Expert Advice: Plumber Carly Carey Shares 6 Common Bathroom Plumbing Jobs You Can Tackle Yourself

Carly Carey is a new mother and a third-year plumbing apprentice in Minneapolis—she’s about two years from taking the state test to become a licensed master plumber. It was during the pandemic that Carly, a middle school English teacher, decided to switch tracks. She now loves using her communication skills to demystify plumbing practices for the rest of us.

As a member of Matriarchy Build, Carly is in good company: an all-women team of pros in the building trades, the online platform offers consultations by Zoom that teach people to tackle basic house projects themselves: read about the group and its offerings in Remodeling 101: Advice from Skilled Trades Women.

Tired of steep plumbers’ bills, we asked Matriarchy Builder co-founder Lacey Soslow: are there common bathroom plumbing jobs we can tackle ourselves? She teamed us up with Carly, who responded that there’s no need to call at plumber, at least not at the get go, when faced with these six common challenges. Here’s her advice.

to unclog sinks carly recommends getting to know your p trap, the often curved  12
Above: To unclog sinks Carly recommends getting to know your p-trap, the often curved under-sink piping. Designer Michaela Scherrer’s tiny spa bath, shown here, in Pasadena, CA, has a minimalist sink with a straight p-trap. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home.

1. Unclog a Bathroom Sink

If you notice your sink is slow to drain, a straightforward way to unclog it is to remove the p-trap—the under sink piping that runs into the wall —and clean it out. To do this you’ll need a bucket, rags, and possibly a pair of pliers if the piping is metal. Place the bucket under the p-trap to catch the water that’s in it, and unthread the nut that connects the pieces. Using the rags, thoroughly clean out these parts, then reassemble the p-trap and run water to make sure nothing’s leaking.

Pro Tip: If the p-trap is old and made of metal, it might be difficult to remove, and might not be able to be put back together, so proceed with caution. If there’s no blockage in the under sink piping, the blockage is further down the line ad you’ll need a basic handheld plumbing snake (available at any hardware store) to remove it. Use caution if your fixture is old: a snake can puncture old and corroded pipes.