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How To Frame A Tray Ceiling

A tray or inverted ceiling is a popular alternative to a flat ceiling. Framing it is not an easy task, but don't worry. To help you, we researched the correct procedure for framing a tray ceiling.

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To frame a tray ceiling, you should hire a ceiling professional or do it yourself. If you prefer the latter, you should follow these steps:

  1. Plan the desired outcome.
  2. Take the measurements.
  3. Attach and secure the framing.
  4. Seal the edges and gaps.
  5. Apply the finishing materials

In this post, we'll discuss in detail the framing, painting, and location of tray ceilings. We'll also answer other related questions. So keep on reading to find out more.

Beautiful home interior with open floor plan: includes dining room, kitchen, and living room with dining room table, flowers, wood strip tray ceiling, cabinets, hardwood floors, and fireplace, How To Frame A Tray Ceiling

What Is The Purpose Of A Tray Ceiling?

White tray ceiling in small new construction house with windows and a fan

Whether in residential or commercial buildings, a trail ceiling is one of the architectural details that break the monotony and flatness of conventional ceilings.

Although this is an old practice traced back to ancient Roman and Greek civilizations, it is ideal for increasing the spaciousness of any room whether the recessed tray is plain or intricate.

In addition to the perceived height, it is a versatile ceiling that can fit any room shape. Tray ceilings have different shapes and sizes. Its shapes can be circular, square, and hexagon, to name a few. Its size depends on the room size.

What Materials Are Used For Tray Ceilings?

Below are the materials you will need for this home improvement project:

  • Step ladder
  • Gypsum boards
  • Utility knife
  • Saw (for miter or coping)
  • Drywall nails
  • Cradle riser
  • T-braces
  • Caulk
  • Chalk line reel
  • Furring strips
  • Joint compound
  • Sandpaper 
  • Measuring tape
  • Molding (optional)
  • Finishing (paint, primer, tiles, or planks)

How Do You Frame A Tray Ceiling?

Construction worker installation ceiling

Before we move on, consider these safety tips.

  • Wear protective clothes (mask, glove, and goggles).
  • Ask for help when needed.
  • Store hazardous tools properly.
  • Purchase quality materials.
  • Remove obstructions in the work area.

Framing A Tray Ceiling

hand of worker using gypsum plaster ceiling joints at construction site

There are two ways to frame a tray ceiling: within the ceiling joist and below the ceiling. The former requires a contractor's service, while the latter is suitable for a DIY project. Here is the step-by-step process to frame a tray ceiling below the existing ceiling. 

1. Plan The Desired Outcome

Identify the details you want, such as the tray ceiling dimension, recess height, number of tray levels, type of finish, the color of the ceiling, and lighting. It is better to decide whether you will incorporate molding or not, so you can select the molding pattern. You should also allocate enough money to complete this project.

2. Take The Measurements

Measure the dimensions of the room. This should include the height of the room and the borders before the recess.

3. Attach And Secure The Framing

Building a tray without removing the existing drywall is possible, especially if you have at least a 9-foot ceiling. By installing the braces over the flat ceiling, the original ceiling will become a sunken area.

Install the 2 by 4 T-braces on the ceiling for the framing of the borders. Afterward, attach the precut and sanded drywall. Secure it with drywall nails with 6-inch gaps.

4. Seal The Edges And Gaps

Tape the connecting edges of the panels then brush off the joint compound over the adhesive. Apply two or three layers of it with at least a one-day interval. Next, caulk them and sand the sealed edges and gaps. 

5. Apply Finishing Materials

Cover the new ceiling with primer and paint. You can also add moldings to the rims and put vinyl tiles and lighting fixtures on the tray.

Adding A Molding To Tray Ceiling

Set of white skirting baseboard molding.

A molding or coving is the transition strip between the wall and ceiling. You can also find it in other surface edges such as floors, window and door frames, and mirrors. The common materials used for molding are wood, stone, cement, and extruded PVC. It also comes in different styles: crown, archivolt, baseboard, and bead, among others. 

Click here to see this self-adhesive molding on Amazon.

Molding Vs No Molding 

Although molding is optional for tray ceilings, it is affordable and can conceal nasty rims. You can either place it along the inside or outside edges of the sunken portion. Furthermore, designers recommend adding crown moldings in the main rooms.

When misused, moldings will create an old-fashioned vibe in your ceiling. No-molding styles offer a seamless and modern look. An adhesive wall border is also a trendy alternative for moldings.

