A bressummer, breastsummer, summer beam (somier, sommier, sommer, somer, cross-somer, summer, summier,[1] summer-tree,[2] or dorman, dormant tree) is a load-bearing beam in a timber-framed building. The word summer derived from sumpter or French sommier, "a pack horse", meaning "bearing great burden or weight". "To support a superincumbent wall", "any beast of burden", and in this way is similar to a wall plate.

A typical summer beam with slender joists in the ceiling of a cafe in the Netherlands. Image: Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.

The use and definition of these terms vary but generally a bressummer is a jetty sill and a summer is an interior beam supporting ceiling joists, see below:

  • (UK) In the outward part of the building, and the middle floors (not in the garrets or ground floors) into which the girders are framed. In the inner parts of a building, such beams are called "summers". It is part of the timber-frame construction in the overhanging upper story in jettying.[3]
  • (UK) "Horizontal beam over a fireplace opening (alternatively lintel, mantel beam), or set forward from the lower part of a building to support a jettied wall, a jetty bressummer".[4]
  • (UK) "...usually the sill of the upper wall above a jetty; otherwise any beam spanning an opening and supporting a wall above."[5] also called a "jetty sill".
  • (UK) Breastsummer is a beam in a wall which carries the load over a large opening derived from breast being in the front, mid-level and summer: "A horizontal, bearing beam in a building; spec. the main beam supporting the girders or joists of a floor...".[6]
  • "a main piece of timber that supports a building, an architrave between two pillars"[7]
  • "Breast-Summer, an architectural term for a beam employed like a lintel to support the front of a building, is a corruption of bressumer..."[8]
  • (US) "Summer beam: A large timber spanning a room and supporting smaller floor joists on both sides."[9]
  • (US) "Summer beam. Heavy main horizontal beam, anchored in gable foundation walls, that supports forebay beams and barn frame above."[10]


  1. A Dictionary of the Old English Language
  2. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913.
  3.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "Bressummer". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1st ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.
  4. Alcock, N. W. Recording timber-framed buildings: an illustrated glossary. London: Council for British Archaeology, 1989. G4, 14h, 15b. ISBN 1872414729
  5. Harris, Richard. Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings. 2d ed. Aylesbury: Shire Publications, 1979. p.94. ISBN 0747802157.
  6. "Breastsummer" def. 1. Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0) Oxford University Press 2009
  7. Bailey; Kennett, 1695
  8. Palmer, Abram Smythe. Folk-Etymology: A Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions or Words Perverted in Form or Meaning, by False Derivation or Mistaken Analogy (1882), quoting Parker's Glossary of Architecture.
  9. Sobon, Jack. Build a Classic Timber-Framed House: Planning & Design/Traditional Materials/Affordable Methods. Pownal, Vt.: Storey Communications, 1994. p.191.ISBN 0882668412
  10. Ensminger, Robert F. The Pennsylvania barn: its origin, evolution, and distribution in North America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. p.392.
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