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VGBA — What’s changing in 2021?

VGBA — What’s changing in 2021? VGBA — What’s changing in 2021?

By Stephen Boswell, Custom Molded Products

In 2008, the first version of the Virginia Graeme Baker Act went into effect. Driven by ASME/ ANSI A112.19.8 – 2007, these new regulations enhanced the safety of pool/spa main drains and suctions. Decades of suction design and pool construction standards had to be addressed. Now, in 2021, these safety standards are being upgraded again.


A pool “drain” isn’t really a drain at all. It’s actually a suction, just like the skimmer.

In a pool, the suctions pull water back to the pump/filter to circulate the pool water. As a suction, pool “drains” pose a particular set of hazards to swimmers.

Unlike a skimmer that is open to the air, a drain is fully submerged. If a person’s body becomes trapped, there may be no way to escape.

If the drain is blocked with no other path for suction, swimmers can be seriously harmed very quickly by the powerful suction forces.

In most cases, pool safety comes down to using caution around the pool and monitoring swimmers.

Don’t run around the pool, no roughhousing, or that sort of thing.

But even a good swimmer is no match for a suction that traps them below the water.

The danger can escalate quickly and before you know it, a tragedy has occurred.


The original VGB standard was already updated with ANSI/APSP 16 – 2011, but the updates with ANSI/APSP/ICC-16 2017 comprise the most significant changes since the original 2008 standard.

You can and should read the complete document at the link above. But we have summarized the main points for you to help you understand the major effects. Below is a simple overview of what you need to know about the changes that have already started.

1. The Name Yes, the name actually changed slightly. The standard is now officially abbreviated as “VGBA”, updated from just VGB.

2. Drain Markings Every drain will be marked with all approved flow ratings on the cover. This will minimize questions about what GPM each drain is designed for. Even if you don’t have the manual – which you should by the way – the cover itself will have a record of what the drain is rated for.

3. Unblockable Drains An unblockable drain is one that can be installed in a pool with a single drain because it cannot be completely “blocked” by a person’s body. This prevents entrapment dangers. While referenced in the old standard, unblockable drain requirements are now formalized in the new language.

The CMP Ring Drain is unblockable and can be installed as a single suction 4. Field Built Sumps In some pool markets, a dug-out custom sump is very common. If this applies to you, this could be a major change to how you install drains so you need to be aware.

You may be familiar with the standard diagram showing basic guidelines for sump constructions. These general rules are no longer allowed.

For a field-built sump to meet the new code, the construction must be tested and approved by the drain manufacturer just like the manufactured sumps. If you are accustomed to installing pools with a custom sump, you need to either familiarize yourself with the guidelines for your specific drain or you need to switch to a manufactured approved sump.

To be clear, you can no longer build a sump in the field “on the fly” by checking the depth, clearances, pipe locations, etc. You must construct the sump exactly as outlined by a drain cover manufacturer like CMP. Updated instructions from CMP will outline requirements for a fieldbuilt sump that must be followed.

The old diagrams to create a field built sump per pool are no longer allowed 5. Maximum Flow Rates New, stricter testing for drain covers may change the flow rates of drains you have used before. Wall and floor flow rates are specifically tested and will likely change. For CMP drains some remained almost the same, while others had changes or a new wall flow rating.

When installing a drain that conforms to the new VGBA standard, make sure you check for updated flow rates. Do not just assume the flow is the same, even if you have installed the same drain for years.

6. Torque Requirements Installation instructions now include specific torque measurements for screws and nuts that are tested and approved for each drain. “Hand tight” is no longer specific enough.

7. Posted Drain Installation Label Each drain will ship with a label that lists the flow ratings, installation location and other details. There will be a blank area for the installer to record the installation date of the product. This should be posted reasonably close to the pool equipment area and a copy should be made for the homeowner or facility to keep on file.

The CMP Ring Drain is unblockable and can be installed as a single suction

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