Kitty Werner: Autobiographical Notes

Kitty WernerI was first drawn to construction when my father decided our side porch could make a dandy office for himself. Then seven years old, I offered my services by hanging around until he found something useful for me to do. Soon, I could name all the nails and hand him the right ones at the right time. I learned all the tools and their functions. I’m sure I took a few whacks at boards in my time, but with my slight weight at that age, I didn’t make much of a dent, much less pound in too many nails. As a reward for my efforts, Dad made me my own tool box for my little set of tools. I still have it.

It wasn’t long before I was fixing things as well as taking them apart. I was learning this stuff. One of my early jobs was working as the Assistant Buyer of Lamps at the Hecht Co. in Washington, DC When I had enough of the office, I could be found upstairs in the back storage creating new lamps from busted parts. My one-of-a-kind specials were put on display and sold. The tough part was when a customer wanted a match. Later, I was hired by a flooring company to sell flooring. I enjoyed playing around with the merchandise and ended up running the warehouse. I furnished my first townhouse with scraps of carpet, padding, carpet samples and plywood. Sold all of it when I moved to Germany for a year when I married Peter.

Back in the States, we moved to Vermont where we ran an old Vermont farmhouse as a ski lodge for a winter. Not only did we run out of water the first day we had guests (Christmas Day), but I had to cook for them as well. (I’m not a cook, my sister is.) Dealing with the fix-it issues of old dryers, temperamental heating systems, cranky plumbing, mazes of “put-together” pipes and wires, wells, and chimneys was an education in survival! Our guests didn’t starve, either.

Eventually we bought our own house. As our family grew to include two children, the house grew. We fixed electric wiring, replumbed fixtures, finished off a bathroom, added a large addition, dealt with lightning storms blowing out our water supply, electric lines coming down, days without power and water, and all manner of exciting events.

As a homeowner, I’ve had 26 years of practical on-the-job training to write this book. I’ve been helping my father, syndicated columnist Henri de Marne (First Aid for the Ailing House,, United Media),with his column and therefore learn his information as well. Being married to a masonry contractor has given me an amazing education in safe installation of chimneys, what can go wrong and why, how to correct the problems, or more importantly, how to find the right person to do the right job the first time.

I also noticed that there isn’t one homeowner’s manual for women who don’t want to do-it-yourself, but do need to know how to run and maintain their house. Sure, there are plenty of books on how to fix things, but what about the people who aren’t handy with tools? While millions of women own their own homes, what is the percentage of those who know how to maintain the house, let alone fix it themselves? Or how about the women married to men who can’t use a hammer? Or the homeowners who don’t have the time to DIY?

Over the last 20 years, I’ve helped many of my friends with their homeowner problems—from giving advice to actually doing the job. It was time to write the book.

News Release:


A New Guide Helps Savvy Women Learn About Home Ownership

Savvy Woman's Guide to Owning a HomeEvery year, more than 5 million Americans become homeowners for the first time, and along with the satisfaction and excitement comes a dizzying array of new decisions and responsibilities. Most people aren’t even sure what questions to ask as they scramble to learn about maintenance, repairs, insurance, property taxes, safety precautions, and other subjects that suddenly become very important.

With any luck, a new homeowner may have a friend to ask about issues as they come up—somebody to call the first time the lights go out or the toilet leaks or the neighbors dispute the backyard boundaries. For over 20 years, Kitty Werner has been the knowledgeable source of information and help for many friends and acquaintances in her home state of Vermont, so she decided to write a book—The Savvy Womans Guide to Owning a Home: How to Care For, Improve and Maintain Your Home Second Edition, New and Revised, (RSB Press, 2007, 240 pages, $15.95).

Among many other subjects, the new book covers:

  • How to turn on and off the power, water, and fuels, and what to do in an emergency
  • How to figure out what the problem is when something goes wrong, and who to call to fix it
  • What you need to do for regular yearly maintenance
  • How to plan for, and save on, future repairs from the roof down to the appliances
  • Which basic tools to keep on hand, just in case you may need them
  • How to evaluate insurance, to get the best protection without overpaying
  • Planning for future improvements
  • Finding and hiring the best contractors and fix-it professionals These are things you need to know as a homeowner, regardless of whether you have any inclination to take on any do-it-yourself projects, Werner notes. She adds that the information is, of course, needed by men as well as by women, but I wrote it with women in mind, because in my experience they are more likely to admit to not knowing everything yet, and more likely to ask for directions.

