Q: I have a 60-year-old cast-iron drainpipe that leaks slightly, apparently from a fine crack in its underside. Is there any way to patch this pipe and avoid the expense of replacing it?

— Stu Sherk, King of Prussia, Pa.

A: Richard Trethewey replies: You can get a repair sleeve for cast-iron pipe at home centers and plumbing suppliers. It's a neoprene-lined, stainless steel jacket that tightens around a damaged pipe to temporarily seal minor leaks.

But even with the sleeve in place, a fine crack like this can easily spread along the entire length of the pipe, especially if it's near the end of its life. So I recommend that you open your wallet and replace it now. It may seem expensive, but it will be a bargain compared with the mess you'll have after the old pipe gives way completely. Based on my experience, I predict this will probably happen at about 11 p.m. in the middle of a snowstorm when you have a house full of guests.

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