Here is an overview of how to add crown molding: Mark the upper edge using a snap line. Next, apply glue to the markings. Cut the moldings based on the length needed. Then ensure the bond of the corners by producing coped or mitered joints. Finally, press these moldings on the markings upon caulking. 

Click here to see this snap line on Amazon.

Coped Vs Mitered Joints

Whether coped or mitered, cut both the top and bottom edges of the moldings to get a 45-degree angle. This will fit the strips with ease. As a result, there will be at least four 90-degree angles, unless the tray is circular.

If you are a beginner in woodwork, mitered joints are ideal because they are easy to create. With the help of a miter saw with a clamping box, you can construct accurate angles. Mitering the corners is good for non-wood moldings, straight edges, and quick tasks.

Opening up or spreading is one of the common downsides of joints. As a result, you should nail or staple them aside from the liquid adhesive beneath.

Click here to this miter saw on Amazon.

Coped or saddle joints are another way to fit the shapes of molding edges. You can obtain the desired contour with an ergonomic coping saw.

Unlike miters, the coped joints do not easily unfasten after installation because their edges complement each other well, similar to jigsaw puzzle pieces. They also offer polished craftsmanship. For these reasons, several builders opt for coping techniques.

Click here to see this coping saw on Amazon.

Is a Tray Ceiling Structural?

Structural remodeling affects the capacity of walls, beams, or posts to support the weight of other house elements. For this reason, you have to obtain permits from your locality prior to the remodeling. This includes changes in roof joists, beams, columns, and walls.

Non-structural elements do not contribute to your house framework. For instance, like other ceilings, the tray ceiling is non-structural. 

How Deep Should A Tray Ceiling Be?

The depth of recessed ceilings depends on your style and ceiling clearance. The ideal ceiling height is at least 7.5 tall whereas the typical height of a sunken tray is from 1 inch to 1 foot. These dimensions will influence the functional and aesthetic benefits of this ceiling.

How Far From A Wall Should A Tray Ceiling Be?

There are no definite rules on the distance between the tray ceiling and the wall. The number will differ based on various circumstances, including room size and tray shape, to name a few. In a forum, one of the homeowner's ceilings is 18 inches or 1.5 feet away from the wall.

Where Should The Tray Ceiling Be Placed?

Whether in the entryway, dining room, or living room, ceilings do not have to be plain. Framing tray ceilings will improve overall ambiance. For instance, mounting whitewashed wood planks with thick crowns in the trays allows you to achieve a Scandinavian style and subtle texture. 

There are unlimited possibilities for tray ceilings. You can mix and match various designs. Watch this clip to discover tray ceiling ideas you can use as an inspiration for your home.

Should You Paint The Tray Ceiling?

Elegant formal dining room with lighted tray ceiling, pillars.

Painting is one of the practical ways to decorate your tray ceiling. In addition to the transformed atmosphere, paint adds a protective layer. Even though painting a tray ceiling is more demanding than painting a traditional one, you should consider doing it.

Painting Reminders

There are several dos and don'ts to consider when painting a tray ceiling.

  • Cover the furniture with old linens or plastic sheets to avoid paint stains.
  • Maintain good ventilation by opening the windows and doors. Otherwise, use an air purifier or exhaust fan to air out gases and odors.
  • Apply painters' tape properly around the upper wall edges to prevent paint bleed-through.
  • Wipe off the dust on the ceiling's surface using a damp cloth.
  • Coat the ceiling with latex primer using a roller for big areas and an angled brush for corners and crevices.
  • Avoid splattering by attaching an extension pole and rolling the paint slowly.
  • Use white paint for the ceiling—it's a classic and versatile hue.  
  • Match the ceiling with the hue of large furniture and furnishings for a sleek look.
  • Consider a different pigment for the recessed areas to make them striking.
  • Enhance the perceived room height by using the same paint on walls and tray edges. 
  • Paint all the surfaces except for the crown molding to create a highlight effect. 

Final Thoughts

Construction worker assemble a suspended ceiling with drywall and fixing the drywall to the ceiling metal frame with screwdriver.

Building a tray ceiling takes more time than building a flat ceiling. The more layers, the greater the intricacy and duration. Remember, the measurements and sealing must be consistent, but you are free to choose moldings and paint colors for your tray.

If you enjoyed this post, check these articles:

What Size Baseboards For 9-Foot Ceilings?

How Much Space Between Cabinets And Ceiling Should You Have?