Werner has a lifelong background in the subject matter. She grew up helping her father, Henri de Marne, research material for his popular syndicated column (First Aid for the Ailing House, United Media). She has owned homes for 26 years, including a cranky older farmhouse, gaining First-Hand experience with almost every problem that can come up, as well as the joys of keeping a house in tiptop condition.

For more information about The Savvy Womans Guide to Owning a Home, visit the publishers Web site at

Title: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Owning a Home: How to Care For, Improve and Maintain Your Home, Second Edition
Author: Kitty Werner
Cover Art: Maurie Harrington
8-3/8″ x 5-3/8″, 240 pages, trade softcover
Publication date: 2007
ISBN: 978-0-9710356-1-4
Retail Price: $15.95
Available from bookstores or from Upper Access

What Others Have Said About The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Owning a Home

“Most first-time homeowners—often unprepared for the many routine tasks and unsuspected hurdles that lie ahead–quickly learn the homeownership honeymoon is a short one. To the rescue: The Savy Woman’s Guide to Owning a Home.”

Better Homes & Gardens

“Part home-ec handbook, part crash course in how houses work, The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Owning a Home, by Kitty Werner, gives both practiced homeowners and first-time buyers the keys to figuring out how best to stay ahead of the seasonal tasks. Filled with tips on insurance, the ins and outs of electrical and plumbing systems–—even making the most of community services–this practical planner offers plenty of food for thought.”

Country Living
“Kitty Werner is a can-do woman with a variety of done-thats for proof: modeling school attendee, airline reservations agent, globe-trotter, lift-ticket seller, animal rescuer, innkeeper, mother, computer consultant, Ms. Fixit. Now, with a breathless enthusiasm usually spent by middle age, the 54-year-old Waitsfield resident has written and published The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Owning A Home.

—Debbie Salomon, The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press

Kitty Werner’s The Savvy Woman’s Guide To Owning A Home: How To Care For,Improve And Maintain Your Home is a charming, energetic, informative, and extraordinarily practical guide to the hundreds of minor pitfalls and dilemmas that come with being a homeowner. From how to prepare for emergencies, to which tools you should keep on hand, to how to evaluate insurance , The Savvy Woman’s Guide To Owning A Home covers it all in clear language easily understandable by the non-specialist reader. The Savvy Woman’s Guide To Owning A Home is indeed so straightforward and packed with useful information that by no means should it truly be confined to the female gender — any male homeowner who is inexperienced in matters of upkeep should consider this guide as well. Very highly recommended.

Midwest Book Review

“For the optimists among you, you buy a home and that’s it, right? Wrong. What do you do if you need major repairs — like replacing a roof or putting back walls after a hurricane? How do you turn off your main water line or electricity? How do you deal with cracks in the foundation? When can you DIY (Do It Yourself) and when must you call an expert? How do you protect your family in an emergency? From planning, licensing, and maintenance to finding the right schools, from basic insurance lingo to those pesky sneaky clauses in moving contracts. From danger signs of faulty wiring to what to shut off when you’re vacationing, Werner’s savvy guide is packed with clear, concise explanations, illustrations, tips, and humor-only a woman could have written a book that answers questions you wouldn’t even consider until the moment you were faced with duct tape, smoke alarms, or ants in your dryer! Yeah, guys, I do realize that you know it all, but you never explain it to us! You don’t have to be a woman to appreciate the continuing value of this work, just someone with an interest in a straight-forward guide without the jargon or hype so common in DIY books. A BEST OF THE BEST READ!”

—Linda Labin, The Word Doctor

Contact Information

For more information about Kitty Werner, a review copy, or to schedule an interview, contact her through her publishing company:

RSB Press
PO Box 876
Waitsfield, VT 05673-0876

Web site:
Or e-mail:

Inquiries and requests for information may also be made with Upper Access, Inc.