as three years, the majority fell between five and seven. Thus, many covers that were installed before the deadline soon will be due for replacement.

While a massive recall in 2011 meant many covers were replaced, some only needed an alteration, such as adding a spacer ring to provide added height and distance from the sump. Those may be up for replacement as well.

Some professionals are beginning to act. “There are some [drain covers] that have already been getting replaced … and our distribution sales on suction covers has gone up again a little bit,” said Steve Dunn, vice president of Commercial Pool Systems in Martinez, Calif. “Just in the last two weeks we’ve had a big increase in the number of orders for suction covers.”

When replacing the covers, professionals should take certain measures, both technical and administrative. First, make sure you choose the right cover. It should be tested and certified for the flow rate that the pump can produce on the installation.

“What was originally installed and approved back in 2008 may not exist anymore,” said Javier Payan, owner of Payan Pool Service, San Diego. “You want to make sure that whatever you put in is going to fit the frame, and you just want to make sure you put them in correctly, so you don’t want to modify things.”

Examine the other components to see that everything is up to snuff. “Inspect the plaster rings and screw holes,” noting if the threads are intact, Dunn said. “In some cases, manufacturers say you must replace plaster rings every time you replace the covers.”

Do not reuse the old screws, but use those that come with the new product. Since the passage of VGB, there has already been at least one entrapment involving a compliant cover that was installed with the wrong screws. While power tools can be used for pulling screws out, they should not be used for tightening, because that can strip the threads. “How the cover attaches has to be in accordance with the manufacturer’s design and instruction,” said Steve Barnes, who heads APSP’s Technical Committee and is product manager, safety and compliance, at Pentair Aquatic Systems in Sanford, N.C.

Service firms performing the replacements also should keep meticulous records. It’s easy enough to remember when the drain covers need replacement the first time — based on the VGB deadline and stated life span of the product. Subsequent replacement times, however, may be harder to remember without documentation. This particularly becomes a problem for facilities that change management from year to year. “It’s problematic because there’s no consistency and the stamped dates don’t really mean anything because it’s the date of installation,” said Mitch Friedlander, CEO/president of American Pool Enterprises in Owings Mills, Md.

For this reason, Payan recommends setting up a filing system, whether digital or on paper. “You almost have to have a separate filing system just for that, so when things like this come up, you can easily backtrack your records or look at historical files and … when something like this comes up, notify your clients,” he said.

His company set up a thorough filing system while retrofitting his clients’ pools in 2008. He plans to go through that to determine who needs replacement, notify them and then place the notices in each file.

Finally, update any necessary forms with local government agencies. In California, for instance, each commercial pool must have a form on file certifying that the facility is VGB-compliant. Throughout the state, drain cover replacements will need to be documented with county health departments. But filing these forms takes time and means accepting some exposure, so Dunn recommends charging for that service. This covers the professional’s time and helps with liability insurance.